IN THE HOUSE | Speech on the Fall Economic Statement

Published: November 21, 2018
Categorised in: In the House

42nd Parliament, 1st Session

Excerpt:

Mr. Peter Julian (New Westminster—Burnaby, NDP):
“What should this mini budget have contained? We would have applauded the finance minister if he had stood up and announced a universal single-payer pharmacare plan for all Canadians and that he was going to make sure that all businesses would benefit as a result, because that would help the competitiveness of Canadian businesses. Our businesses are now paying $6 billion for pharmacare.
Tommy Douglas fought in the House of Commons for medicare. Medicare was not just good for every Canadian, but also for Canadian businesses. The average advantage per employee, per year is $3,000 for a Canadian business compared with an American business. Each employee that a Canadian business hires because of our universal medicare system has a $3,000 advantage. American companies have to pay into those plans; Canadian companies don’t.
Can you imagine if the finance minister had stood and announced universal single-payer pharmacare. We all would have applauded, as the business community would have also.
This mini budget should have contained an announcement that the government would now take seriously the affordable housing crisis that we are facing in this country. If the finance minister had stood up and said the government was going to put money into affordable housing instead of $5 billion into a variety of tax incentives that can go to, unbelievably, for plush corporate jets and limousines, as if those were a priority, we would have applauded. We would have applauded if he had stood up and said the government was going to put $3 billion now to building affordable housing, like we did after the Second World War. Within 30 months, 300,000 housing units were built across this country because governments at that time understood the importance of having a roof over every single Canadian’s head. The finance minister should have stood up and announced an emergency housing plan right across this country to make sure that all Canadians have a roof over their head as soon as possible. He should have said that was what the government was going to do. He should have said that was the government’s priority. If he had said that, we would all would have applauded, but he did not.”

Full speech:

