February 2, 2017

LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

It is my duty to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the representation, namely the hon. John McCallum, member for the electoral district of Markham—Thornhill, by resignation, effective Wednesday, February 1, 2017.

Pursuant to subsection 25(1)(b) of the Parliament of Canada Act, I have addressed my warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for the election of a member to fill this vacancy.


Subtopic:   Vacancy
Sub-subtopic:   Markham—Thornhill
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LIB

Matt DeCourcey

Liberal

Mr. Matt DeCourcey (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and in accordance with Standing Order 109, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, copies of the government's response to the third report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, entitled “An Opportunity for Global Leadership: Canada and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda”.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Foreign Affairs and International Development
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CPC

Gord Brown

Conservative

Mr. Gordon Brown (Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, believe you will find consent for the following motion. I move:

That, at the conclusion of today's debate on the opposition motion in the name of the Member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion be deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, February 7, 2017, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
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LIB
?

Some hon. member

Agreed

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
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LIB
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand at this time.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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LIB
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

The Chair has received a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. The hon. member has the floor.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Request for Emergency Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Ice Storm Crisis in New Brunswick
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NDP

Guy Caron

New Democratic Party

Mr. Guy Caron (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, as you know, I asked two questions here this week about the government's actions in response to the ongoing crisis in New Brunswick and on the Acadian peninsula in particular and what it is doing for the victims of last week's ice storm crisis.

Unfortunately, I have to say that the answers I got from both the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness were not satisfactory with respect to the federal government's action, or rather the lack of inaction I was hoping for, in response to a situation that affected more than 130,000 households and left more than 10,000 of them without heat or electricity in February.

This situation really hits home for me because I was in Montreal in 1998 during the ice storm. It was not as bad for me personally because we were lucky to have been heating with gas, not electricity, but we took in many stricken Montrealers and gave them shelter for 10 days.

We see everything that the Province of New Brunswick is trying to do at this time, as well as what the victims are going through, but unfortunately, we have no idea what exactly the federal government has done, apart from responding to a request made last Friday to deploy some troops to the Acadian peninsula, specifically to Shippagan, Miscou and Lamèque.

In that sense, I believe we need to have an emergency debate on this matter, so that we, as parliamentarians, can learn more about what action this government has taken, what it has committed to doing, and the work it has already done, in partnership with New Brunswick, for the victims in that province. Those people need to know what the federal government has done for them, especially if you consider the federal government's rapid response to the Fort McMurray fires and the floods in Calgary and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, three disasters that have happened in the past five years.

In that sense, Mr. Speaker, I respectfully ask that you grant my request for an emergency debate, so that the House can debate this extremely important and urgent matter.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Request for Emergency Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Ice Storm Crisis in New Brunswick
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for raising this issue that affects the province right next to mine. However, I find that his request does not meet the exigencies of the standing order.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Request for Emergency Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Speaker's Ruling
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CPC

Gérard Deltell

Conservative

Mr. Gérard Deltell (Louis-Saint-Laurent, CPC)

moved:

That, given the average middle class Canadian is already overburdened with taxes, the House call on the government to abandon any plans it may have to in any way tax health and dental care plans.

Mr. Speaker, let me say right away that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen.

We are gathered here today to talk about the state of the public purse. For the 15 months that it has been in power, this government has made it clear that it has lost control of public spending.

The Liberals were elected on a campaign of running a small budget of $10 billion, but in reality the deficits are closer to $30 billion. What is more, they talked about a balanced budget by 2019. That is false. The budget will not be balanced until 2055 and we have not even talked about the debt. If nothing changes within this government, Canada's debt will be $1.5 trillion by 2050. That is utterly irresponsible management.

This government is also known for creating new taxes and fees for workers, and also for businesses. The government should be encouraging businesses to create jobs and wealth. Instead, this government is burdening businesses and workers with even more taxes.

On December 2, a National Post article by John Ivison informed us that the government was considering taxing Canadians' private health and dental care plans.

On December 5, I stood in the House to ask the government what its plan was, and to give it a chance to answer yes or no. At that time, I asked if it would be creating a a new Liberal tax, and whether it would tax those who have that kind of protection. I asked my first question on December 5. The Minister of Finance dodged the issue. He did not answer the question. However, I am used to it, as it was not the first time. It is a trademark of the current government to dodge the issue when it has no answer. It did the same with respect to the zero deficit. I asked the government 15 times in the House when it would get back to a zero deficit. There was no answer. I will soon be asking the question for the 16th time.

