Canada's NDP


November 6th, 2020

The NDP is calling on the Liberals to put in place a new 1% tax on wealth over $20 million

Just over a year ago, I was elected to the House. I earned the trust of the people of London—Fanshawe to represent them. Over that campaign and every single day, I heard from them. They feel disheartened. They feel that ultimately those with the most power continue to use it to protect those who have the most money. They have seen it in tax cuts, subsidies and handouts that go to the well-connected while they, the workers, are asked to do more with less.

It is hard to blame them for thinking and feeling that way. There was a time in the country, admittedly before my generation, when people could find jobs that would become a career. They could count on a workplace pension and workplace benefits that included coverage for medications and dental care.

There was a time when the federal government built affordable housing and made sure that everyone could afford a place to live. It was not that long ago that the wealthy and large corporations paid their fair share for the benefit of all Canadians. There was a sense that we were all in it together. In the summer, I truly believed there was a greater sense of that, that we were all in it together, at least the Prime Minister said so, but he says a lot of things.

There are many reasons and ways we got here today. Changes have happened over the years because of the choices made, such as trade policies that hollowed out our manufacturing sector, something that the people in southwestern Ontario see whenever they drive by large empty factory sites like Ford Talbotville. Good well-paying jobs have been replaced by minimum wage precarious employment. Those now entering the workforce with massive student debt have no job security and are jumping from job to job in the 2020 gig economy.

Liberal and Conservative governments have both rigged the system to favour their corporate friends and the richest of Canadians, who take full advantage of tax havens, while our governments turn a blind eye.

When I ran for office, it was on the idea that we needed to tip the scales back in favour of everyday Canadians. That is why we are calling for a wealth tax on the richest Canadians as well as creating a World War II-style excess profits tax on companies that are making a killing off the pandemic to pay for the services on which Canadian families count.

While families struggle, the super rich and the biggest corporations make billions off this pandemic. While people struggle to pay their bills, Canadian billionaires are $37 billion richer. I have no concept of what that would even look like, and most other Canadians cannot either. These billionaires are not struggling; they are profiting.

Of course, we know this pandemic is not over and we have to make important choices on how we define our future. Instead of cutting services that people need, the government needs to make the wealthiest and the pandemic profiteers pay their fair share so we can ensure people, businesses and families that need that help get it.

The NDP is calling on the Liberals to put in place a new 1% tax on wealth over $20 million and an excess profit tax on big corporations that have profiteered from this pandemic. We must reinvest billions of dollars gained from these measures to meet the needs of the most vulnerable Canadians.

In the last election, the New Democrats had the courage to put big ideas on the table. We committed to a pilot on a guaranteed livable basic income that could pave the way to ensuring that no one in Canada would live in poverty. I consistently hear from people in London who are stuck in those cycles of poverty. They are constantly struggling and working to break free, but the systems are built to police poverty. Poverty reduction strategies across Canada have largely failed in their objective of lifting people up, if that was ever truly their purpose.

Some current social assistance programs are focused around employment readiness and training initiatives under the assumption that incentives are needed to compel people to work.

In my province, those on Ontario works and Ontario disability are asked to constantly jump through hoops and file reports, but are not offered a chance to achieve a liveable income. That is why we need a guaranteed livable basic income system that offers a predictable payment provided unconditionally by the government to all individuals in Canada who need it. This will afford all persons in Canada the respect, dignity, security and human rights affirmed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We believe that no one should live in poverty and that everyone who needs it should have a liveable income. The New Democrats have been saying for so long that we need to end poverty in Canada once and for all.

In 1989, the House unanimously passed the motion put forward by former NDP leader, Ed Broadbent, to end child poverty by 2000. It is 31 years later, well past that 2000 date, and we are still seeing alarming child poverty rates across Canada. Canadians need a government that will take serious action to ensure that we do not have yet another generation of children suffering the pain of growing up in poverty.

Canada's housing crisis is something that families feel every day as well, and it is rooted in the Liberal's cancellation of the national affordable housing program in 1993. Everyone should have the right to a safe and affordable place to call home, but for far too many families, affordable housing is increasingly out of reach. The average cost of a two bedroom apartment in London—Fanshawe is over $1,500 a month, and that is well over 30% of the average median household income of a family in my riding. There is also a waiting list of more than 5,000 households in need of affordable housing right now.

While the city is doing good work in trying to fill the gap in funding, it needs federal leadership. The government must adopt an NDP plan to build 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing, including the construction of co-ops, social and not-for-profit housing.

Three years ago, the Liberals' plan was to reduce homelessness by 50% but failed to acknowledge that this did not meaningfully implement the right to housing. In the throne speech, they had a recent change of heart and used pretty words to say that they were looking to eliminate chronic homelessness but within an unknown timeline.

The cost of housing has only increased under the Liberals and it is currently at record high levels. The housing crisis is getting worse and encampments are growing in communities across the country, including in London, Ontario. The Prime Minister is failing to live up to his 2017 declaration that adequate housing is a basic human right.

I support the motion today because it provides a way forward to truly tackle the housing crisis and to ensure everyone can afford a place he or she can call home.

I have constituents come into my office consistently who also cannot afford the necessary medications they need. I think of the many people who are on ODSP and are stuck. If they make too much money, then they are cut off support. Therefore, they have to stay in poverty or risk losing their medications. It is an impossible choice that we force thousands of people to make every day.

That is why the establishment of a universal pharmacare program is so vital. New Democrats have always understood that health care must be a right in Canada, not a privilege, and we have been calling for universal public drug coverage since our founding convention in 1961.

On clinical, ethical and economic grounds, universal public drug coverage has been recommended by commissions, committees and advisory councils dating as far back as the 1940s. Health policy experts are clear. The U.S.-style private patchwork approach costs far more and delivers far less access to prescription drugs.

Today, Canada is the only wealthy country in the world with a universal health care system that lacks universal prescription coverage, and we pay the third highest prices for prescription drugs in the world. We force people to deal with a patchwork of programs and coverage, if they are lucky enough to have coverage at all.

When we consider the average median household income in London—Fanshawe is under $60,000 a year, well below the Ontario average, this would be a huge boost to people in my riding. I think of the many seniors in my riding who tell me daily how the cost of those everyday items are increasing while their incomes remain the same. The cost of drugs continues to be the fastest growing of those expenses and the average drug costs are increasing by 4% every year.

On average, Canadian households spend $450 a year on prescription drugs and $550 on private health care premiums. Private premiums have risen rapidly in years, thanks largely to escalating drug prices, and they are taking a growing bite out of seniors' fixed incomes and workers' take-home pay.

I said this before, but it bears repeating. Now is the time to decide how we wish to move forward in this pandemic. The finance minister has already hinted at a retreat to more cuts and austerity. As parliamentarians, there are always choices that we have to make, and sometimes they are hard choices but we need to do the right thing.

Does the government continue to help well-connected billionaires and millionaires or do we actually invest in our people? Do we cut direct income supports for the most vulnerable or do we commit to establishing a livable income? Do we continue to let families struggle or do we build housing to avoid this affordability crisis? Do we let big pharma continue to make record profits while seniors cut their bills in half? These are the choices that we need to make and we need to make the right ones now.

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