Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Brantford—Brant.
This week we learned the story of an Ottawa-area senior who said he could no longer afford to heat his home or fuel his car, so he is giving up both. Rick Russell even put up a sign on his house declaring, “Another senior loses home due to high energy costs”, telling reporters he can only afford a home without heat or heat without a home.
He is not alone. Disabled grandmother, Kathy Katula, broke down into tears at the Prime Minister’s recent town hall meeting, demanding to know how she would pay his new carbon tax on her home heating when she is already struggling with $1,000 a month electricity bills imposed by the provincial Liberal Government of Ontario. The Prime Minister gave her a warm hug, but unfortunately not warm enough to heat her home.
These are not isolated cases. The 2016 Ontario Association of Food Banks report entitled, “Energy Poverty” said:
|Since 2006, hydro rates have increased at a rate of 3.5 times inflation for peak hours, and at a rate of eight times inflation for off-peak hours.|
Sixty thousand Ontarians have had their electricity cut off for failing to pay their bills, the report noted, adding that many food bank clients struggle with electricity bills of $300 to $700 a month. The food banks themselves say they are struggling to afford the electricity for their massive refrigerator systems.
Ron Dunn, executive director of Windsor Downtown Mission, has had people come to him and plead:
|If you can help me with food, then I can pay some of this hydro bill before it gets cut off.|
These increases are the direct result of the Liberal Green Energy Act, which forces consumers to subsidize millionaire turbine and solar investors who sell overpriced, unneeded, and unreliable electricity to the government. While millionaires have prospered, Ontario has the worst poverty record of any province in Canada since the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals took power.
Between 2003 and 2014, the poverty rate dropped by one third in British Columbia, the Prairies, Atlantic Canada, and Quebec. It did not budge in Ontario.
Over the same time period, Ontario had the largest increase in the percentage of the population earning less than half the median income. It also has the worst record for middle income growth across the country. Ontario’s auditor general calculated that the government subsidies of wind and solar power companies will cost consumers, like Kathy and Rick, $170 billion, making the Ontario Liberal Green Energy Act likely the single-largest wealth transfer from the poor and middle class to the super rich in Canadian history.
The national carbon tax will do to gas, groceries, and heating costs exactly what the Green Energy Act has done to electricity. A Statistics Canada official recently testified at the House of Commons human resources committee that increases in fuel, food, and other basic necessities necessarily increased the number of people living below the poverty line.
Even a carbon tax supporter, professor Nicholas Rivers, admitted that the tax will raise the prices of gasoline by 11 cents a litre, electricity by another 10%, and natural gas by over 15%.
Annually, it will cost $1,028 per person, or $4,100 per family of four, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
This month, the Fraser Institute released proof that British Columbia, which has the least damaging carbon tax in the country, will still take a $870 million net tax increase from British Columbian taxpayers. That is to say, the average family of four in British Columbia will pay $728 more in carbon taxes than they get back in offsetting tax relief. That is the least damaging carbon tax in the country.
We know that the burdens of these taxes fall disproportionately on the backs of those with the least for a number of reasons. First, we know that Stats Canada data shows that poor households spend roughly one-third more of household income on the basic necessities that will be taxed like gas, groceries, and heat. While wealthy households still buy these goods, they constitute a much smaller share of a wealthy household’s income. Therefore, the percentage tax increase is actually higher on those who are poor, which is the very definition of a regressive tax.
Second, the carbon tax will generate billions of dollars in new revenue for the government, but who will get that money? The answer is, those who can afford to lobby for grants, rebates, and corporate welfare under the guise, of course, of saving the environment. I would turn to the rebate people can receive if they can afford to buy a $150,000 Tesla car. I guess Rick Russell, who has now had to give up his truck, if he wants to get back any of the money he is paying in the carbon tax, he will have to find $150,000 to buy one of these fancy Teslas or Mercedes-Benz electric vehicles and then he can get $15,000 back. In reality, those wealthy enough to lobby for these rebates will get all the money back as is so often the case with the theory of trickle down government. Those at the top end up with the most.
That is why I filed an access to information request to find out how much poor and middle-class taxpayers will pay under the new Liberal carbon tax. I asked for the government to provide documents such as briefing notes, analyses, projections, and emails regarding the impact of a $50 a tonne price on carbon or a carbon tax on the Canadian economy and include any analysis on the price of carbon on the impact on the consumer price index, median incomes, low income household incomes, the poverty rate, the employment rate, and the unemployment rate.
The response was ominous: “Imposing a carbon tax will lead to costs that will cascade throughout our economy” said this Finance Department document, referring to two tables that would tell how much households would pay, but those tables are blacked out. These tables would break down the costs of the carbon tax by income quintile for the very poor, the poor, the middle class, the upper income, and the rich. The government says it wants to reduce the gap between rich and poor. Should it not then jump at the opportunity to release data on the tax’s impact on income and equality unless it has something to hide.
Could it be that after running an entire election campaign on the supposed promise of taking more from the rich so that it could give back to the poor, that the government is doing precisely the opposite and worse, trying to cover it up. The most basic principle of parliamentary democracy is that people must consent for the taxes that they pay through the assembled Parliament.
The Bill of Rights of 1689, which established the parliamentary system that we know today, through the mother Parliament in Britain, has as one of its basic principles what would become no taxation without representation: “Levying money for or to the use of the Crown without grant of Parliament is illegal”. Simply put, government cannot tax what Parliament has not approved, but we cannot approve what we do not know and therefore, there cannot be taxation without information.
This motion calls for the immediate release of that information. These may seem like abstract concepts, but they are real to people like Kathy Katula and Rick Russell and others who have no money to influence government or pull its levers, two people seeking no program or wealth but are merely asking for government to get off their backs and out of their pockets. They pay the bills. They have the right to see those bills. This motion would give them the chance. Anyone voting against the motion would take that right away from them.
I ask the House to vote for this motion, to bring the light of day. To pass this motion in the House of Commons is to stand for our duty to represent the common people here in the House of the Commoners.