Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you and the committee members to discuss Bill .
This bill implements key aspects of budget 2015. These elements represent our government's latest measures to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
Before I get into the details, let me remind the committee of past promises. We promised that once the crisis of the recession passed, we would take action to balance the budget. Equally important would be how we balanced the budget—not by slashing transfer payments to provinces. Unlike the Liberals in the 1990s, we refused to undermine support for the health care and education Canadians rely on, nor did we engage in reckless structural spending schemes or higher taxes. Rather, we promised a balanced budget, balanced fiscally and balanced in the benefits it would offer all Canadians. These are promises made and promises kept. This budget is balanced.
It protects historical transfer payments, which have increased by 62% since we came to power. It has reduced taxes to create an overall federal tax burden that is already at its lowest level in 50 years.
And it builds on a record of success Canadians can be proud of.
Over 1.2 million more Canadians are working now than at the end of the recession. The majority of these jobs have been full-time, high-wage, and in the private sector.
According to KPMG, total business tax costs in Canada are the lowest in the G-7, some 46% lower than those in the United States. In the index of 61 economies, the IMD World Competitiveness Centre ranked Canada 5th in the world for economic competitiveness. The Centre for American Progress says that Canada has experienced continuing middle-income growth, while for many countries it had halted. And Bloomberg has ranked Canada as the second most attractive place in the world to do business.
We've come so far together as Canadians but we are still confronting challenges, including the dramatic decline in the price of oil. Canada is a trading nation deeply intertwined with the global economy. International storms inevitably touch our shores.
Since the recession, the global recovery has been difficult, with the risk of becoming what the managing director of the IMF calls “the new mediocrity”. So what are we doing to move forward here in Canada? Let me talk about some aspects from our latest budget.
I will start with taxation. For families, seniors, and small businesses, we are putting more money and leaving more money in the pockets of Canadians. We have reduced taxes more than 180 times since 2006. In this budget we are going even further.
Economic action plan 2015 implements the family tax cut, expands and enhances the universal child care benefit, and increases the child care expense deduction dollar limits. These benefits will help those who care about their kids most, mum and dad.
We're taking even more action for mums and dads in this budget. We're giving them new opportunities to save for their kids' education, for the down payment on a home, for a new small business, or for retirement. The budget proposes to nearly double the tax-free savings annual contribution limit from $5,500 to $10,000. This will give Canadians, parents, seniors, and hard working people across the country even more freedom to save money tax free. In fact, 60% of those who maxed out on their TFSA contributions last year earned less than $60,000. Three-quarters of contributors earned less than $75,000. This measure is aimed at those who need our help the most: low and middle-income Canadians.
Family means duty: the duty to protect each other. This is a fundamental Canadian value and it is reflected in our values as a government.
Our budget expands compassionate care employment insurance benefits from six weeks to 26 weeks. We are making it easier for Canadians to take care of a sick or dying loved one. I'm deeply proud of this reform, as is our Conservative caucus, the whole caucus. No one is more deserving of our support than those who take time to support their families at times of great need.
This budget also includes a new measure to meet one of the government's most important obligations, which is to protect Canadians here in the country and abroad. When we take a look around the world in 2015, a sad truth emerges: our country is not immune to the dangers of international terrorism.
Our government understands the dangers and is taking action to combat the threat. Today's legislation includes several measures to ensure the continued security of Canadians.
Bill empowers us to reform House of Commons security, ensuring the safety of elected officials as they go about the business of the nation. It strengthens our ability to revoke passports on grounds of terrorism or national security. To further improve the security of Canada's immigration system, Bill C-59 proposes to expand the use of biometric screening to verify the identity of all visa-required travellers seeking entry into Canada.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, we remain undaunted in our efforts to build a more prosperous Canada. The continued weakness of the global economy means we must take relentless action to create jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity.
That starts with small businesses, Canada's greatest job creators. Alone, they account for half the working men and women in Canada's private sector, so we are working hard to put more money back in the pockets of Canada's entrepreneurs.
