June 10, 2014

CPC

Rob Merrifield

Conservative

Hon. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, our government has focused on responsible resource development that protects the environment. There are 84 pipelines crossing the 49th parallel today.

The average approval time for those pipelines is three and a half months. The Keystone XL pipeline is now in its sixth year of deliberations. It is a project that would strengthen North American energy security. It would create jobs on both sides of the border. It would lower risk and rail congestion.

Could the parliamentary secretary tell us more about why our government supports the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Natural Resources
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CPC

Kelly Block

Conservative

Mrs. Kelly Block (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Yellowhead for that question. A total of five separate assessments by the U.S. State Department have concluded that this project would have no significant environmental impacts. Furthermore, alternatives to the Keystone XL project could increase emissions by 28% to 42%.

Our government stands with the hard-working Canadians who are positioned to benefit from this project. Why will the NDP not do the same?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Natural Resources
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NDP

Peggy Nash

New Democratic Party

Ms. Peggy Nash (Parkdale—High Park, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, Jozsef Pusuma and his family have lived in sanctuary in a Toronto church for the last 30 months. As Roma, they left Hungary due to the segregation and persecution they were subject to.

Now, Mr. Pusuma's daughter cannot even play outside for fear of being deported. Why? It is because the Conservative government lists Hungary as a designated country of origin, effectively calling it safe.

When will the Conservatives admit that they made a mistake when they put Hungary on the designated country of origin list?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Citizenship and Immigration
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CPC

Chris Alexander

Conservative

Hon. Chris Alexander (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I will not make any apologies for the very successful reform of our asylum system that took place under the leadership of my colleague, now the Minister of Employment and Social Development.

These decisions are made by an independent tribunal, by absolutely highly trained professionals who, under our laws, take decisions independently of elected politicians, independent of the partisan back and forth in this place. That is the way it should be.

There are several options for appeal. Once those have been exhausted, we expect those who have not had their cases upheld to depart Canada.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Citizenship and Immigration
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IND

Brent Rathgeber

Independent

Mr. Brent Rathgeber (Edmonton—St. Albert, Ind.)

Mr. Speaker, when will the Minister of Employment lift the blanket moratorium on temporary foreign workers in the fast food industry?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Employment
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CPC

Jason Kenney

Conservative

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it will be when we announce broader reforms to the temporary foreign worker program designed to prevent abuses, severely punish non-compliant employers, and prevent distortions in certain regions or industries in the Canadian labour market.

We will ensure that Canadians always come first, and if that means employers have to pay a little more and be more active in recruiting and training Canadians, that is a good thing.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Employment
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?

Elizabeth May

Green

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP)

Mr. Speaker, I certainly took your point earlier today in trying to reduce the amount of heckling in this corner of the House. It is much appreciated. However, I think that in calling the member for St. Paul's, and I will admit I wish that heckling did not occur from her or others, I quite often hear very loudly the voice of the member for Essex and I think even—

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Speaker

Orders of the day.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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The House resumed consideration of the motion.


CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Speaker

We were moving to questions and comments for the hon. member for York South—Weston.

Questions and comments, the hon. minister of state.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Income Splitting
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CPC

Gary Goodyear

Conservative

Hon. Gary Goodyear (Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario), CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed listening to the member's comments earlier, but I have to admit I have absolutely no understanding of where he is going with his comments. I know that when I was elected to come to the House of Commons, it was to actually protect taxpayers from governments that were charging too much money. It appears that he is objecting to more tax cuts for Canadians.

What I am asking the member to do is consider the totality of what this government has done with its tax cuts. The economic action plan is a strategic year-over-year plan that includes the reduction of taxes, over $200 billion less in taxes to Canadians as a result of this Conservative government.

One plan does not meet all needs and that is why we have reduced taxes for farmers, families, seniors, students, just name it, small businesses, apprentices, people with disabilities, et cetera. Now we have another opportunity to add yet one more piece to the puzzle that represents quality of life for Canadians.