Mr. Peter Julian (New Westminster—Burnaby, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start out by saying how very disappointed I am in the mini budget that the Minister of Finance just presented.
[English]
I would like to start by saying I am startled at how rapidly the government has fallen completely out of touch with the needs of Canadians. The verdicts are already coming in. Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, who is respected by all Canadians, says that “We’re deficit-financing the corporate sector”. That is just one of the reactions that’s coming forward on this mini budget.
There is nothing in the mini budget that addresses the profoundly unequal tax system that we have in place. Real corporate tax rates are estimated to be less than 10%. Nothing addresses that. Nothing addresses the web giants and the fact that they are simply allowed to do business in Canada and get off scot-free. There is nothing that addresses some of the priorities that Jagmeet Singh, I, and the member for Sherbrooke presented just a few days ago to the finance minister.
If the Liberals are saying that they want to see Jagmeet Singh in the House of Commons, all they have to do is call the by-election. That is what the people of Burnaby South are asking for.
There is nothing in this mini budget that deals with pharmacare and the Canadians who are struggling with the lack of pharmacare and the businesses that are having to pay billions of dollars a year to finance pharmacare. There is nothing in this mini budget that deals with the profound housing crisis we are seeing in our country. I will give a few examples later on, but the reality is that housing is in crisis. There is a shortage of affordable housing in this country, but this mini budget does nothing to address it. There is nothing that addresses the profound inequalities facing indigenous children, who are often going to schools that are financed up to $10,000 less per pupil, per year than schools for other Canadian children. Nothing in the budget addresses that.
But, there are gifts. There are real gifts. There is a billion dollars’ worth of gifts to Bay Street. Unbelievably, given the times we live in and the record levels of family debt Canadians are experiencing—the worst family debt crisis in the industrialized world—incredibly in the mini budget papers just circulated, there are big tax incentives to buy things like plush corporate jets and limousines. I confirmed this with the ministry of finance officials. Unbelievably, if one buys a corporate jet, one would get a more accelerated tax write-off. If one buys a plush limousine, according to the Liberal government, one would get an accelerated write-off. The question I have for the finance minister that I hope he will answer over the next few days is why is he acting like Santa Claus to Bay Street and like Scrooge to everyone else in this country?
Because for regular Canadians, they see nothing in this mini budget, and I am talking about people like Jim who is right outside the House of Commons. Any Liberal member can go down the street and see him. Every day he is on the bridge between the Château Laurier and the East Block. He begs for money, because there is no pharmacare in this country. His medication costs him about $500 a month. He cannot work and so he has to beg, because he says he does not want to burden his children, and there is no pharmacare for him. There is nothing in this mini budget that addresses the challenges Jim faces.
There is nothing in this mini budget that in any way addresses the challenges that Heather faces in my riding. Heather has a child, a daughter, and lives with both her daughter and her mother in a one-bedroom apartment while rents keep going up. She works for minimum wage and she says “ I don’t know how much longer I can keep this apartment and if I lose this apartment, I don’t know where I will go and where my family will go.” There is nothing in this mini budget that addresses that housing crisis in this country.
There is nothing in this mini budget that helps John, a senior who is homeless now, because of course Mr. Speaker, with the rising rents, his pension just did not keep up. For a time he lived with a friend, and when that did not work out, he ended up on the street. There is nothing in this mini budget that addresses the challenges he is facing. He is not facing a challenge of lack of access to corporate jets and limousines. He is actually facing the challenges that many people in Canada are facing, and this out-of-touch government has done nothing to respond to his needs and concerns.
(1645)
There is nothing in this mini budget that addresses the concerns of Paul, who is a local businessperson. He wants to compete but has two problems. He is paying for a medical plan, for a drug plan for his employees, because he wants to treat them right. He hopes for universal pharmacare in this country, because it would make a difference to his bottom line. He also says that it is very difficult to get workers now because of the lack of affordable housing. He says that if he wants to have workers, they need to have access to affordable housing. But there is nothing in this mini budget that responds to his needs.
And nothing in this mini budget responds to the needs of Rajinder and Raj, who are part of the many Canadian families experiencing the record level of family debt, the worst in our history and worst in the industrialized world, a family debt that is caused by Liberal policies.
Nothing in this mini budget addresses any of the needs of the people I have just mentioned. Therefore, we say in this corner of the House that it is time to put the private jets and the limousines aside and it is time for a government that prioritizes people in this country, in its budgets and in the House of Commons.
[Translation]
Because for us that is our priority, but the government seems to have totally different priorities.
Réjeanne is a person with a disability who sometimes experiences homelessness. Last year, she told me she really needs a government that meets her needs. She is on medication and has of course housing issues, but nothing in this mini-budget that truly addresses those needs.
Then, there is Ronda. Her two children go to school in an indigenous community so she has to live with the fact that her two children receive far fewer services than other students. The government spends about $10,000 less on them on average compared to other Canadian children. She would like her children to have a better future than she did, but she has a hard time with the federal government’s failure to provide adequate funding for schools here and across Canada. Nothing in the speech we just heard suggests that the government intends to meet those needs.
All of these people seem to have been forgotten. In contrast, people on Bay Street can now buy cheaper planes because taxpayers will be subsidizing that. They can even buy limousines because apparently the Liberal government again wants to use taxpayers’ money to subsidize limousine purchases.
The priority should have been to create a fair tax system, since our system is deeply flawed. While about $20 billion is invested every year in offshore tax havens, the government just added another $5 billion in tax loopholes for next year. We in the NDP believe that investments should stay at home.
After having to fight the Conservatives for two years and the Liberals for three years, the Parliamentary Budget Officer finally got the information he needed from the Canada Revenue Agency to begin a study next spring. The Parliamentary Budget Officer’s first study shows the discrepancy between the amount of corporate taxes that should be collected and how much is actually coming in.
