NDP Opposition Day Motion-Tax Measures to Support Canadians
Mr. Peter Julian (New Westminster-Burnaby, NDP) moved:
That, given that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian billionaires are $37 billion richer while the most vulnerable are struggling, the House call upon the government to put in place a new one percent tax on wealth over $20 million and an excess profit tax on big corporations that have been profiteering from the pandemic, and to re-invest the billions of dollars recouped from these measures to: (a) expand income security programs to ensure all individuals residing in Canada have a guaranteed livable basic income; (b) expand health care, including by putting in place a national dental care program and a universal, single-payer, public pharmacare program; and (c) meaningfully implement the right to housing with the full plan set out in the Recovery for All campaign and immediately fund a "For Indigenous, By Indigenous" urban, rural and Northern housing strategy delivered by Indigenous housing providers.
He said: Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the very eloquent member of Parliament for Burnaby South.
It is really an honour at this time in our nation's history to lead off on the NDP's action plan to ensure no one is left behind in our country. The context at this period of time is so important. We have just paid tribute to Remembrance Day in the House of Commons. In a few days' time in cities and towns and villages right across this country, we will remember on November 11.
It is clear that it will not be like previous years' ceremonies. Normally in New Westminster, just a few blocks from my home, over 5,000 people gather in front of the cenotaph and thousands more watch on local community television to ensure we remember and pay tribute.
There was, during the Second World War, a real notion of shared sacrifice and that we were all in this together. My family, like so many others, paid the ultimate sacrifice. The names of my uncle and my grandfather are inscribed on the cenotaph before the city hall.
My elderly parents are just a few homes away from mine, where I am speaking from. They are now 97 and 98 years old. They tell us about that period of time during the Second World War and that notion of shared sacrifice and that we are all in this together. At that time, as the House well knows, there was rationing in place to ensure everybody received what was essential. There were strict laws against excess profits and profiteering to ensure the resources of our nation were marshalled to fight against the threat and to ensure we made it through that period with no one left behind.
I raise all of these points because we can learn lessons from how we responded as a nation to that crisis and how, as a result of that, following the Second World War, because we had marshalled those resources together and ensured no one was left behind, we were able to put into place the famous peace dividend.
Following the Second World War, we were able to build 300,000 homes across this country for returning men and women in the service to ensure their right to housing. The home I speaking from, 109 Glover Avenue in New Westminster, is one of those 300,000 homes built by the federal government following the Second World War.
With the peace dividend, we were able to build schools as well and expand our health care system. It is during this time in the post-war period that Tommy Douglas, judged by Canadians from coast to coast to coast as the greatest Canadian in our history, was able to undertake the fight to ensure we put in place a universal medicare system.
At that same time, we started to put into place some income supports as well. They were full of holes, but there was a sense that we were all in this together and that in the post-war period we could make those investments to ensure nobody was left behind. I raise that because it is very illustrative of the direction we need to take as a country. I know the national leader of the NDP, who will follow me, will outline the importance of putting into place in a very real sense a society where nobody is left behind and where we are all in this together.
That is why the NDP is bringing forward this action plan to ensure no one is left behind today. We have seen, in this pandemic, no laws against excess profits and no discouragement of profiteering. In fact, we have seen quite the opposite. What we have seen is an unbelievable concentration of wealth, with Canada's billionaires adding $37 billion to their profits, and the banking sector, with incredible federal government largesse, being able to increase their profits as well. Unlike other countries, prosperous countries like Norway and Switzerland, we have not put in place a simple wealth tax that would allow the resources of the nation to be marshalled to ensure nobody is left behind.
The stories that have emerged through this pandemic are very compelling. We pay tribute to our front-line workers and first responders. It is vitally important to pay tribute to them so that we make the investments, so that no one is left behind.
I mentioned the banking sector earlier. It is important to note that the federal government stepped up within days to ensure an unbelievable amount of liquidity support: $750 billion. Three-quarters of a trillion dollars, within days, was put in place to ensure that the profits of the banking sector were maintained and enhanced. At the same time, we have seen people with disabilities in our country struggle over the course of seven months before even some Canadians with disabilities received some modicum of support from the federal government.
Imagine, people with disabilities who often barely have the wherewithal to put food on the table or keep a roof over their head, because of the paucity of income supports, are now struggling to pay for additional expenses, such as masks, gloves and cleaning supplies that are needed to get through this pandemic and to keep themselves safe and healthy. Yet, the federal government waited over seven months, after many months of struggle by the NDP caucus, to finally put into place a basic emergency support of a one-time payment, which does not go to everybody with a disability. This is why we need to see put into place a guaranteed livable basic income to ensure that poor Canadians no longer have to struggle all the time just to make sure they can make ends meet.
