Thank you, Chair and members. I'll try to get through the presentation on time.
I do appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and the members of the finance committee today. I would like to make a few remarks about the progress the government has made since introducing Canada's economic action plan. Our action plan is helping to protect Canadians hit hardest by the global recession.
I must say I just returned from the meeting of the G8 finance ministers in Italy a few days ago, and it is accurate to say that we in Canada are viewed with some envy by our colleagues in the G8 because of the relative smallness of our deficit and the soundness of our fiscal situation, not only federally but provincially, and the soundness of our financial institutions.
Last week we had the second report to Canadians. The government showed how measures in the economic action plan are stimulating the economy and giving it a much-needed boost. The plan is also improving access to financing.
It is making important investments in infrastructure, housing and other support for our communities.
These measures are investments in our future and they will help Canada emerge from the global recession stronger than ever.
Our economic stimulus in Canada's economic action plan is $62 billion. For this year and next, this stimulus is proportionally the largest of any country in the G7. Our financial system is among the strongest in the world.
Our housing markets are stable. Our household balance sheets are strong.
Our public pensions are safe. The fiscal situations of our governments in Canada, including the provincial governments, are sustainable, and it is internationally recognized that we have our fiscal house in order.
Over the weekend, I met with my G8 colleagues in Italy. I heard from them once again that our country is the envy of the group when it comes to our fiscal and economic situation.
The International Monetary Fund expects Canada to have the smallest economic contraction in the G7 this year and the fastest growing economy in the G7 next year.
So Canada entered the recession from a position of strength.
Canada's economic action plan builds on these strengths, as we deal with the challenges we face as a trading nation in the face of a global recession.
An essential component of the economic action plan is tax relief, and I want to focus on that this morning. Our government believes in reducing taxes. It remains the cornerstone of our economic strategy. Since even before the global recession, this government has been reducing taxes for businesses and families across Canada. The economic action plan builds on this sound record of tax relief. This further tax relief is helping to stimulate the economy and create and maintain jobs.
Tax relief supports businesses and jobs in the short term by providing upfront stimulus.
This helps individuals and businesses get through a period of economic contraction. At the same time, tax relief creates a long-term advantage for sustained economic and employment growth.
I'm very pleased to discover that according to the Fraser Institute, tax freedom day occurred three days earlier this year than it did in 2008. When combined with the measures announced in Canada's economic action plan, since 2006 taxes on individuals, families, and businesses will have been reduced by an estimated $220 billion over 2008-09 and the following five fiscal years. This tax relief takes a number of forms.
As this chart from last week's action plan update shows, we are providing a boost to the economy in helping thousands of Canadians improve their homes and purchase their first home. Through the temporary home renovation tax credit ,we've provided up to $1,350 for families who do eligible renovations on their homes this year. We're also providing up to $750 in tax relief to assist first-time home buyers with the purchase of a home.
Canada's economic action plan also gives individual Canadians more flexibility to improve their quality of life, even when times are tough.
The plan benefits all taxpayers, especially lower- and middle-income Canadians. We increased the basic personal amount and increased the upper limit of the two lowest personal income tax brackets above their 2008 levels.
These charts offer examples of what the tax relief can mean. For example, a single parent of two children earning $35,000 a year has seen more than $1,600 in tax relief since our government took office. Similarly, a single-income family with two children will also be more than $1,600 better off. And in this case, a two-parent household with two children, with one parent earning $85,000 and the other earning $45,000, has seen their personal income taxes cut by 10%, leading to $1,938 in additional tax relief.
The new income tax relief included in Canada's economic action plan has been in effect for Canadians on their pay stubs since April 2009. As this chart indicates, Canadians at all levels are benefiting from this tax relief, with proportionately greater savings for those with lower incomes.
We have also made a key improvement for low-income Canadians who receive social assistance.
For too many in this situation, landing a job can cost them dearly in both higher taxes and reduced income support. As you know, we previously introduced the working income tax benefit in the budget this year. We doubled the total tax relief provided by WITB, starting in 2009, to further help low- and middle-income families who made enhancements to the national child benefit and the Canada child tax benefit supplement.
In addition, to help families with children under the age of 18, a tax credit in the amount of $2,089 in 2009 can be claimed by families through the government's child tax credit.
To help seniors deal with financial burdens, the government is leaving more money in their pockets, providing over $300 million on top of the $1.6 billion in targeted tax relief that the government is already providing to pensioners and seniors for the 2009 tax year.
Since coming to office, the government increased the age credit amount by $1,000 in both 2006 and 2009.
We have also introduced pension income splitting and doubled the pension income credit, allowing seniors to save more on their tax bill.
Of course, we reduced the GST. We introduced the tax-free savings account.
Our government has also brought forward significant tax relief for businesses small and large.
We have taken steps to make our entire tax system more competitive internationally. Doing so is important in terms of the cooperation of the provinces and territories on this tax relief effort on the corporate side. As a result of the corporate income tax reductions introduced since 2006, Canada will have the lowest statutory tax rate in the G7 by 2012. I'm pleased to say we'll reach the goal of the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7 by next year.
In total, the government has introduced more than $60 billion in tax relief for Canadian businesses over 2008, 2009, and the following five years.
This year in the economic action plan, we introduced a two-year temporary measure that allows businesses to expense their investment in computers in the year they are acquired.
This will encourage the adoption of newer technology at a faster pace.