A fair tax system is a priority for us, because that would allow us to invest in people and balance the budget.
(1650)
Large corporations, which, since the Second World War, have been paying about 50% of all taxes in Canada, will now pay only 20% of the federal government’s revenues, based on the speech we just heard. This shows how important it is to have a fair tax system. This economic statement does absolutely nothing to change that.
[English]
What should this mini budget have contained? We would have applauded the finance minister if he had stood up and announced a universal single-payer pharmacare plan for all Canadians and that he was going to make sure that all businesses would benefit as a result, because that would help the competitiveness of Canadian businesses. Our businesses are now paying $6 billion for pharmacare.
Tommy Douglas fought in the House of Commons for medicare. Medicare was not just good for every Canadian, but also for Canadian businesses. The average advantage per employee, per year is $3,000 for a Canadian business compared with an American business. Each employee that a Canadian business hires because of our universal medicare system has a $3,000 advantage. American companies have to pay into those plans; Canadian companies don’t.
Can you imagine if the finance minister had stood and announced universal single-payer pharmacare. We all would have applauded, as the business community would have also.
This mini budget should have contained an announcement that the government would now take seriously the affordable housing crisis that we are facing in this country. If the finance minister had stood up and said the government was going to put money into affordable housing instead of $5 billion into a variety of tax incentives that can go to, unbelievably, for plush corporate jets and limousines, as if those were a priority, we would have applauded. We would have applauded if he had stood up and said the government was going to put $3 billion now to building affordable housing, like we did after the Second World War. Within 30 months, 300,000 housing units were built across this country because governments at that time understood the importance of having a roof over every single Canadian’s head. The finance minister should have stood up and announced an emergency housing plan right across this country to make sure that all Canadians have a roof over their head as soon as possible. He should have said that was what the government was going to do. He should have said that was the government’s priority. If he had said that, we would all would have applauded, but he did not.
(1655)
[Translation]
He could have demonstrated an interest in green energy. We know that it will take a lot more than an advisory panel on climate change to shift Canada toward green energy and the new economy.
Even if Jagmeet Singh influenced the minister with regard to one of these criteria, he should have announced a real plan to implement green energy and ensure a transition toward green energy in Canada. Not only would that have been good for Canadians and for combatting climate change, but it also would have stimulated the economy. The countries that are investing in green energy are the countries that are currently benefiting from it, and Canada is doing virtually nothing.
The finance minister also could have announced that the government would put an end to the inequalities that exist in indigenous communities with regard to funding for education and ensured that every indigenous child in Canada receives the best possible education, the same education and the same funding for education as every other Canadian. He could have announced that, but he did not.
The basic income pilot project in Ontario was cancelled by a Conservative government that seems to want to attack all the programs that really help people. The finance minister could have announced that the government would fund the last year of the study on basic income so that we would know the results of the study. He could have done that, but he did not. That is the problem.
In his speech, the minister spoke about private planes and limousines and he addressed the need for major corporations to have greater access to these items. However, he forgot about ordinary Canadians, and yet they are the ones who should always be our priority.
[English]
I mentioned earlier Tommy Douglas, who fought lobbyists. Lobbyists were always saying not to put in place medicare because they really wanted that money for themselves. However, Tommy Douglas stuck with it. He pushed and pushed, and today we are all proud of his accomplishments. This was why Canadians, just a few short years ago when they had the chance to vote on the greatest Canadian of all, chose Tommy Douglas as the greatest Canadian. He always kept in mind people. He always kept in mind the needs of real people.
Jagmeet Singh is like that. He grew up in an environment where he had to push to succeed. He lived with racism and he had to take over when his father fell sick. He had to ensure his family was taken care of. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He had to work hard for what he accomplished.
That is the story with most Canadians. They push forward. However, most Canadians also occasionally need a government that reflects their interests. They need a government that realizes we need things like universal single-payer pharmacare; that when there is a housing crisis, the federal government responds, it does not give more corporate tax breaks; that when there is huge inequality, as we see with indigenous communities and education systems, the federal government actually steps forward and addresses it. That is what Canadians expect.
We need a plan to bring Canadians out of the worst family debt crisis and the worst housing crisis in our nation’s history. We need a government that is actually going to respond to the kinds of needs that are being expressed right across the length and breadth of our vast land, and being expressed very effectively and coherently. However, seemingly, all of those concerns are not listened to by the government.
At the beginning of my speech, I said that it was startling how rapidly the government had fallen out of touch. There is no better evidence of that than this mini budget today, which deals with the kinds of incentives at which most Canadians will be shaking their heads. If we ask Canadians, and I will be asking my constituents, my bosses, when I go back to New Westminster—Burnaby in the next day or so, if they think the priority should be more corporate jets and more limousines for Bay Street, I do not think too many of them will tell me that they should be the priority. However, if I ask them if they think universal single-payer pharmacare, addressing the housing crisis and addressing inequality in indigenous children’s education should be priorities, I know they will tell me that they should be.
The government has lost its way. It does not seem to understand what the priorities of people are, and I find that saddening. However, I also think it is a clear message to all of us as Canadians. Since the government has lost its way, has become stale and really is out of touch, it is time for a new government. Next year, in October, Canadians will be able to make that choice and elect Jagmeet Singh as Prime Minister of Canada.

« Back to News