Jenny Kwan, MP

Member of Parliament, Vancouver East

2019 Budget Speech

Mr. Speaker, people in Vancouver East expect their government to make life affordable, sustainable and fair for all Canadians. They expect their government to be on their side.

    In Vancouver East, I have heard from my constituents time and time again that we need real measures to make life affordable for Canadians, that we need immediate and urgent action to protect our climate and environment.

    On behalf of the constituents of Vancouver East, I have been strongly advocating for measures such as affordable housing, public universal pharmacare, environmental protections, climate action and tax fairness. Instead, we now have a country faced with many crises.

 

    We have a climate crisis, where if we do not take immediate action our planet will not be inhabitable for our future generations.

    We have a housing crisis, where people are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and getting priced out of their communities.

    We have a criminal crisis, where billions of dollars in profits from criminal acts were laundered last year in Canada.

    We have an opioid crisis, where Canadians are dying every day.

    We have a humanitarian crisis, where so many indigenous women and girls have gone missing and are murdered.

    The impact of colonialism is so deep and so rooted in systemic racism and failures that the national inquiry on the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls has declared that is a genocide.

    It was deeply disappointing to see how budget 2019 failed to meaningfully address our many crises never mind the many other challenges faced by Canadians.

    For many constituents of Vancouver East the number one issue facing our generation is our climate and environmental emergency. To meet our goals under the Paris agreement, Canada has to lower its emissions to 325 million tonnes by 2030. According to the government's own performance report, we will only get down to 500 million tonnes, which means we are not even close.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report stated last year that we have 12 years to avert climate disaster through a drastic overhaul of all our current economic systems. We now only have 11 years left to achieve this.

    As the clock ticks, people have been demonstrating persistently for immediate action for climate protection and the preservation of natural resources from our leaders, especially our youth, who will be most affected by the consequences of our inaction. The government has a responsibility to create the systems and frameworks to protect our environment and our future generations.

    Many scientists have stated that the technology already exists which can maintain quality of life without further impacting our climate and environment. We simply need the political will and courage to change.

    And yet here we are, buying leaking pipelines and adopting the previous Conservative government's weak carbon emissions target, as if we do not have a climate crisis at our door.

    On another critical issue, we are still waiting on government action to address our housing affordability crisis.

    Housing has long been declared a basic right by the United Nations, and Canada has signed and ratified a number of international human rights treaties that identify the right to adequate housing as a fundamental human right.

    In our national housing strategy, most of the funding in that new strategy had been announced years earlier and most of that funding, a full 90% of what was announced in budget 2017, has been off-loaded for spending after the next election, and even at that the vast majority of that funding will not flow until 2024. It is a cynical communications strategy that plays politics with people's real struggles.

    The government, in an attempt to inflate the result of its limited housing programs, has even resorted to double counting the results for “rhetorical advantage”. Instead of playing number games, what we need is for the government to make real investments now. To that end, the NDP is calling for a commitment of 500,000 units of affordable housing across Canada.

    In addition, despite decades of promising a national pharmacare program, after being lobbied by big pharma 680 times, the government has once again let big pharma win the day.

    I recently met an individual who told me that she is taking her daily medication every other day in an effort to save money. This is wrong. No more excuses. Canadians need and deserve comprehensive public universal pharmacare coverage now.

On a related matter, we also need accountability for the opioid crisis. While the U.S. has successfully taken big pharma on for misbranding OxyContin with the intent to defraud and mislead, yet here in Canada the government is refusing to take action. Instead, budget 2019 continues with the blanket tax break for the richest corporations.

     Tax havens are still in place and will continue to take over $16 billion every year from much needed programs for all Canadians and of course big oil continues to receive their subsidies. In fact, the 2019 spring reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development were highly critical of the government's accounting for tax and non-tax subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.

    As we now know, $47 billion worth of profits from criminal acts was laundered last year in Canada. It is extremely disturbing that money laundering has permeated so extensively across the country. Equally disturbing is the fact that the report by Dr. Peter German in B.C. revealed that no federal resources are being used to tackle money laundering. Literally, in the federal money laundering unit, no one is working on the issue of money laundering. This explains why there are so few prosecutions and convictions in money laundering cases.

    During last year's statutory review of the finance committee on the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, numerous expert witnesses agreed that in order to combat tax evasion and money laundering, the federal government needs to work with the provinces to establish a central public registry that would provide the identity of the beneficial owners of corporations and trusts. The Honourable David Eby, Attorney general of the B.C. government , argued that this kind of register is needed, in part by citing a study from Transparency International Canada. The study showed that it is impossible to determine the true owners of more than half of the real estate properties for sale.

    Denis Howlett of Canadians for Tax Fairness emphasized that the register must be in an open, searchable format. Barrister and solicitor Mora Johnson added that a transparent public register would enable those searching the database to track the most common methods taxpayers use to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and to find individuals involved in money laundering. However, when all was said and done, the Liberals and Conservatives chose to join forces and ignore the recommendation of the majority of the witnesses that a public register be established.

     I also strongly believe that we need to increase oversight of home sales to ensure that sellers are not falsely reporting their secondary investment property as primary residences, as this rule skirting allows people to avoid paying capital tax gains.

     I raised this issue when I was still the MLA for Vancouver Mt. Pleasant. One way to address this is to ensure that proof of residency through income tax filing is provided at the completion of the sale transaction. With increased oversight and crackdowns on this behaviour, the increased tax revenue could be set aside in an earmarked fund dedicated to increasing the affordable housing stock in Canada. Canada needs to put significant resources and effort into law enforcement, prosecution and adjudication to effectively tackle this problem. we can do this; we need to do this.

    I have gone on also about the immigration issues that call for the government to not jam through the refugee determination process in this budget omnibus budget bill. The Liberals refuse to listen and are still going ahead with it. Experts have already called on the government to say that it needs to stop this now. It puts people at risk and, most particularly, it puts women and girls at risk. For a feminist government this is not acceptable. It still has a chance to do that. I hope that the government will listen to the experts.

...Our committee on immigration actually studied this issue [of immigration consultants] at length. It is the only study that produced a report where all parties unanimously supported the recommendations.

     There was a recommendation to say that there needs to be government regulation for consultants in the immigration sector, and that the time of self-regulation has come to an end precisely because of the many problems that exist. People get ripped off and they have no recourse. They are afraid to go forward with a complaint, because they are afraid it will impact their immigration application process. Yet, the government refused to acknowledge, to accept, the recommendation from the committee. It was a unanimous recommendation.

    However, the government has now jammed into the budget bill this new regulatory process, basically using the previous people who had been doing this work, gave it a new name under a college, expanded its powers and said “here you go”.

    I fear that this is not going to be sufficient in addressing the issue. I fear that the people who are going to get hurt are exactly the very people who need the government to take action to protect them.