Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to participate in the debate on the budget. I am sure it will come as no surprise to members in the chamber that I have a lot to say on the subject. It is an interesting budget, indeed.
Lest I be accused of burying the lede, I want to start by saying that I think the most important element of the budget is the new dental care plan. This is the first major expansion of medicare in over 50 years, since Tommy Douglas first introduced medicare and took it across the country, getting it passed here in Ottawa. It is something Canadians have been waiting generations for now, and it is going to make a really big difference, at first, in the lives of children 12 years and under, who should have access to basic dental care services this year. It will then expand to children 18 years and under, then seniors, then people living with disabilities next year. There will then be a full implementation of the program, so all Canadian households with a household income of $90,000 or less should have access to basic dental care by 2025.
This is a big deal, and it is going to make a difference for a lot of people. That is why I wanted to start off by reminding folks about it. Sometimes, in the media commentary around the budget, journalists and others have been quick to move on from that point, saying, “The NDP got dental care, but what have they done for us lately?”
This is in the budget. It is new. As it rolls out, Canadians will see and appreciate what a massive difference it could make for so many of our friends, neighbours and the people living in our communities. Just like medicare in its day, once Canadians see how this works, and as people experience the benefits and see people they know benefiting from the program, it will be something Canadians would be very proud to say is part and parcel of being Canadian. Having a right to dental service would be part and parcel of being Canadian. I strongly believe that it is something Canadians will not want to give up.
For me, that is the really big news in this budget, and it is the overwhelming reason why New Democrats are proud to support it. It is why we undertook negotiating with the government to get something out of this Parliament, which Canadians elected just six months ago.
Having spoken a little about dental care, I now want to talk a little about the state of politics and what has been happening, not only in this place but also outside of this place, and why New Democrats felt it was important to take a constructive approach to this Parliament to deliver real results that are going to make a difference in people's lives. I do not think it is news to anyone in this chamber, who are all involved in politics in one way, shape or form to a very high degree, that the nature of political discourse has been getting really nasty, nastier and nastier, over the course of many years now. This started even before the pandemic. There is no shortage of things to be angry about in a time of rising inflation and uncertainty during the challenges of the pandemic.
It is appropriate for people to feel concern, anxiety and anger at the changes that are happening around them and the impacts they are having on them in their lives. However, as elected people, as public officials, as leaders in our community, we have a choice to make. We could double down on that strategy of polarization, anger and division to drive a wedge between us and get as much political benefit as we can by going to people in their anger and ramping it up, taking advantage of that to elect more of those the people see as the best flag bearer of that anger, or we could recognize that things have been getting worse as our politics have gotten more polarized.
As gratifying and as satisfying as that anger can be, and there is an important element in politics of giving expression to people's legitimate frustration, it has not been getting us to solutions. It has not actually been heading off the real problems that are the source of that anxiety and anger. We are called to try to do something different, instead of doing the same old thing. We know, in the NDP, if people want to double down on that strategy of anger and polarization, there is no shortage of places they could go for people who are going to encourage that.
However, they want to see their politicians get down to work and recognize that there are real differences between, for instance, the NDP and the Liberals, just as there are real differences between the NDP and the Conservatives. Perhaps there are fewer differences than we are sometimes led to believe between the Liberals and the Conservatives, but they certainly like to ramp up the contrast on the differences that are there.
I think Canadians do want to see us get down to work. They do want to see us move forward on constructive proposals. That message was very clear in the last election when Canadians elected a Parliament that looks very much like the one before, after telling us in no uncertain terms that they did not want an election. In fact, in the lead-up to the last election, just in June before we recessed for the summer that turned into the election that no one wanted, every opposition party in this place pledged to not cause an election because they recognized that it was not what Canadians wanted. It was not going to be the solution to our problems.
When we came back here after the election, we asked ourselves how we could try to do politics differently. We did this not to disregard the important differences between us and other parties in the chamber, but to ask how we could work collaboratively.
The first instance of successful collaboration for me in this Parliament was when I worked with members of the Conservative Party and the Bloc Québécois at the finance committee to pass an amendment on the new pandemic benefits program that the government had introduced. The amendment was to make sure that, unlike in the first iteration, in the new program, companies that were accepting wage subsidy money would not be able to pay dividends to their shareholders. We agreed that was something that was important to do. That is an example of New Democrats being willing to work with people in other parties to get things done that would matter for Canadians.
