Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Sherbrooke.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that this new chamber stands on unceded Algonquin territory. It is an honour that carries the heavy responsibility of working toward reconciliation with the indigenous peoples to whom this land was originally entrusted and to whom it still belongs. I would also like to thank my colleague, the MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, for his heroic and tireless efforts in fighting for the right to speak and hear indigenous languages in this House. We are so grateful for him, his courageous spirit and all he has accomplished in the House.
Today we are debating the Conservative motion calling on the Prime Minister to table a budget focused on eliminating the deficit and to not ever raise taxes again. It probably comes as no surprise that New Democrats will not be voting in favour of this motion.
Before the members opposite begin screaming about the tax-and-spend policies of the NDP, I would like to remind the House that New Democrat governments across this country have consistently delivered balanced budgets more often than any other party. New Democrats understand the value of taxation as the means to provide equal access to services for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. New Democrats understand that taxes fuel social democracy, the values upon which this nation was founded.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said that taxes are the way we pay for civilization. As Canadians For Tax Fairness points out:
2. Taxes put out fires, keep our streets safe, provide our children with education, provide our families with health care, ensure our food and water are safe, create legal safeguards for businesses and employees, provide parks—in other words, provide us benefits every hour of the day, every day of the year.
3. The average Canadian household receives about $41,000 in public services each year.., a tremendous bargain for the vast majority of Canadians.
4. Past generations paid taxes for what we have today—schools, hospitals, courts of law, roads, public transit, parks. Our taxes today allow us to pass along those benefits to future generations—our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
5. If we ignore, shortchange or postpone funding for social, economic and environmental problems today, the solutions become more expensive in the future.
6. Public sector employees work hard, often in difficult circumstances, to keep government running and provide the public services we need. We need to attract and retain hard-working public employees and pay them fair compensation.
7. ...Taxes provide a counter-balance [to the power elite], by softening extreme disparities in wealth, power and benefits.
8. Taxes ensure that Canada can build and maintain the necessary infrastructure—[safe water supplies and sanitation,] education, health care and transportation systems—to attract investment and businesses, and thrive in a competitive global economy.
All businesses have benefited and prospered because of the infrastructure provided by civil society. Rather than trying to force a promise from the current or any other government to never raise taxes again, we would do better to discuss the ways in which the tax dollars entrusted to us can be spent wisely, with the needs of Canadians at the forefront. Neither Conservatives nor Liberals have been able to accomplish that. ln fact, I would say that neither party has had any real interest in accomplishing that.
New Democrats understand that this Conservative motion is nothing more than posturing in advance of the next federal election. Conservatives under Stephen Harper ran six deficits between 2008 and 2014. In fact, the Conservatives slashed the corporate income tax rate by one-third, from 22% to 15%, over a six-year period, but only corporate taxes. Individual citizens paid dearly for this corporate tax break, and they continue to pay so corporations like General Motors can reap huge profits without any responsibility to the community and people who made those profits possible. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said that these corporate tax giveaways cost the government $12 billion annually, but these drastic cuts have not boosted investment or led to promised job creation. The NDP is convinced that if the government made the wealthy pay their fair share, it could tackle inequality and build an economy that would benefit all Canadians.
The Liberals refuse to reverse Harper's corporate tax cuts, and so do the Conservatives, whose so-called efficiencies created an austerity plan that included reductions in health transfers and cuts in food and transportation safety, imperative safety measures. Certainly they have done this kind of cutting when in government.
History shows us that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals have the best interests of Canadians at heart. If they did, women would not have to continue to fight for pay equity after decades of being paid less than men doing equivalent work.
If they cared to make it a priority, they would have a fully funded, comprehensive health care system that included pharmacare and fully funded home care, with wage parity for health care workers.
If they cared, we would have universal and accessible child care programs.
If they cared, we would have legislation that protected workers when factories moved offshore or that prevented companies that go bankrupt from stealing workers' wages, invested as pension dollars, to pay corporate bonuses to those who already have more than their fair share.
If they cared, we would have a national housing strategy that actually provided affordable housing for every Canadian who needed it.
If they truly cared, we would have a strategy for poverty elimination and would have met campaign 2000's goal to raise every child out of poverty by the year 2000. However, here we are. It is 2019, and food bank use is higher than it has ever been, because families must make choices between paying the rent and buying groceries. It is our shame in a country as rich as this.
The tragic irony is that we know from the experience of other governments that if we were to provide these public services for Canadians, the country would prosper. Just as a rising tide raises all ships, every Canadian, rich or poor, would benefit, because we would not have to pay poverty's tab in increased costs in health care, education and the justice system.
In 2011, the cost of poverty to our economy was $24 billion. Members can be assured that this cost has increased in the eight years since. By contrast, Quebec's universal daycare program has resulted in an increased GDP for the province, because more women have been able to enter the workforce and contribute their tax dollars to the public good.
February 2 is Groundhog Day, and in that same theme as the famous Bill Murray movie, we find ourselves recycling the same old bogus arguments over and over again in this House. Whether it is the white cats or the black cats in power, the story always ends the same, and Canadians end up losing.
Are our memories so short in this House that we forget Paul Martin's slashing of health care transfers to the provinces to pay his deficit? Our health care system has yet to recover. Canadians have suffered for it. Canadians are paying out-of-pocket expenses for life-saving drugs and medical procedures that used to be covered. Of course, we are plagued with creeping P3 agreements that erode the democracy of a fully funded public health care system.
The Prime Minister has stated that Paul Martin made the right decision, but he would have us believe that he would not do the same thing. However, he has done nothing to restore funding slashed by his Liberal predecessors to health care, employment insurance, and our public broadcaster.
The solution is obvious, if only there was political will. If the government ensured that super-wealthy corporations and individuals paid their fair share of taxes, we could tackle inequality and build an economy that would benefit all Canadians. Instead of recovering this lost tax revenue and applying it to better health care, community infrastructure, and other urgent priorities, such as veterans, seniors care and housing, the Liberals refuse to close tax loopholes.
This Conservative motion is about the deficit, and New Democrats are asking this: What does a $19-billion deficit buy? It buys billions in gifts to Bay Street, such as the tax incentive to purchase corporate jets and limousines. Let us not delude ourselves that the Conservatives are any different. Stephen Harper implemented the G7's lowest corporate tax rate, but the promised community investment spinoffs have never materialized. lnstead, Canadian corporations have stashed away $200 billion in offshore tax havens. They close factories and lay off workers, claiming lost profits at the same time as they pay bonuses to executives and shareholders.
It would be refreshing if we could focus on what is really important for Canadians, rather than this ridiculous race to the bottom that always ends up with cuts to services and Canadians who continue to lose and pay with their hard-earned dollars and their hard-earned—