Speech on Bill C-2

On Tuesday, March 8th, 2016 in Speeches

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today in this House to discuss Bill C-2.

I want to start by clearly stating my premise up front, and then speaking to it throughout the 10 minutes I have. My premise is this, fairness for the middle class and societal inequality cannot stand together.

We cannot as a society, and nor can the government, decide that the middle class is the be all and end all of tax policy. I will say this bill misses the mark on delivering for the middle class.

We cannot say that fairness for the middle class is the be all and end all for society, because as long as inequality and poverty persists, every part of society is disadvantaged. Every part of society is disadvantaged by the continuation of poverty.

Recently, within the last half hour, I heard a Conservative member say the people who need the tax breaks the most, the people who need the help the most are the middle class. No, the people who need the help the most are the homeless. The people who need the help the most are the unemployed. The people who need the help the most are the poor.

In terms of inequality, where does Canada’s society stand today? By any measure, we are a fair and more equitable society than the United States. However, in a very real way, we are not as fair or as equitable as we used to be.

During the election campaign, I was digging all the time for stats and arguments for the few leaders’ debates in which I was included. While doing research, I was staggered to come across this stunning statistic: the 86 wealthiest families in Canada have more combined wealth than the 11.4 million Canadians at the bottom of the income brackets. Eighty-six individual Canadian families have more wealth than 11.4 million Canadians at the bottom.

Is this a problem? I submit it is a serious problem, and it is a problem that Bill C-2 will not address. I do not imagine that anyone thought Bill C-2 would address it. I will say, in fairness to the new government, and I will come back to this, I hope that more is planned, if it is serious about addressing income inequality.

Let us just look at this at a higher plane of analysis, which is the mania for neoliberalism, for the policies of Milton Friedman, and for the Thatcher-Reagan era, which launched policies in which no politician would say anything other than that we need smaller government, that we need tax cuts, that we need de-regulation, that we need trade liberalism, as though that mantra would deliver great blessings to a society overall.

One of the economists who I think has skewered this most effectively with detailed empirical research which does not brook a different opinion, because this economist comes fully loaded with the facts, is Nobel prize winning economist, currently a professor at Colombia University in New York, Joseph Stiglitz. Stiglitz amassed all the information any Parliament would need to decide that inequality is unacceptable for a society that wants to succeed at anything.

Joseph Stiglitz’s book, The Price of Inequality is something that I hope every member of Parliament will read. Stiglitz concludes that: “Inequality leads to lower growth and less efficiency. Lack of opportunity means that its most valuable asset — its people — is not being fully used.”

There are a lot of things one can say about the era of Thatcher-Reagan, neoliberalism and the kinds of trickle-down policies that were supposed to deliver benefits for all, but Joseph Stiglitz has pronounced, and I think it is time we all learned how to say it, the neoliberalism experiment in tax cuts to deliver wealth has been tried and is a monumental failure. Growth is stagnant. The economy is suffering, not just in Canada but everywhere. In Canada particularly more than some of our OECD colleagues, we have had stagnant growth for a while now. We are not seeing investment, and I want to touch on what our corporate sector has been doing or not doing.

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  • http://ancientclown.blogspot.com/ ancient clown

    Blessings Elizabeth;

    Thought you might want to be made aware of things on the home front.
    Seems the fight for Equality and Human Rights has taken a downturn here on Salt Spring Island.
    Seems there are also back door meetings going on here, between Country Grocer and the RCMP, that has resulted in not only posting a “No BUSKING” sign in violation of Canadian and International Law, but being unlawfully enforced by the RCMP.
    Despite there not being a law against playing music and it being enjoyed by the majority of the community.
    Despite the fact it is clearly Discrimination and attacking and threatening a group of people. (You might recognize me as the guitarman with the sign; “Your SMILE is my payment.”)
    Despite it violating a vast number of Rights supposedly protected within the Canadian Charter Of Rights and Freedoms.
    As a Coast to Coast Canadian (conceived in the East and born in the West) that is also a former member of the Princess of Wales Own Regiment C.A.F.R. trained to defend the Rights and Freedoms of Canadians, I find these actions to be a threat against our lives, livelihood and the welfare and enjoyment of the community as a whole.
    Obviously, as one of the poorest of the poor (no welfare or outside support), this prevents me from my choice of being self-supporting and free of slavery.
    As it was the Prime Minister’s father that helped introduce the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, perhaps you are closer to making him aware of how it is being treated, or more to the point…ignored and violated.
    i have played there for years and have never been asked to leave for being disrespectful, damaging property, aggressive or threatening behavior. The older people look forward to my being there, as do the children that come over to dance and most of the community are more than happy to share a SMILE with me.
    Simply put…i do not appreciate being threatened by men with guns, for playing music and raising the spirits and enjoyment of my community.
    I’m hoping this note finds it’s way to your heart and inspires some immediate action BEFORE someone dies…and not after.
    your humble servant,
    ancient clown.
    (“Glory of the Olive”)

    • http://ancientclown.blogspot.com/ ancient clown

      As there has been a complete lack of ANY action from your offices, or on behalf of off-island RCMP, that have also been notified of the Human Rights Abuse, It would appear my search for honest cops and politicians must continue.
      I have started an online petition to be sent the Prime Minister directly.
      If anyone reads this…Please sign it.
      If you think this is only about busking…think again.
      your humble servant,
      ancient clown

    • http://www.sfu.ca/physics/faculty/huntley.html David_Huntley

      I am not sure I agree with you. As far as I am concerned my right to quiet trumps your right to play. I have heard many buskers; in some cases I really enjoy the music; in others I cannot stand it. It is not the actual playing but it is the type of music that I cannot stand. Quite often in a restaurant I have to ask that the volume be turned down or the kind of music changed. If you enjoy all music, you are fortunate. Please be considerate of those who do not, and do not play at a place where people need to go to, such as a grocer.

      • http://ancientclown.blogspot.com/ ancient clown

        You’d be Wrong.
        You have no right to quiet in public, while i do have the right to play. Car alarms, construction, traffic noise, etc. all exceed the volume of a guitar, so your point is moot.
        You don’t like what a musician is playing, you have every right to ignore them for that 10 secs it takes to walk by and not support them, but zero right to prevent them from living and stopping others that do enjoy it.
        I have the right to play wherever i see fit, as long as not destroying property, or am not a threat to myself or others. That’s the LAW, and posting signs that Discriminate against ANYONE, is against the LAW…even if you disagree.
        That sign could just as easily say; “No Breast-feeding or Sitting”.
        Aside from the fact that bench was donated to the ENTIRE community, long before Country Grocer took over…How do you sit on a bench WITHOUT loitering?
        Your words show you lack the understanding that this is more than just about busking…but i guess that helps you remain prejudice and ignore there are crimes being committed, but not by the musicians.

  • Richard Tilley

    Thank you Elizabeth for standing on principal and standing up. Throughout the last federal election and onward all we ever hear is what will help, what can be done for the middle class. Very seldom do we hear what can be done for the “lessor class”, the underclass. the lower class. No matter how the poorer, less moneyed, Canadians are ‘classed’ they are being demeaned and much overlooked.

    The greatness of Canada can never be fully realized until we break the cycle of poverty and should be the number one goal of all fiscal legislation.

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