In recent weeks, we managed to reach an agreement with the government to make sure that certain priorities that we fought for and believe are important, and that we think will serve Canadians well, would be in the budget. We are going to continue to work under the framework of that agreement to deliver on more, but there has been the beginning of delivering those priorities in this agreement. I want to talk a bit more about what some of those items are.
I will start by talking about revenue because it is a big part of the conversation about how the federal government gets on a good fiscal track. Our contention here, and why we opposed a Conservative opposition day motion that called for no new taxes at all, is that revenue has to be part of that conversation. There is no credible path to balance without talking about the revenue side of the equation. That is why there was work done in the agreement between us and the government on moving on revenue. There were a few measures, but I am going to talk specifically about is the permanent increase of 1.5%. on the corporate tax rate for banks and insurance companies
In addition to that, there was a pandemic dividend, another tax on banks and insurance companies, which was a one-time tax of 15% extra. That sounds like a lot. We have to bear in mind that it is 15% extra on their earnings over $1 billion. This is not about going after all of the mom and pop businesses that struggled in the pandemic, the ones that needed help and are still trying to get back on their feet. This is about giant companies that did very well during the pandemic and should be pitching in to help pay for the ongoing support needed to get Canadians the rest of the way through this pandemic. This is also about starting to get serious about tackling the climate crisis, which is something that, unfortunately, this budget does not do. I am going to come back to that in my remarks.
We got started on revenue, but we were just talking in question period today about the fact that two reports came out this week, showing that a number of other giant companies in other industries have made record profits. Cargill alone, in 2021, made $5 billion in net income, which is over half again what it had made in 2020. That is a giant increase, and it is an increase that goes well above and beyond its rising costs, or it would not be an increase in net revenue but an increase in gross revenue.
What we know is that a lot of companies are using this time of economic uncertainty to raise their prices much higher than their costs are going up. That is why we believe the government has not gone far enough in this budget. We believe that pandemic dividends should be applied to many more companies that have made much more money during the pandemic, as a result of the pandemic and the permission it appears to have given the companies to raise prices. They should not feel that permission is legitimate. There is a way to stop that or curtail it, which is by taxing that extra profit and reinvesting it in the things we need.
That is a little on the revenue front, and I could go on. We have talked about having a wealth tax on fortunes of $10 million and greater. We have talked about serious action on tax havens, which we do not see here. After successive Liberal and Conservative government have made cozy tax arrangements with tax haven nations, we know Canada is losing about $25 billion a year in revenue, and that is revenue that would well be spent here at home, if only our governments would stop allowing the wealthiest among us and the biggest companies to shelter their wealth from those legitimate taxes.
This budget also brings measures the NDP fought for that are about value for money. Dental care is about value for money, because we know that when we do not get access to preventative oral care, it creates health problems that cost more to fix later, once they have gotten worse, than it eould have if we could have nipped it in the bud. That is despite all the other benefits to people's quality of life, and from having access to timely preventative oral health care.
Value for money comes from the initiative on housing, and particularly the change in definition under the national housing strategy of what counts as affordable. For instance, prior to this budget and prior to the agreement with the NDP, the definition of affordable housing was 30% of the median household income in an area. That means that in many cases so-called affordable units could actually be rented out at higher than the market rate, and I will give some examples. In Edmonton, where the average market rent was $1,180 a month, under the definition of affordable in the Liberals' national housing plan, someone could charge up to $2,627 a month.
We got the definition changed, so that it is no longer about the income of the people who we happen to live next to, but is actually about having units rented at 80% of market rate. That would mean that in Edmonton, that unit, which public dollars helped to build, and which could have been rented out at over $2,500 a month, under the new definition would have to be rented out at $944 a month. That is just one example, and there are comparable examples from many different markets across the country.
That is about getting better value for public money, because we can announce as much money as we want to build new housing, but if we are contributing to new housing under the pretext of making new affordable units and those units are rented above market rate, we are never going to get out of the hole we are in, and we are not going to create affordable housing for Canadians. The New Democrats care very much about ensuring that when public dollars are spent, we are getting value for that money. We were not getting it under the national housing strategy, and we are now going to get it because of this important change in the definition, which does not cost Canadians an extra dime, but it will get a hell of a lot more value out of the money they are spending on housing.
