No ‘break week’ for me

They call it a “break week” for Parliament but they really shouldn’t.
Last week, I was back in our constituency and beyond to work on the “Ring of Fire,” study a new report on the expensive and wasteful Conservative income-splitting proposal, and to start my consultations on the pension file.
As I hinted at a week or two ago, I spent a full day touring several communities in and around the “Ring of Fire” with Howard Hampton as we work on a plan to finally get the development of this massive project underway.
During our trip, Howard and I spoke with First Nation chiefs, band managers, and other residents to discuss their ideas and concerns regarding this development.
We learned about the infrastructure needs of these communities and the concerns they have about revenue-sharing, among other important issues.
Unfortunately, the itinerary for our trip was trimmed back a bit due to some scheduling issues, but we hope to make another trip in the near future to continue our work.
Meanwhile, this past week, Jean-Denis Fréchette, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, issued a report on the Conservatives’ income -splitting scheme—and to no one’s surprise, it was found to be very expensive and of no benefit to the vast majority of Canadian families.
This proposal only will be available to parents who live together with children at home, and will allow up to $50,000 to be transferred from the income of the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning one, which should reduce the taxes that both pay.
It sounds good (great even) until you read the fine print, which is exactly what the PBO did for his report.
There were four major findings of the PBO report:
•just 15 percent of Canadians households (less than 600,000 households out of 13 million) even will qualify;
•it will cost more than $2.2 billion per year;
•the richest 80 percent of families who do qualify will receive most of the benefits; and
•it actually will result in about 7,000 jobs being lost in the Canadian economy because it will provide an incentive for lower-earning spouses to leave the workforce.
Are you single? Have the kids grown up and moved out? Are both parents working and making roughly the same amount of money? Are both parents unemployed? Are you and/or your spouse a senior citizen?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then your household will receive nothing from this plan.
For our part, New Democrats will continue oppose this scheme because we think the federal government should be using this money to increase health-care funding, improve veterans’ services, or to provide a tax break that helps many, many more Canadians.
As our economy struggles under this Conservative government’s watch, we simply can’t afford grandiose promises that only will help the richest few and result in job losses for the rest.
Finally, our pension consultations got underway with several meetings last week.
Our meetings consisted of teleconferences with the Canadian Association of Retired People (CARP), the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), and Unifor, all of whom represent thousands of constituents in our riding and hundreds of thousands of others across Canada.
Each of these groups supported increasing the contributions and payments under the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) if they are phased in over a number of years, restoring the retirement age to 65 from 67, and increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), which helps low income seniors.
There were other interesting ideas that I will share later, but this was a good start to our spring consultations, which continue this week.