Why does the member not have the ability to put it all together and think about the bigger picture?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Income Splitting
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NDP

Mike Sullivan

New Democratic Party

Mr. Mike Sullivan (York South—Weston, NDP)

That is just what I am doing, Mr. Speaker. I do think about the bigger picture. The bigger picture clearly is that people who are at the low end of the economic spectrum would expect that the government would take the $5 billion and share it on a more equitable basis than just giving it to the most wealthy in this country. The most wealthy in this country do not need that $5 billion, and that $5 billion will come out of the pockets of the people who are all across the spectrum, including the poorest in this country. It is absolutely unforgivable that we take money from the pockets of the poor and give it to the rich. That is the opposite of what we should be doing.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Income Splitting
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LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, income inequality is an important issue. It is an issue we attempted to address in the House, from the Liberal Party's perspective, two years ago when we made the suggestion that we needed to get the committee to come up with tangible recommendations that would make a difference, to try to close the gap.

One of the most important things to recognize is that we need a holistic approach. We need to get the provinces and the federal government looking at policies that would, in fact, close the gap. Political parties, whether they are New Democrats, Conservatives, or Liberals, have at times fallen short.

My question for my colleague is this. Would he not acknowledge how important it is that we take a look at policies in taxation, a joint responsibility between provinces and the federal government, so that the provinces and Ottawa have the ability to make a difference and close the gap on income inequality?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Income Splitting
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NDP

Mike Sullivan

New Democratic Party

Mr. Mike Sullivan

Mr. Speaker, the income inequality gap will not be closed by this Conservative action in any way, shape, or form. In fact, it is making it even worse. It is taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. That is something the Liberals and Conservatives have been doing for the last 30 years. We need to stop this merry-go-round of taxing poor people so that rich people can get richer. That is the exactly the opposite of what we should be doing.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Income Splitting
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NDP

Nathan Cullen

New Democratic Party

Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, it is an amazing phenomenon to watch Conservative speaker after speaker reference Canadians broadly as benefiting from this very narrow and very expensive income splitting scheme. The Conservatives keep omitting that 86% of all Canadian families will see no benefit whatsoever. Of those families who happen to qualify, who happen to fit into the narrow definition as proposed by the Conservatives, only a few of them will see the maximum benefit, and that would be those families and those individuals who happen to earn more than $150,000, like some members of Parliament. For average working families, if they are in the same tax bracket, if it is a single mom or single dad, if they do not have kids, or if the kids have moved out by 18, all of these Canadians, that is the 86% that we are talking about.

Given this vast amount of money, $5 billion out of the treasury to help Canadian families make ends meet, have that opportunity gap narrowed so that those who are born into lesser circumstances can achieve more through hard work, what kinds of suggestions would New Democrats offer to Canadians as opposed to the narrow ideology we see from the Conservatives?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Income Splitting
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NDP

Mike Sullivan

New Democratic Party

Mr. Mike Sullivan

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives rejected our very thoughtful proposal to create a national housing strategy. Most of the individuals in the city of Toronto who live in the big towers are close to being homeless.

Five billion dollars would be almost all of the money required to make sure that every family in this country was housed appropriately.

That is the kind of thing that the New Democratic Party would look at doing if we had $5 billion left over at the end of the day.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Income Splitting
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CPC

Andrew Saxton

Conservative

Mr. Andrew Saxton (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the motion before us today. Hon. members of the House may differ on solutions, but I am sure we can all agree that we must continuously look for ways to improve the lives of all Canadians. However, while the opposition would have one believe that our government is doing little to help families, I will take this time to correct the record.

Frankly, the facts speak for themselves. Under this Conservative government, Canadians in all income groups are better off. Canadian families, at all income levels, have seen increases of about 10% or more in real after-tax, after-transfer incomes across the board since 2006. The lowest-income Canadians have seen a 14% increase alone during that same time period.

Income inequality has not increased in Canada since 2006. In fact, it has decreased. Canadian families, at all income levels, have had higher incomes after taxes, after transfers, and after inflation, in 2011 and prior to the recession.

