MASSE IN THE HOUSE: Speaking on Bill-13, Keeping Canada’s Economy and Jobs Growing Act

November  15, 2011

MASSE IN THE HOUSE: Speaking on Bill-13, Keeping Canada’s Economy and Jobs Growing Act

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the chamber to speak to Bill C-13 and participate in the debate.

    I will start with the caregivers tax credit and point out some of the problems with this overall government agenda and strategy. The government often announces programs. That was done well by the Mike Harris Ontario government. It had one dump truck full of $1 million in cash and would literally move that from community to community announcing program after program and service after service. However, nobody could really access it or the necessary support that the government was promoting in the programs.

    We have seen that with the current government and previous governments. There would be billions of dollars in slippage or money that never actually got out the door because the mandates and the criteria for those incentives did not work well with either taxpayers, citizens in general or with the businesses the government was trying to support in terms of new programs and services.

    This tax credit for caregivers is another one. It is something I am fairly familiar with. I worked for the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities for five years. I also worked at Community Living Mississauga for about three years helping people who actually needed assistance and caregiving. They did not qualify for unemployment, did not have proper medical support and would not be able to take advantage of the tax credit. That is a real and important issue that we have to acknowledge. The tax credit that is being proposed will literally be dangled in front of some Canadians and will not be available for others. It is building inequality.

    We have a middle class that is shrinking. All of the evidence supports that, especially given what we have gone through with the recent economic recession and what is happening in the global economy. Now we will create a separate class of people with access to caregivers, leaving the rest behind because they are too poor. How is that fair? How does that actually stand in a budget for a country that is supposed to be known for social justice, humanity and not leaving people behind? How does it even get to the point where the Conservatives are getting up here proudly celebrating the fact that some Canadians will get the support they need?

    I can say that support is critical. We are talking about people being able to have a bath, have their homes cleaned and live in better and humane conditions. These are critical elements. I have done that work myself. We are talking about people who need assistance right now to improve their quality of life but will not get it because they do not have enough money, are not rich enough or do not make enough.

    How is it possible that members can rise in the chamber to support a program like that? I do not understand that logic. I cannot see through it. I cannot see how the Conservatives can brag about segregating people who have physical and mental impairments or disabilities into classes of those who will get that service and those who will not.

    We should be helping the people who are worse off in the country. I think about the people who I served. At that time they were put into institutions. After being institutionalized until the age of 30 or 40 they got out and were left to the wind without enough support. They had never worked before or never had the opportunity to be part of the community. If they were lucky they got into programs like mine and if we were lucky we would be able to get them a job and train them. We would go on site.

    A lot of measures are required to ensure that people who have physical or psychological impairments can re-enter or enter the workforce. A lot of training has to happen. There are front-line support workers. It took a lot of effort. It would often require a government program with significant resources, but at the end of the day it was worth it. We proved that for every dollar the government put into our program we saved it $3 in welfare.

    When those people came through the door we did not look at their income brackets to determine whether or not they could get support. We did not tell them that they were too impoverished and that although they needed the services we would give it to someone else who could afford it because they could get a tax break.

    How is that fair? What is really important is what some of these caregivers can do, they can prevent people from going into hospitals. They can help people get structure around their life, so they can work part-time. It is all important and it is all related.

    How can someone go for an interview or be involved in their community if basic hygiene is a problem for them, because they have a problem physically or they have a problem doing that work in their house? Their apartment or house or wherever they live can create an impediment for them going out into the community.

    What we are saying with this tax credit, again, is that those Canadians who have the biggest insurmountable elements in their life are going to be left behind. They are not going to get that assistance. Their neighbour might, if their neighbour has enough money or makes enough money. We know from the evidence that most of those people in Canadian society are not going to be able to take advantage of this tax credit.

    I have a hard time understanding the logic in this, and how one could actually get up and proudly say that they are going to separate and make sure that Canadians have two options: one, nothing; two, others will get their tax credit back and will get assistance.

    I think that is the philosophy that the government has adopted about winners and losers out there. It has really turned Canada upside down. It is picking winners and losers right now. That is what it is doing with the Wheat Board. That is what it is doing with other issues. It is very divisive. That is unfortunate.

    We have to start looking at why we cannot afford this tax credit for all Canadians. Well, the government is making some poor choices, like with prisons and planes. It is important to talk about some of the choices with regard to tax cuts that are taking place right now.

    Since we are in a fiscal deficit, we have been borrowing money from ourselves to pay interest on tax cuts largely for profitable corporations. It is not for the ones that are value-added and have been struggling during this process, like the manufacturing sector from my home town. Those have been struggling and do not benefit from a tax cut because they are not making a profit.

    What ends up happening is the oil and gas industry benefits, the pharmaceutical companies benefit, and all those companies, ironically, that are doing extremely well right now are also getting massive subsidies. Those companies get them for fossil fuels. They get fuel subsidies and they will continue to get them.

    The interesting thing is we are not even talking corporate tax reductions. We are talking about some of what the oil and gas industry gets in terms of subsidies. Let us listen to a few of these: the flow-through share subsidy, the Canadian exploration expense subsidy, the Canadian developmental expense subsidy, the Canadian oil and gas poverty expense subsidy. All those together add up to $1.256 billion in lost tax revenue since 2008 alone.

    We are still paying for those subsidies because we actually borrowed money. It is just like the HST. To bring in the HST, the government has borrowed $6 billion. Now it has a debacle going on with British Columbia in this regard. We had Library of Parliament analyze the borrowing costs of the HST. The HST will cost the government, if it pays it over a 10-year cycle at the average interest rate, anywhere between $8 billion and $6 billion. We are going to pay those costs.

    As I wrap up, I want to again emphasize that a budget does not have to be about winners and losers. That is what this is right here. Some people will do really well, and others will not. That is not the Canada I want.