We asked the government 10 times when it would decide whether there would be a tax on health and dental benefits. We did not get an answer on any of those 10 occasions. The members for Oshawa and Lac-Saint-Jean, along with the Leader of the Opposition, also asked the government about 10 times whether it was going to move forward with this Liberal tax. The Liberals always avoided the question.

Sometimes a little serendipity happens. Yesterday morning, the government was informed that we were going to debate this issue in the House today. Since it is a supply day, we submitted our motion and informed the House, the parties, and all parliamentarians of the topic that would be discussed. The government learned that there would be a debate today. Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister what his position was, and, at the very end of his answer, the Prime Minister finally said that the government would not impose such a tax.

We need to be careful. Let us remember that, just two weeks ago, the same Prime Minister was saying that the most recent election would be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post system. However, yesterday, he told us that the voting system would not change. That same Prime Minister told us that his government would run small deficits of $10 billion, when now it seems that the deficit will be closer to $30 billion. The same Prime Minister told us that we would return to a balanced budget in 2019, when the budget will not be balanced until 2055.

As a result, when the Prime Minister told the House yesterday that he was not going to tax health and dental benefits, we have good reason to doubt his statement. That is why we are offering all parliamentarians, particularly the Liberal members, the opportunity, pleasure, and privilege of officially voting to confirm that health and dental benefits will not be taxed, as requested by the official opposition, the Conservative Party. Let us be careful.

Why create a tax on health and dental benefits? It is a bad idea. First, it affects a large number of Canadians: 13.5 million Canadian workers currently have health and dental insurance. Also, some people may have family coverage under their health insurance, which means that not just the 13.5 million workers but also their families are affected. We are talking about 24 million Canadians. That is a lot of people.

It is a bad idea because families would have to pay an additional $2,000 on average. For the past two months, many people have been warning the government about the dangers of doing this.

In his January 12 letter addressed to the Minister of Finance, Robert R. Blakely, of Canada's Building Trades Unions said, “In the absence of this benefit, our organizations would be obliged, in the interest of our members, to seek public funding to replace this care, which is vital to the health of Canadians.”

Unfortunately, one province already has this tax, so I know what I am talking about. In 1993, almost 25 years ago, Quebec imposed such a tax.

What can we learn from this exercise? A study by Amy Finkelstein from MIT, published in the Journal of Public Economics in September 2000, states, on page 34:

This represents a decline in workplace coverage of about one-fifth, and corresponds to an elasticity of coverage by employer-provided supplementary health insurance....

When that happened in Quebec, one in five insured workers lost that insurance, and 95% of them did not get it back.

If, God forbid, the government were to go ahead with this plan, millions of Canadians would suffer the same fate. We also need to consider the long-term effect on public health because we are talking about dental care. If people are not insured and do not take care of their teeth, that will lead to problems that will have to be dealt with eventually.

Why are we concerned about the government's interest in taxing Canadians more? Since coming to power, the government has earned a reputation for taking aim at the tax credits that our government introduced, tax credits for the arts, sports, post-secondary education, and textbooks. This Liberal government scrapped the tax credits that we introduced to help families.

In October, the government changed the rules for buying houses, the mortgage rules, without even holding consultations.

Just yesterday, in committee, six different groups directly affected by the move all stated one after the other that the government had never approached them. This directly affects young families and Canadians who want to buy property.

I also want to talk about the current government's disregard for entrepreneurs, the creators of jobs and wealth. What did the government do? It raised Canada pension plan premiums by over $1,000 per employee per business. It cancelled the corporate tax cut that was supposed to bring it down to 9%. It cancelled the employment tax credit. Lastly, of course, this government is introducing its Liberal carbon tax, which will put an additional burden on Canadian families, to the tune of about $2,500 a year.

That is the Liberal way. The government is incapable of managing the country properly. It is creating colossal deficits and debts. Its idea of a solution is to stop helping businesses and families. Instead, it is thinking up new ways to pick taxpayers' pockets.

What is next? The government has decided to review 208 tax credits that are currently in place and generate about $100 billion. Indeed, the Liberal government wants to take another look at each one of these tax credits. We have no problem with that, but we would prefer to know what the government had in mind.