Furthermore, the median net worth of Canadian families has increased by almost 45% in real terms since 2006.

While the opposition continues to pose high-tax schemes that would actually increase income inequality and leave less money in the pockets of Canadians, our government is actually taking action and standing up for Canadian families.

Our Conservative government has been clear that one of the most effective ways to support Canadian families is by providing tax relief. It does not stop there. Our government has seen to it that the federal tax burden is at its lowest level in over 50 years. We have removed over one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls completely. We have introduced nearly 180 tax relief measures since we took office in 2006, reducing taxes in every way the government collects them.

Let me list a few of them.

We have reduced the GST from 7% to 5%. That is a 27% reduction in GST, putting more than $1,000 back into pockets of the average Canadian family.

We have introduced the landmark tax-free savings account, the most important personal savings vehicle since RRSPs. I must point out that more than nine million Canadians have since opened a tax-free savings account.

We have introduced the child tax credit, a credit on an amount of $2,255 for each child under the age of 18.

We have introduced the universal child care benefit, offering families more choice in child care by providing up to $1,200 a year for each child under the age of six.

The NDP members who stand today and claim that they know what is best for Canadians voted against every one of these measures. The opposition will continue to reject our efforts to keep taxes low. That is the reality we face. The opposition prefers that we adopt dangerous economic policies that would kill business investment and jobs, and hurt Canadian families by taking more of their hard-earned money.

We will not take economic lessons from the opposition. Let me remind the opposition that under our Conservative government, we have seen the benefits of Canada's economic action plan. Canada's economy has seen one of the best economic performances among all G7 countries in recent years, both during the global recession and throughout the recovery. This was due to strong economic leadership, fiscal discipline, long-term thinking, and tough decisions.

With that, I would like to take the rest of my time today to expand upon a few of the very important measures my colleagues on this side of the House listed earlier today.

To begin, let me take members back to budget 2007, when our government introduced the working income tax benefit, the WITB. The WITB fulfilled our government's commitment to help make work more rewarding for low-income Canadians already in the workforce. It increased the incentive for other low-income Canadians to enter the workforce, as well.

Economic action plan 2009 went even further by effectively doubling the benefits provided under the WITB.

Today, this initiative is making a real difference in the lives of Canadians. It has lowered the welfare wall so that low-income individuals now keep more of their earnings. In 2013, over $1.1 billion in WITB benefits were provided to individuals and families alone. Up to 1.5 million working individuals and families receive assistance through the WITB.

Recognizing that families are the cornerstone of our society, economic action plan 2011 took action to further reduce the tax burden on hard-working Canadian families. In doing so, we recognized that some families need additional support. For example, many Canadians have assumed added responsibilities by caring for infirm parents or other family members. Our government felt it was important to assist these family caregivers who make special sacrifices, often leaving the workforce temporarily and foregoing employment income.

In support of these families who care for infirm dependents, economic action plan 2011 introduced the family caregiver tax credit, which came into effect in 2012. This 15% non-refundable credit on an amount of $2,058 in 2014 provides additional tax relief for caregivers of all types of infirm dependent family members, including for first-time spouses, common-law partners, and minor children.

To further help caregivers, economic action plan 2011 removed the $10,000 limit on the amount of eligible expenses a taxpayer can claim under the medical expense tax credit for a financially dependent relative.

Our government also recognizes that persons with disabilities specifically need assistance as well. Our support for them has been targeted and effective. This is evident through such programs as the enabling accessibility fund, which has funded over 13,000 community-based projects across Canada, totalling over $89 million.

Even as recently as the measures in economic action plan 2014, our government has proposed to connect persons with disabilities with jobs by providing $15 million over three years to the ready, willing and able initiative of the Canadian Association for Community Living as well as $11.4 million over four years to support the expansion of vocational training programs for persons with autism spectrum disorder.

