Parliament Video: Jenny in the House: A better Canada is possible

Jenny speaking to the NDP motion, moved by MP Julian & seconded by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh:

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

"Madam Speaker, I am sharing my time with the member for St. John's East.

I am very honoured to join in the debate today in support of the NDP motion that calls 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 been profiteering from the pandemic, so that we can reinvest billions of dollars to support Canadians.

The pandemic has exposed deep inequities and massive failures in our economic system, leaving 1.8 million people out of work. The people hardest hit are low-income workers in the service industries, the agricultural workers and the migrant workers. Too often they are women, they are young and they are a visible minority. Even before the pandemic, more than half of Canadians were living from paycheque to paycheque, and 10 million workers had no workplace retirement plans.

The median retirement savings for households close to retirement without a pension is $3,000, and nearly four out of 10 Canadians have no retirement savings at all. Meanwhile, over 10,000 families have a net worth of over $30 million with their total wealth valued at over $1 trillion. Worse still, the income gap is continuing to grow exponentially.

Successive governments know the system is rigged to benefit the ultra-rich and they have done nothing about it. Budget 2019 continues with a 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. As workers struggle to get by, Canada's top 20 richest people profited $40 billion from the pandemic, yet despite earning record profits, some of these families who own the largest grocery chains in Canada decided to end their “hero pay” programs for their workers. It is as though they are blind to the second wave and that the lives of their workers are not continually at risk. This is just obscene.

The time has come to bring in strong measures to restore some balance to such inequities. In the last election, the NDP campaigned on a wealth tax. In this minority government, 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 been profiteering from the pandemic. This is so that we can reinvest billions of dollars in a guaranteed livable basic income, a universal single-payer pharmacare and a national dental care program, and then truly treat adequate housing as a basic human right.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer reports that applying a 1% annual wealth tax to families with fortunes over $20 million would generate $5.6 billion in 2020-21. Over the course of 10 years, it would generate $70 billion in revenue. This wealth tax would apply to only 13,800 Canadians. There is no good reason why web giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook should not pay their fair share of taxes, as has been done by other countries.

Without a doubt, we should also crack down on tax havens and close tax loopholes. We need to pair these programs with tough enforcement against tax evasion and penalties for millionaires and big corporations who try to avoid paying their fair share.

By introducing a COVID-19 excess profit tax, we could at least double the tax rate on excess profits. We need to prepare these programs so that we can make sure that people do what is right by Canadians. It is time that we prioritize the needs of everyday Canadians over billionaires. By bringing in a guaranteed livable income, we can eradicate poverty and ensure the respect, dignity and security of all persons in Canada now and for future generations.

Nearly five million people in Canada, one out of every seven, live in poverty. In most urban centres, a family of four would need to have a total income in excess of $60,000 to escape poverty. In my own riding of Vancouver East, Downtown Eastside, is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country. The median income there is under $18,000, while across the country, the bottom 90% have an average income of $28,000. Vancouver has the highest rate of poverty at 20.4%, followed by Toronto at 20%.

Who are the faces of poverty? These are not just numbers. They represent real people. They are people living with disabilities. They are children. They are single moms. They are indigenous peoples, who are overrepresented among the homeless population in virtually all urban centres in Canada. They are racialized peoples. They are the elderly. They are veterans. They are our friends and our neighbours.

I am a parent, and I love my children to the moon and back. There is nothing that I would not do for them. However, in Canada, one in five children live in poverty. That is 1.3 million children. In the indigenous community, one in two children live in poverty. Indigenous peoples are 11 times more likely to be homeless. Just take that in for a minute.

What do these numbers mean? They mean that people cannot afford to fill their medical prescriptions. It means they cannot have food on the table. It means they cannot put a roof over their heads. It means that children are being ripped away from their families and put into the child welfare system. It means people are forced to break the law to try and survive. It means that their life expectancy is much shorter than those who do not live in poverty. The cost of poverty to our overall economy is staggering and to our humanity it is immeasurable.

It does not have to be this way. We can choose better. We can allow ourselves to realize a better Canada; a Canada where children are not going hungry; a Canada where seniors and people living with a disability live in dignity; a Canada where veterans are treated with the respect that they deserve; a Canada where people do not have to worry about how they will pay for their medicine; a Canada where adequate housing is not just a dream but a reality; a Canada without homeless encampments such as the one we have right now in my community.

A guaranteed basic livable income can help build a better Canada. A universal single-payer pharmacare program and a national dental care can help build a better Canada. A true national housing strategy, as outlined in recovery for all’s six-point plan, is a good start to end homelessness.

Homelessness is a policy choice fuelled by both the Liberals and Conservatives. A commitment of immediately building 3,000 new permanent affordable and supportive housing is a good start. We can limit the ability of large capital funds to purchase distressed rental housing assets. We can develop a “for indigenous, by indigenous” national housing centre and immediately construct 73,000 units of affordable housing, led by indigenous housing providers for urban, rural and northern communities.

Those are the kinds of initiatives that will create jobs and help the people who need it the most. A better Canada is possible. To quote greatest Canadian, Tommy Douglas, “Courage my friends, it is not too late to build a better world”.

Let us get on with it. I call on all members of this House to support this motion. This is the path for the future, this is a just recovery and this is telling the world that Canada will not leave people behind. This is saying that we stand with people in a tangible way and not just in words. This is a test of all of us, where we stand and the value that we bring to the House.

I hope all members will support this motion."

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