We also extended the 50% straight-line accelerated capital cost allowance rate for investment in manufacturing or processing machinery and equipment in 2010 and 2011.
This tax relief gives much-needed support for the hard-hit manufacturing and processing sector. For small businesses, we increased the amount of small business income eligible for the reduced federal tax rate of 11% from $400,00 to $500,000, helping small business reinvest, grow, and create jobs.
And to promote mineral exploration across the country, the temporary mineral exploration tax credit was extended another year.
As the economy recovers, the tax relief we have provided will help Canada emerge from the global recession stronger than ever.
In conclusion, the policy decisions we have made as a government reflect and respond to the current situation, while never losing sight of where we want to be further down the road. We must do what it takes now to protect Canadians during the current global storm. We must always consider what is in the best interests of Canadians and the Canadian economy for the long term. Eighty per cent of Canada's economic action plan funding has been committed and is being implemented across the country. It is providing stimulus to our nation's economy that is timely, targeted, temporary, and cost-effective.
The government has provided the smart and sensible policy decision-making that Canada needs now. Through Canada's economic action plan, we are delivering for Canadians.
The tax relief and other stimulus in the economy are unprecedented. They are historic in scale, and Canadians deserve nothing less.
Merci, monsieur le président.
And thank you for joining us this morning, Minister.
I'd like to divide my time--assuming I have enough--between two of the four issues that our leader raised. One is getting money out the door, and the other is getting rid of the deficit at some point.
On the first issue of money out the door, the said yesterday that if the estimates weren't passed and we went into an election, he wouldn't get the stimulus money out the door. This is totally wrong, unless he chooses not to get the money out the door, because Canadian Press reported today, after speaking to Treasury Board officials, that well over 90% of the stimulus money could flow with or without an election campaign.
On the question of money out the door, I've referred a couple of times to the contrast between our approach and the approach south of the border. I have, for example, in my hand from the U.S. website an allocation of $30 billion to health. Of that, $20 billion has been spent to date. This is updated every week. For agriculture, $2.7 billion has been committed, and $1.7 billion spent. There's a chart showing the commitment and the amount spent from week to week.
I don't understand why Americans deserve such transparency and such good information when Canadians get nothing whatsoever about money actually spent, actually out the door. We get money on commitments, on promises, on other such words, but we do not know in dollars and cents how much money has actually been spent, let alone how many jobs have been created or saved.
Why do Americans deserve this transparent, clear information that Canadians do not seem to be entitled to? Would you, Minister, be able to provide us in coming days with at least some information on the money that has actually been spent, as opposed to commitments or announcements?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
This is a result of our last debate concerning a motion to request that the Nortel employees appear before the committee. If you recall, I suggested that perhaps we could give equal opportunity to the executives to appear before the committee and to provide them with a chance to either reply or present their part of the story as to what is going on in Nortel exactly, in terms of payment, repayments, pension plans, severance payments, or any types of payments being made to present and former employees who would have taken severance pay or who are now on a pension.
I understand that time is limited, and perhaps I am making more of an informal request, Mr. Chair. It's not necessary for me to request that the CEO appear, but I thought that the CEO should be named, because I got my information from reading the Globe and Mail that he was the one who refused to appear. My request was in a total air of transparency to have the CEO appear so that he can give his version. The fact that neither he nor anybody else on the executive wanted to appear makes me wonder what they have to hide. So I am open to any amendments.
The problem that bothers me is the subsequent motion that we have before us, which is to have Mr. Manley appear. If the committee chooses to have Mr. Manley appear, I'm not so sure we need to have both the CEO and the board. I'm just requesting that somebody from management or the executives appear and present their side of the story. I'm not after a witch hunt, but I think the motion we're going to have before us regarding Mr. Mulcair is more like a witch hunt, because he's requesting one specific member of the board of directors, whereas I don't really mind who it is.
If I can leave that open to the committee, perhaps we can find some type of compromise.
The other problem we have is that I'm not sure we're going to be able to get a representative from the Nortel executives or the board of directors here by Thursday.
Executives were mentioned after we had agreed we were going to listen to employees.
We've talked to many of these employees, and they do not want to be any part of a witch hunt. They want to be heard. They don't want to see the executives brought here.
Number one, it's inappropriate. The pensions at Nortel—and we need to be very clear on this—are provincial jurisdiction. They are subject to Ontario's Pension Benefits Act, which has nothing to do with this committee and nothing to do with the federal government. The only areas of federal jurisdiction are the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the CCAA, and they in fact, Mr. Chairman, are in the sole purview of the Minister of Industry.
So if anyone is going to hear them, if anyone is going to ask those people to appear, it should be the industry committee and not us. The only federal involvement in the Nortel issue should be done via that committee and through that minister. So there's no formal role for the finance committee or the finance minister.
The other point is that it's in legal process right now, so we shouldn't be interfering in it. That's my assumption of why, when the executives were invited, they said thanks, but no thanks; it's in a court proceeding. We need to respect that.
I know that some of the employees may be disappointed that we're saying this, but I repeat, it's the employees we want to hear. The employees I've spoken to don't want to see this committee delve into a witch hunt. They're concerned about their pensions—and only their pensions, in most part. There's a long-standing process in place for this, and I would encourage us to follow that.
We need not, and should not, politicize this. These people are concerned about their futures, their pensions, and their jobs. So the government cannot support bringing the executive to this committee. It's no part of ours. We welcome hearing from the employees and the retirees, and not the executive.
So we will not be supporting either of these motions.