That is not all. We also established the highly praised registered disability savings plan, or RDSP, based on the recommendations of the 2006 expert panel on financial security for children with severe disabilities. The RDSP is designed to help individuals with severe disabilities and their families save for their long-term financial security. Since its implementation in 2008, our government has made a number of improvements to the program. For example, to make sure that RDSP beneficiaries with a shortened life expectancy could access their savings, economic action plan 2011 provided them with more flexibility to withdraw their RDSP assets without requiring the repayment of Canada disability savings grants and Canada disability savings bonds.

In 2011, our government launched a review of the RDSP program to ensure that RDSPs were meeting the needs of Canadians with severe disabilities and their families. Based on the feedback received during the review, economic action plan 2011 announced a number measures to improve the RDSP. These measures provide greater access to RDSP savings for small withdrawals, give greater flexibility to make withdrawals from certain RDSPs, ensure that RDSP assets are used to support the beneficiary during his or her lifetime, enhance flexibility for parents who save in registered education savings plans for children with disabilities, introduce greater continuity for beneficiaries who cease to qualify for the disability tax credit under certain circumstances, and improve administration of the RDSP for financial institutions and beneficiaries.

Since becoming available in 2008, more than 81,000 RDSPs have been opened. Thanks to measures like the RDSP, our government is making sure that Canadians with disabilities get the support they need. A lot of credit should go to the late hon. Jim Flaherty, who championed this program.

Let me now say a few more words about the government's tax reductions for seniors and pensioners. Once again, on this subject I have plenty of material to draw from.

Since 2006, our government has increased the age credit amount by $1,000 in 2006 and by another $1,000 in 2009. We have doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000.

We have introduced pension income splitting for seniors and increased the age limit for maturing pensions and RRSPs to 71 years of age from 69 years of age, and much more. As a result of these actions, seniors and pensioners are receiving about $2.8 billion in additional annual tax relief. Overall, actions taken by this government have substantially increased the income seniors can earn before they are required to pay income tax. In 2014, a single senior can earn at least $20,050, and a senior couple at least $40,108, before paying any federal income tax at all.

Seniors and those who support them may also take advantage of tax credits, such as the disability tax credit, the medical expense tax credit, and the caregiver credit as well as the family caregiver tax credit, which, as I mentioned, was introduced in economic action plan 2011 and came into effect in 2012.

In the same year, our government enhanced the guaranteed income supplement, the GIS, for those seniors who rely almost exclusively on their old age security and the GIS and may therefore be at risk of experiencing financial difficulties. The measure provided a new top-up benefit of up to $600 annually for single seniors and $840 for couples and is improving the financial security of more than 680,000 seniors across Canada. This increase in economic action plan 2014 was the largest increase for the lowest-income GIS recipients in a generation.

That is not all. Our government, since 2006, has also lowered taxes in a number of other very important ways for families. It has increased the amount of income all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax, increased the upper limit of the two lowest personal income tax brackets so that individuals can earn more income before being subject to higher tax rates, and reduced the lowest personal income tax rate to 15% from 16%.

Our Conservative government has been ambitious in our low-tax agenda. It is aimed at creating a tax system that fuels job creation and economic growth in the economy, and as I mentioned previously, it allows Canadians to keep more of their hard-earned money. Tax reductions have also given individuals and families the flexibility to make choices that are right for them. While the opposition members argue that we are only helping higher-income Canadians, this could not be further from the truth. Low- and middle-income Canadians are receiving proportionately greater relief. Benefits for low- and middle-income Canadians delivered through the personal income tax system, and support for families with children, have also been increased and enhanced under our government.

Finally, let me add that new measures we have introduced recognize that the health of the Canadian economy ultimately depends on providing opportunities for a high quality of life for all Canadians. That is why economic action plan 2014 would continue to implement the government's plan for jobs and economic growth. It would connect Canadians with available jobs and help them acquire the skills that will get them hired or get them better jobs in the marketplace; foster job creation, innovation, and trade by keeping taxes low; reduce the tax-compliance burden; continue to provide Canadian businesses and investors with the market access they need to succeed in the global economy; and support families and communities by taking additional steps to protect Canadian consumers, keep taxes low for families, and improve the safety of Canadians.