On the rapid housing initiative, we heard earlier about the importance of social housing beyond simply affordable housing. The rapid housing initiative is the only program under the national housing strategy that delivers any social housing units. There is no question that we need to do more, but that is why it was a priority for the NDP to see a year's extension of the rapid housing initiative. It is under that program that we are seeing some social housing units built. There is no question that we need to do more, but that is how we get value for money.
I would add that we see reference again to pharmacare in the budget. I am very glad, because the reference to pharmacare in the Liberal platform was dropped altogether in 2021, and that reference to pharmacare would not be in the budget but for the NDP's negotiations. We used the leverage of our 25 seats in this place to get the government to do the right thing, which it said it would do.
That is about value for money as well as better service for Canadians, because a national pharmacare plan, while it will cost $20 billion on federal books, costs less than the $24 billion that Canadians currently spend on prescription drugs through various provincial and territorial programs, individual payments, and company benefit plans and the premiums they pay on those plans, so pharmacare is a way to get better value for the money Canadians already spend on prescription drugs, and actually would lower the overall cost by $4 billion.
The NDP is very much concerned about having good books, but not at the expense of individual Canadian households. We are not here to talk about how we take the real deficit, a deficit in services and the ability of Canadians to pay for the things they need, off the public books, transfer it onto individual Canadians and tell them to sink or swim on their own, particularly when so many are close to drowning financially after all the effects of the pandemic. We are here to ask how to pay for these things together, how to raise the revenue we need to pay for them and how we get the value for money that we need so that we are not paying more than we should for the things we need. That is what we are here to talk about.
I know my time is running out, which is too bad as I have many more things to say, but I want to talk about some of the deficiencies in the budget, and I will zone in particularly on climate.
The fact of the matter is that we do not have a lot of time to act. We do not have a lot of time to get it right. For decades now, Canada has been running a bet on the fossil fuel industry. We have been doing it in terms of revenue for government, hoping that it works out. We have been doing it on climate, hoping that it works out, and we have been losing on that bet. We have been losing on the climate side for sure. To the extent that eventually the floor is going to fall through on that bet, we have not been doing what we need to do to make sure that we have diversified our economy for the sake of workers who are going to feel it when the fossil fuel industry is not what it once was. We have already experienced some periods of that recently.
We have also been failing to diversify the sources of government revenue that will also have to be made up when the fossil fuel sector is not the same cash cow for government that it has been. The problem with this budget is that it doubles down on the bet, hoping that carbon capture and storage is going to allow the fossil fuel industry to continue. We saw that not only in the budget but also in the recent approval of the Bay du Nord project.
The government continues to hope that some new technology, as yet unproven at scale, is going to reduce emissions for fossil fuels adequately enough that we can pretend the fossil fuel industry is not the problem that it is in respect of the climate crisis. That is not the approach we need. We cannot continue to double down on the bet. We have to change tracks and start diversifying. That means investing in renewable energy.
There is a proposal out there for a western regional power grid, for instance. That is a major nation-building infrastructure project that can put people to work who have a lot of transposable skills from the oil sands to build something that is going to be of massive benefit to the country, that can generate massive revenue for the country and that will actually displace fossil fuels as one of the sources of electricity generation in Canada. That kind of project is a good thing. I raise that as just one example of the kind of innovative, big-thinking projects that could go a long way to changing Canada's emissions profile. Instead, we see $2.9 billion, or thereabouts, for carbon capture and sequestration, which gives back to oil companies that currently are making a lot of money with high oil prices. That is a miss.
Of course we know that when it comes to missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, which we heard earlier in question period, we need action. It has been years now since that report was released, and indigenous women and girls are still the object of violence. They are still disappearing. They are still being killed. Their families are still grieving. The bureaucratic kind of inertia of this place is not an excuse to deprive those families of justice or an excuse not to protect indigenous women and girls who are currently in danger just by virtue of living in our communities. That is completely unacceptable. We need to find a path forward. I know the member for Winnipeg Centre has been doing excellent work, pushing the minister and the government to get action. New Democrats look forward to supporting that work as best we can and seeing a much more definitive plan for how we make immediate progress as we move forward.