October 6th, 2022 - 1:57pm
Access to Affordable Drugs, Community, Consumer Protection, Economic Development, Health Care, In the House
Brian Masse Windsor West, ONNDP
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be part of this debate and to talk about a number of issues.
On Bill C-30, it is interesting to start this discussion by reminding Parliament in particular, because the public does remember this, that it was actually the Conservatives under Brian Mulroney who brought in the GST. It was then Jean Chrétien who campaigned against getting rid of the GST. Later on, it was Stephen Harper who brought in the HST and added new taxes, including taxes on hospital visit parking.
I find it very ironic, given the blame going back and forth, that there is no recognition of the fact that this taxing process creates a vehicle, at least in the short term, to get money to Canadians. That is the real issue. It is not necessarily what is at stake for members of Parliament and their political parties. It is what is taking place in the public right now.
In fact, in the public right now, not only is inflation an issue, but a series of cost of living problems have taken place over a number of years. It is why the NDP has been pushing for immediate solutions. That is what this one is. It is not perfect by any means, but at least it is going to provide some money and relief in a way that is not going to drive inflation higher, and will go to the people who need resources right away.
I cannot tell members how many emails I have from people who cannot get by anymore. They have challenges with paying not only their rent, but their groceries and a series of other things. If we go back in recent history, one of the biggest lies of the last number of years is going to be that “we are in this together”. That is one of the things we are going to see economists, sociologists and others look back on to derive that there are winners and losers in the current restructuring of our economy, in many respects, because of COVID-19.
However, there are solutions to some of these matters. One of the ones we are proposing is the GST for right now, and in the long term, there is the dental care program. I will get into that more later, but I think it is important to recognize that many communities right now are seeking solutions outside of the federal government.
Today, I could not be home for one of the most exciting projects that I have seen in a long time. It has taken years to get here. It shows that we could have been there as a federal government for social housing for many years, but others found a way. Today, we broke ground with the Windsor Islamic Association to build five brand new buildings with more than 30 units for low- and middle-income seniors. It is going to be in Windsor West across from a mosque and has been 20 years in the making.
A number of different people were involved 20 years ago, including Mr. and Mrs. Peer, who we part of this as advocates. The neighbourhood was also involved, through Dr. Ahmed and Khalid Raana. A number of other individuals moved this through the city systems, including Atik, and other people put this together as well.
I want to thank our local city councillors. When we could not get this through, Councillor Jim Morrison worked very hard to get the community onside, which is very much a controversy at times with regard to new urban planning. He did a great job of that, along with Mayor Drew Dilkens and the rest of city council. All those individuals helped make this happen. The Rosati Construction Group was very good as well.
I think this is one of the things that can inspire other housing units, because we are seeing that people want these things to take place across our country. If Parliament is going to be bogged down and is not finding new, creative solutions, then we are going to have challenges. Bill C-30 is going to provide rent relief and is going to provide GST-
We have a point of order from the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway.
Mr. Speaker, I was so engrossed in my colleague’s excellent speech that I did not want to interrupt, but he has forgotten to indicate in his speech that he is splitting his time with the member for Vancouver Kingsway.
I like when we talk about ourselves in the third person.
I am sure the hon. member for Windsor West has an update for us there.
Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time with the member for Vancouver Kingsway. I talked about dental care at the very beginning and I was supposed to mention it at that time, so I will return to that subject later on. I appreciate the intervention, because I did not officially recognize that I was splitting my time.
I will continue. One of the things I want to move to is some of the conditions we put ourselves in with regard to inflation and competition, and the lack that we have. A number of members have referenced gas prices. This House, in the past, with credit to Dan McTeague, a former Liberal, and Paul Crête, a former Bloc member, and this is something I worked with them on as well, passed a gas monitoring agency. This was supposed to be implemented under Paul Martin but it was not.
What ends up happening is a lack of competition in this country, because there has been a lack of refinery development. We do not even have the same reporting process the United States have. One of the key things creating a lot of uncertainty and some frustration among Canadian consumers is that we do not even have a good advocate for that. The Competition Bureau has some powers but very little. At the same time, gas prices are going up with very little explanation, and more importantly, less accountability, which has a cascading effect on our entire economy.
If we look at the specifics related to this, how many more refineries had to be closed in Canada? There was Montreal, Oakville and a number of others, including one in Vancouver. What was taking place was vertical integration in the industries, and a country like Canada is facing the same challenges when it comes to telecoms and others. Right now, additional charges will potentially be placed on credit cards, as well as extra taxes, where Telus wants to introduce an extra tax on Canadians.
All these things start to eat away at the pocketbooks of Canadians. For as much as we do, such as increasing the GST in this instance, it is going to be lost because of increases in services and fees.
At the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology, we looked at issues during the pandemic such as food costing and food workers. What is interesting is that the record profits companies were enjoying also included record bonuses for the CEOs. What is amazing, and we cannot do anything about this because of the lack of supports in our legislation, is that all major grocery chains ended pandemic pay for their workers on the very same day. That is as close to collusion as we can possibly get.
What was discussed at committee was the fact that the lawyers were okay because the CEOs could talk to each other under our current system. This comes from an industry the Competition Bureau fined for fixing the price of bread. They actually had to come to a settlement on that. The number one staple for lower- and middle-income Canadians, which is bread, was actually price-fixed by these organizations similar to a cabal that would take advantage of people. This is one of the problems we have with some of our industries, where we have this vertical integration.
I want to talk a bit about where we can find a difference, and that would be with Bill C-31, the dental care bill. The member for Vancouver Kingsway has done a great job. Often we talk about it in terms of helping the children, and later on it would be seniors, persons with disabilities and the general public. As the industry critic, I can say our health care has always been a standard principled point to get investment for the auto industry and manufacturing, even during the darkest times, when the United States, with its different states, or their federal government, and other places like Mexico were lowering wages. All those competitive factors that go against investment in Canada were offset by our having a public health care system that was paid for.
That is one of the major controllables we have. When we look at small businesses and medium-sized businesses, SMEs have really struggled. Now their employees, and even the people who own these businesses and often do not have any benefits themselves or have very basic ones, will have that relief. When it comes to labour unions with large contract negotiations, it will also open up the door and take the pressure off for increased medicines and costs that can create some types of labour disruptions because of fights over benefit programs.
One of the things I really want to highlight is that these types of structural improvements are more important in the long term than Bill C-30, which is something that is short term. The long-term investments we are going to get in this other package will be very significant.
I know from the CEOs, the investors and all the other different people, the labour negotiators, that those types of infrastructure pieces that we have, including employment insurance, which needs a major overhaul, are things that will get investment and keep investment in Canada. That includes research development and innovation. We have a terrible record for patent development to go to manufacturing, for bringing products to market compared to other parts of the world and for getting our university innovation together, but these are the assets that we have.
As I wrap up, I want to say that I appreciate the fact that Bill C-30 is not necessarily the biggest solution that we have for this problem of structural inequality, but at the same time, it is a measure we can control right now. The quicker we get the bill through the House, the quicker we can get more investment, more innovation and more jobs for Canadians, because it is a structural point that we need to compete.