If nothing else through this pandemic, we have seen the importance of having a robust health care system in place. I mentioned earlier Tommy Douglas, and his fight in the post-war period with the peace dividend to put in place universal medicare. Tommy Douglas always envisioned that health care would not just be hospital stays and doctor visits, but would also include the medication that doctors prescribed, a universal pharmacare system, and dental care.
Finally, during this pandemic we are seeing that Canadians are often struggling for affordable housing. That right to housing that we certainly saw after the Second World War with the peace dividend is something that now must be extended to all Canadians. Particularly, indigenous communities have seen the crisis that exists with the shortage of affordable housing. Indigenous housing providers need to be provided that support so that they can start building the housing that will make a difference in indigenous communities. As we build housing right across this country, we ensure that the right to housing is entrenched in this country.
The message of the pandemic is that we are all in this together, that we must work together. The plan to leave no one behind allows us to ensure that there is an effective approach, both through the pandemic and in the aftermath. We can rebuild better and ensure that the gaping holes we have seen in our safety net as we go through this pandemic are addressed, and that the net is repaired and fully restored.
The Second World War showed us how important it was to set up a system that left nobody behind. During Remembrance Day week, we must remember lessons learned from previous crises Canadians lived through. We should take this opportunity to institute a national guaranteed income, implement the right to housing, and expand our health care system.
All these things can be done if we tax wealth and excess profits.
Peter's answers to questions from MPs:
Mr. Peter Julian:
Madam Speaker, I would disagree with the member. The math does add up. The Parliamentary Budget Officer tells us that we would save $4 billion as Canadians by putting in place universal pharmacare. The issue of homelessness that has been growing under the current government, as it did under the previous government, can be addressed by making those investments. We have to remember that when people live on the streets it costs $50,000 on annual basis in emergency and other supports that need to be brought to bear. It is far more expensive to us as a society to leave people homeless rather than providing that right to housing.
As the Parliamentary Budget Officer has pointed out, the price of the patchwork of income supports and the army of public servants designed to keep people from getting that universal basic livable income is far more than the costs of putting in place a universal program. This is the reality. When the member for Burnaby South talked about an emergency benefit that went to all, as the PBO pointed out, it would be more cost-effective and help more people than what the Prime Minister put in place in the end.
Mr. Peter Julian:
Madam Speaker, let us take each of these elements individually. Some of the most innovative countries in the world have a wealth tax. If we look at Norway and Switzerland, no one would object to painting both countries as some of the most innovative on the planet, yet they have in place a wealth tax.
As far as excess profits is concerned, this is a lesson we learned from the Second World War. There were strict laws against profiteering and excess profits. Instead, what we have seen as a government is policies that welcome this, and $37 billion in wealth growth among Canada's billionaires while people with disabilities have been struggling even to have the wherewithal to put food on the table.
I think Canadians are saying it is time now that we put into place a real recognition that when we rebuild society coming out of the pandemic, it needs to be built better and on a basis where no one is left behind.
Mr. Peter Julian (New Westminster-Burnaby, NDP):
Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleague with a lot of interest. He mentioned he has never met a constituent in Carleton who has received $40,000 in benefits. My cousin lives in California and does not have access to the kind of universal health care that Tommy Douglas brought into Canada. A week in hospital cost him $100,000. It almost ruined him financially.
Is the member for Carleton saying he has never met anybody in Carleton who has spent one week in the hospital and, in other words, has saved the $100,000 it would have cost without the universal health care system we have in Canada?
My second question is also very specific, and I would like a clear answer to it. In the First World War and Second World War, the Conservatives took a very clear stand against profiteering and excess profits. I did not hear the member respond to the issue of putting in place measures that countermine the excess profits and profiteering we have seen during this pandemic.
Is he suggesting the Conservatives have changed their orientation from the way they were in the First World War and Second World War, when they took clear stands against profiteering and excess profits?
Mr. Peter Julian (New Westminster-Burnaby, NDP):
Madam Speaker, I have a lot of sympathy for my colleague. Clearly, he did not read the motion and did not have time to prepare his speech.
He believes that the NDP would say that the Bloc is not a progressive party. What I would actually say is that the Bloc is not prepared for today's debate, which is too bad.
I feel no need to defend the NDP's history or our positions on bilingualism in Canada, Quebec's right to self-determination and the War Measures Act. In every province where the NDP has been elected, we have advanced francophone rights. These principles are well known.
What worries me is that the Bloc is undermining every opportunity Quebeckers may have for progress. It says that health care, a provincial jurisdiction, is underfunded, and it is right. However, it is opposing the possibility of access to dental care and a pharmacare program that is not as badly flawed as the one in Quebec currently is.
I travel all over Quebec and speak with Quebeckers. The need for dental care and a universal pharmacare program comes up again and again. Why does my colleague want to attack programs funded by the federal government but administered by the provinces that could benefit Quebeckers who are struggling when it comes to dental care.”