Brison Motions for the government to reverse its desision to further lower corporate tax cuts
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
House of Commons Debates
OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)
Tuesday, February 8th, 2011
Hon. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, Lib.) moved:
That, in the opinion of the House, the Government’s decision to proceed with cuts to the tax rate for large corporations fails to address the economic needs of Canadian families, and this House urges the Government to reverse these corporate tax cuts and restore the tax rate for large corporations to 2010 levels in the upcoming Budget.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member from Brossard—La Prairie.
The Liberal Party has a history of prudent fiscal management and balanced budgets. Under the previous Liberal government, deficits that had persisted for decades were finally eliminated by Prime Minister Chrétien and finance minister, Paul Martin. The books were balanced and Canada posted nine consecutive surpluses.
The Chrétien and Martin governments put prudent financial measures in place, including the $3 billion annual contingency reserve, otherwise known as the rainy day fund. We made sound investments in public infrastructure, in research and development and in people. The Liberals listened to and worked with the provinces. Historic health and social transfer agreements were reached, giving the provinces long-term, predictable funding that enabled them to make investments and provide the services that Canadian families and our aging population needed.
Within this environment of sound fiscal management, the Liberals cut personal and corporate income taxes. I believe in personal and corporate income tax cuts and so does the Liberal Party. In fact, the Liberals cut the corporate income tax rate from 28% to 21% in four years as part of the largest income tax cut in Canadian history. However, as Liberals we did so sensibly, during times of surplus, never risking the public treasury or the programs that Canadian families depended on.
What a difference five years under the Conservatives has made.
When the Conservatives were elected, they inherited a surplus of $13 billion from the Liberal government. But after increasing spending by 18% in three years—three times higher than the inflation rate—the Conservatives plunged Canada into a deficit before the financial crisis even hit.
They increased the size of government by a whopping 40% in just four years while, at the same time, with their ill-advised, economically stupid tax policy, they gutted the government's capacity to pay for the programs that it was spending on. The Conservatives borrowed and spent their way toward a record $56 billion deficit, the largest in Canadian history.
While the finance minister is now promising to balance the books by 2015-16, the truth is that he has no credible plan to get Canada there. It is no wonder that the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the IMF both report that the finance minister will not be able to keep his word and balance the books.
In fact, after five years of the Conservatives' borrow and spend agenda, the IMF and the PBO believe that the Conservatives have given Canada a structural deficit. Structural deficits are bad for business. They create uncertainty. With ballooning debt levels, the public's ability to sustain investments in infrastructure and social programs like health care and education are imperiled. Persistent deficits also create higher taxes for the future as tax bills get deferred and higher interest costs are factored in. The best thing that the government can do to improve the business climate in Canada is to get back to balanced budgets.
We must bring Canada back to a balanced budget.
There is also a moral imperative for the government to prepare for the large demographic shift facing our country and its people. We have a rapidly aging population that will place greater demands on our health care system. At the same time, more and more Canadians are looking to retire, at least those who can afford to, so there will be fewer people in the labour force paying taxes.
Under the Conservatives, we are also seeing both higher unemployment numbers and, at the same time, higher labour shortages. We have jobs without people and people without jobs. The need to invest in learning and training has never been greater.
With record deficits, an aging population, increased demands on health care and education and a shrinking tax base, this is no time for the Conservatives to gut Canada's fiscal capacity with corporate tax cuts on borrowed money, corporate tax cuts we simply cannot afford right now.
As cost-sharing agreements with the provinces get ready to expire in 2014, why are the Conservatives gutting the federal government's fiscal capacity now, right before negotiations are set to start with the provinces on important health care and social transfers?
There is no pressing need to cut corporate taxes further at this time. Canada already has a competitive corporate tax rate. It is 25% lower than the U.S. rate and the second lowest in the G7.
It is also clear that corporate tax cuts are not always the most effective way to create jobs. The Conservatives' own numbers show that when it comes to creating jobs and economic growth over the last two years, a dollar spent on public infrastructure has been eight times more effective than a dollar spent on corporate tax cuts.
Last week, the chief economic analyst at Statistics Canada, Philip Cross, described any impact of further corporate tax cuts on Canada's economy as “trivial” and “relatively small”, given the huge flow of money driven by other forces.
With Canada's weakened fiscal position under the Conservatives, coupled with the fact that Canada's corporate tax rate is already comparatively low, it is bad policy for the government to borrow even more money to pay for further corporate tax cuts we do not need and cannot afford at this time. We are calling on the government to restore the corporate tax rates to 2010 levels so that we can balance the budget and invest in the government programs that Canadian families depend on.
Right now, Canadian families are finding it difficult just to make ends meet. Canadian families are paying 29% more for out-of-pocket health care expenses. Over 40% of family care givers are using personal savings just to get by, just to survive.
Under the Conservatives, household debt is at a record high. The typical Canadian family now owes $1.50 for every dollar of disposable income. Personal bankruptcy rates are up by 33%. Students are also facing a personal debt wall as nearly two-thirds of parents think they will not be able to afford post-secondary education for their children, and 16% of low income students already plan to delay their education because of high student debt.
That is why the Liberals would cancel the most recent corporate income tax cut and use that money to reduce the deficit, put us back into surplus and to invest in the priorities of Canadians, helping Canadians with the rising cost of living, family care giving, saving for retirement and access to post-secondary education.
The Conservative finance minister has in the past supported delaying planned corporate tax cuts. In 2002, as an Ontario cabinet minister, the minister voted to delay corporate tax cuts that he himself had announced the year before. He did so because of a financial downturn related to what he referred to as “extraordinary circumstances”.
The Conservatives' record deficits and fiscal mismanagement have once again presented Canada with extraordinary circumstances. That is why I moved the motion, which reads:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government's decision to proceed with cuts to the tax rate for large corporations fails to address the economic needs of Canadian families, and this House urges the government to reverse these corporate tax cuts and restore the tax rate for large corporations to 2010 levels in the upcoming budget.