Does it intend to abolish these tax credits altogether, just as it abolished those for arts and culture, textbooks, and those meant to help our families? That is where the danger lies. If, heaven forbid, the government decides to cut tax credits even further, Canadians will have to pay even more.

We have nothing against reviewing these tax credits. What we do have a problem with is the fact that there is a hidden agenda at play here.

Listen to what the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said in an article in the Toronto Sun:

Unfortunately, there are worrying signs that [the Minister of Finance's] real intent is to use “simplification” as political cover to hike taxes by stealth for millions of Canadians.

This is just a terrible proposal, and we are giving the government the opportunity to clearly state its intention to say no to this Liberal tax—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Taxes on Health and Dental Care Plans
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NDP

Carol Hughes

New Democratic Party

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes)

The hon. member's time has expired. Perhaps he can continue his speech and share his thoughts during questions and comments.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Taxes on Health and Dental Care Plans
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LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I suspect the member across the way feels a little uncomfortable in the sense that, under this Prime Minister and his government, one of our very first initiatives was to give a significant tax break to millions of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. This was a tax break to the middle class, which that member and the Conservative Party voted against. Therefore, I am very curious, and I am sure Canadians are curious, when the member stands up and talks about giving a break to the middle class.

There is only one party in this House that has delivered on giving a break to the middle class of Canada, and that is the Liberal Party. Liberals actually delivered the tax break. It was the Conservatives who voted against that tax break.

My question to the member is this. As he tries to give the Government of Canada advice, why should we believe that the Conservatives know how to give a break to the middle class when they voted against the middle class?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Taxes on Health and Dental Care Plans
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CPC

Gérard Deltell

Conservative

Mr. Gérard Deltell

Madam Speaker, I welcome that kind of question, because it is time to give the right figures.

The government talked a lot about the middle class, but the reality is that those earning $45,000 or less will have no change at all. This is what we are talking about. We are talking about the middle class.

Who is the big winner of this so-called new way to help the middle class? It is those who earn between $145,000 and $200,000, and this is a conflict of interest, because we are each one of them. I earn $171,000 a year, and I am one of the biggest winners of this so-called new way to help the middle class.

This is all wrong, because with the new rules, 65% of Canadians got nothing better than what they had.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Taxes on Health and Dental Care Plans
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NDP

Guy Caron

New Democratic Party

Mr. Guy Caron (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent, who always gives speeches that are entertaining, but also informative, even though we may not always agree.

The member is from Quebec. We have often talked about the fact that Quebec is a province where benefits like private health or dental insurance are taxed as taxable benefits. However, when the tax was introduced in 1993, there was a 20% drop in the number of businesses providing coverage, 50% in the case of SMEs.

Has my colleague assessed the impact this measure would have on the Canadian economy and especially on Canadian SMEs? In my opinion, this move was something of trial balloon for the government.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Taxes on Health and Dental Care Plans
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CPC

Gérard Deltell

Conservative

Mr. Gérard Deltell

Madam Speaker, as I said earlier, a 2000 MIT study found that one in five people lost their insurance because of Quebec's tax on this type of benefit. We can extrapolate that 20% of Canadians currently insured would lose a lot because their insurance would not be renewed in light of the additional cost for businesses.

I would like to remind members that 13.5 million Canadian workers have this type of coverage and that this directly affects 24 million Canadians. Consequently, more than five million Canadians would be directly affected and lose their coverage. Financial considerations aside, this is also a public health issue because without private dental insurance, people do not look after their teeth and they pay the price later.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Taxes on Health and Dental Care Plans
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NDP

Linda Duncan

New Democratic Party

Ms. Linda Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona, NDP)

Madam Speaker, it is very interesting that the Conservative Party is now standing to oppose this proposal to impose a tax when the leader of the member's party, the leader of the official opposition, actually commissioned an advisory panel on health care in June 2014, and that panel recommended this very measure. Has there been a change of heart in whose advice the Conservative Party is now listening to?

Could the member please explain the change in course, all of a sudden?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Taxes on Health and Dental Care Plans
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CPC

Gérard Deltell

Conservative

Mr. Gérard Deltell

Did we do it, Madam Speaker? No, we did not.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Taxes on Health and Dental Care Plans
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February 2, 2017