To conclude, keeping taxes low is an important element of our economic action plan. It helps Canadians succeed in the global economy through the creation of high-quality jobs and greater opportunities for success. Economic action plan 2014 is the next chapter in our government's long-term plan to strengthen the Canadian economy in an uncertain world and to create jobs and growth while keeping taxes low for families and businesses and balancing the budget in 2015. It is clearly working. It is accomplishing what it is intended to do, and by returning to balanced budgets in 2015, it bodes well for not only the current generation of Canadians but for future generations as well.

Taken together, the measures our government has introduced since 2006 and those in economic action plan 2014 will continue to keep taxes low and help Canadians succeed in the global economy, creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.

A recent analysis by The New York Times and the Luxembourg Income Study suggests that Canada's median income households today are the richest of 20 peer countries, including, for the first time ever, the United States. It also shows that Canada's median income households saw increases of about 20% in their take-home incomes between 2000 and 2010.

Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer tells us that we have delivered $30 billion in tax relief, which is benefiting low- and middle-income Canadians the most. Again, this is leaving more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians, and in 2014, that saving is to the tune of nearly $3,400 for an average Canadian family.

Our record on tax relief is strong, and the results are speaking volumes. However, we have been clear that once the budget is balanced, our government is committed to even further, even greater, tax relief for Canadian families.

I encourage the opposition, once and for all, to put aside its reckless high tax, tax-and-spend agenda and support our government's efforts to help all Canadians at all income levels.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Income Splitting
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NDP

Raymond Côté

New Democratic Party

Mr. Raymond Côté (Beauport—Limoilou, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech, even though it was just a long series of slogans. It did not contain any facts, except for when he was bragging about the supposed measures that would help the middle class.

Let us get down to business. The fact of the matter is that the middle class has been deeply in debt for many years. Under this government, household debt has increased and reached 165% of income. This is a very significant indicator of the poor financial health of Canadian households.

However, the government keeps pushing for tax cuts, especially for corporations, which cost the treasury tens of billions of dollars. It dramatically increased the amount of dead money in companies' coffers, which did absolutely nothing to stimulate the Canadian economy. On the contrary, incomes are still stagnating.

How can I make my colleague understand that he is on the wrong track? How can I make him realize how bad the situation is for the majority of Canadian households?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Income Splitting
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CPC

Andrew Saxton

Conservative

Mr. Andrew Saxton

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague talks about household debt, and yes, household debt is a concern. The majority of that debt is in mortgages. That is an investment that will be going up in value over the years. With low interest rates, Canadians are able to afford that.

We have also been cautioning Canadians that interest rates will eventually go up, and they should be prepared for that scenario. When it comes to the actual net worth of Canadian families, Statistics Canada found that the median net worth of Canadian families has actually risen by almost 45% since 2005. This is a significant improvement in the wealth of Canadian families, who are benefiting from the policies of our Conservative government.

The proof is in the numbers. We have lowered taxes over 160 times, and the average Canadian family will have $3,400 more in its pockets this year than it would have had under the previous government.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Income Splitting
Permalink
CPC

Gary Goodyear

Conservative

Hon. Gary Goodyear (Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario), CPC)

Mr. Speaker, one of the problems we have here is that members ask for more debate, but then they do not listen to the debate or they do not show up for the debate.

The member just gave a great speech about the totality of the taxation reductions the government has given. He used the number 160, which is the number I use, but I have just done a little more research, and it is actually 180 times our government has lowered taxes for Canadians.

This is just another opportunity to lower taxes for Canadians. We have done it for seniors. We have done it for families. We have done it for children. We have done it for students. I know that students in Canada can now earn just over $20,000 without paying any federal tax. That takes individual policy changes. Here we are talking about yet one other opportunity to lower taxes for Canadians to continue our government's plan to improve the quality of life for Canadians.

I wonder if the member could mention one more time how much the average family in Cambridge and North Dumfries is saving as a result of this side of the House voting yes to tax cuts, but unfortunately, that side continuing to vote no.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Income Splitting
Permalink

June 10, 2014