Madam Speaker, I will start by saying I intend to split my time with the member for Edmonton Strathcona.
This is the first time I have had occasion to speak in the House since my father, Bill Blaikie, passed away on Saturday. I am hoping there will be time at some point for a more proper and fulsome tribute, but for now I would be remiss if I did not give a big thanks to all of my colleagues, the people in the parliamentary precinct and those beyond.
Canadians across the country have reached out with some really lovely messages about the ways my father's life and work inspired them in their own work. I am very grateful for those messages, as are my mother, Brenda; my sisters, Rebecca, Jessica, and Tessa; and our entire family. I want to thank everyone who has been a part of that.
Of course, it means a lot to us, and it would mean a lot to my dad because he really did love Parliament, with all of its shortcomings, disappointments and faults. That love was borne of a very real belief that it can be a place for positive and constructive dialogue that can bring our country to a better place, if we do it well while we are in this place.
It is in that spirit that I would like to offer some remarks today on the Conservative opposition day motion. There are two things about it that I think need to be called out.
The first has to do with the very proposal in the motion, which is that the emphasis of government right now should be on broad-based tax cuts as a way to fight inflation. Even if the Conservatives are putting this forward in the best of faith, they have it wrong. They have been out there saying for a long time that more money chasing fewer goods leads to more inflation. The fact of the matter is that broad-based tax cuts, as opposed to targeted income support for people who really are on the margins, are not targeted. People on the margins are struggling with choosing whether they are going to put some food item back on the shelf or not, or struggling with homelessness because they lost their place to live or are on the cusp of that, as opposed to some of us who are experiencing discomfort as a result of inflation and maybe having to pass up some things we would really rather like, but that are, at the end of the day, not vital. Providing income support to those people who really are at financial risk is the way to bring Canada through this extraordinary moment of inflationary pressure, which everyone is feeling in some way, shape or form. We have to bring Canada through this in the best possible way, doing the least possible damage to the smallest number of Canadian families.
That is why the NDP believes in doubling the GST rebate. That is why we fought for an increase in payments on the Canada housing benefit. It is why we believe looking to structurally change the cost of things that Canadians cannot do without, such as child care, dental care and prescription drugs, is a better way to combat inflation exactly because it is not doing what the Conservatives say they are concerned about.
We heard at the finance committee yesterday that even the IMF, the International Monetary Fund, of which it is fair to say is by no means understood as a progressive organization, as it has been the chief deregulator and tax-cutter, defunding and cutting the public service for decades, has said that broad-based tax cuts right now are going to fuel inflationary pressures in exactly the way the Conservatives say we must not do. The reason for that is because broad-based tax cuts put more money back into the pockets of the people who need it the least. The more wealthy one is, the more money one already has, and the more one will benefit from broad-based tax relief.
Earlier, a Conservative member talked about students who are living in homeless shelters and single mothers who are worried about ending up homeless. They are not going to benefit in the same way from broad-based tax relief as people living in far richer neighbourhoods, nor will seniors living on low fixed incomes. If those are the people who we want to help, then we need to do that with targeted income supports. That is the way to do it, not only to get more help to the people who need it most, but also to avoid delivering more money into the pockets of people who will use that as disposable income because they already have a fair bit of income.
That is why there is a real difference of approach between the New Democrats on the one hand and the Conservatives on the other. One can tell that I sometimes think the Liberal government feels caught in between, and its recipe would be to do nothing, just watch the debate happen between Conservatives and New Democrats and stand back.
This is why it is important to push, and why I am grateful to Canadians for having elected 25 New Democrats to this Parliament to do that work of pushing. When we first proposed the doubling of the GST rebate, the Liberals said no. That was well over six months ago, and in time and with persistent advocacy by New Democrats in the chamber, and many, many voices in civil society outside the chamber, we were able to get the government to change course.
That is a story of success for Parliament. That is a story of the Parliament Canadians elected doing the work they want us to do. Sometimes it is messy, and it is not always pretty or fun to watch, but there is a job getting done here, and it is because of the wisdom of Canadians in electing a minority Parliament with strong voices on many sides of the House that we are able to move forward.
The second thing I want to call out about this motion, which is a pet peeve of mine, and we heard it a bit before already today, is talking about increases in EI premiums and the CPP as though they were a payroll tax. If it were just a matter of arguing about words, then it would not matter. I do not care that accountants call EI premiums and CPP payroll taxes. If that is what they want to do within their profession for ease of accounting, that is fine by me.
When politicians start to talk about fighting payroll tax increases as a euphemism for fighting against properly funding our employment insurance system, I have a problem with it. When politicians use lowering payroll taxes as a euphemism for fighting against Canadians' pensions and denying increases in Canadians' pensions, especially when they are talking out the other side of their mouths about how much they care about seniors on fixed incomes, I have a problem with it. That is a major problem with this motion and what we have been hearing from the Conservatives today.
People are experiencing homelessness now who were not a couple of years ago and who are continuing to struggle with the difficulties of the economy we are in. There are a lot of jobs available in certain sectors of the economy, but it is still a difficult employment situation for other parts of the economy. There are people who are trained for those parts and have experience in parts of the economy that are still struggling, including tourism and hospitality, for instance. Those are industries struggling in various ways.
The hospitality sector is coming back, but if the employer is only willing to offer three three-hour shifts, the help-wanted sign in the window does not mean what a lot of Canadians think it means. It does not mean a full-time, well-paying, family-supporting job on the other end of that help-wanted sign.
Yes, we need to rebuild the EI system. We know that. We knew that before we went into the pandemic. All the more is the shame on the government for having reverted to the prepandemic employment insurance rules on September 24 without having a solve and without revealing the details of these consultations it has been doing, or having a better system in place in the first place. Employment insurance was leaving far too many people behind before the pandemic. We all know that.
We all know it needed to change, yet here we are moving away from the temporary rules of the pandemic, which were not perfect but were certainly better than what we had before, and we have gone back. Yes, EI premiums, after having been frozen during the pandemic, are eventually going to go up. That is part and parcel of providing insurance so people do not lose their homes when they lose their jobs in difficult economic circumstances.
A party that really had the backs of working people would understand that and not try to cover over its opposition to a proper EI system with euphemisms such as lower payroll taxes. The same is true of the Canada pension plan. We are at a point where the Canada pension plan finally is going to have another tranche for workers down the road. They are going to start to have to pay into that, as will employers. That is part of building better public pensions, so fewer Conservative politicians and others in the future will stand up to say how sad they are that seniors do not have a proper income. That is what is wrong with what is going on here.