Today's legislation breaks new ground. It cuts the small business tax rate to 9% by 2019, the largest tax rate cut for small business in more than 25 years. This means an annual tax reduction of up to $38,600 that can be reinvested in a business to fuel its growth and create jobs for Canadians.
Many of these small businesses work in the manufacturing sector. As this committee knows, manufacturing represents over 10% of our GDP and employs 1.7 million people across the country.
Manufacturing built this country. It built my home province into an economic engine of Confederation. Unlike the Liberal leader, who questioned the role of manufacturing in Canada's future, for this Conservative and for this Conservative government, the words “made in Canada” continue to fuel pride and, of course, jobs. That is why we must give manufacturers the tools they need to create the products and the jobs of the future.
Today's legislation includes an accelerated capital cost allowance for machinery and equipment used in manufacturing and processing. This new 10-year tax incentive will result in a deferral that is expected to reduce federal taxes for manufacturers by $1.1 billion over the period from 2016-20. It will create even more jobs for hard-working Canadians.
Let me end with one more job creation measure, a major new infrastructure program: the public transit fund. This program, increasing to $1 billion per year by 2019, will be a permanent source of financing to provinces and municipalities for major public transit projects. It will help cut congestion in Canadian cities, saving families time in traffic and saving businesses from higher costs.
This fund is one more addition to our government's historic infrastructure investments, which together represent the largest long-term federal commitment in our country's history.
Mr. Chair, this is just a brief overview of the many measures in Bill that will benefit Canadians.
Canada's economic action plan is working, creating jobs and growth and building a stronger, more prosperous, more confident Canada. I'm prepared to tell you more about it today as I answer your questions.
To you, Minister, and to your officials, thank you for being here.
I'm representing Kelowna—Lake Country, a riding that has a high percentage of seniors. Given the fact we're living longer and living a healthier lifestyle, and with the returns on investments being lower, I definitely know that the extension of the RRIF component was a welcome addition to the budget. As well, in the previous working income tax benefit program, we had over a million Canadians not having to pay taxes, with over 380,000 of those being seniors.
Investment in tourism is a big component in my riding, as are innovation and technology and the university, and a lot of other good initiatives.
There's one specifically. I think we can all reflect back on our first job, whether it was as a volunteer or working in some organization as an intern. I think it provided the sort of foundation for a work ethic and mentorship that helped us get to where we are today. I wondering, Mr. Minister, if you could elaborate on that and tell us what the government is doing to ensure that our youth have a safe experience while learning new skills in the internship program.
Mr. Minister, let me tell you about a lady named Francine.
Francine had cancer and she was entitled to 15 weeks of EI benefits. Quebec has last resort assistance. However, since she had a house, she could not access the assistance.
I read the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report that said what we could have done with the $2 billion EI surplus. That could have helped Francine and thousands of other people like her who are at the end of their benefits and are forced to seek last resort assistance.
Earlier, you said that the income splitting system in 2014-2015 was $2.395 billion. I talked with Francine. She feels—and I agree with her—that the government is helping neither people suffering and in need nor sick people. With this amount of over $2 billion, we could have stretched the EI benefits for a full year. That is what the Parliamentary Budget Officer says. However, the government is instead giving the money to 15% of the population, that is to say the wealthier segment. That is how Francine sees your budget and that is how I see it as well.
How do you explain the choice to use this amount of $2 billion to balance the budget and give $2.395 billion to 15% of the population? Francine and the people who are suffering in Canada don't understand an action like that. It's as if you are working for those who don't need it and you don't care about the real needs of the people. That is deplorable.
Minister, it's good to be in this place to hear about the fine work of your department. I think some of us, at least on this side, are quite proud of what's happening.
I think that other than our illustrious Chair, Mr. Adler and I have been on this committee the longest, and throughout the years we've been here, we've been through some trying, difficult times. You've expressed that well. We've managed to crawl out of a deep, dark hole to the point that I would argue—and I think many of us on this side here would argue too—this is the best budget we have seen yet as a government. I'm very proud of it.
One of the things we've seen increasingly here is more organizations coming looking for help during the budget consultations, and rightfully so. We have a country in which oftentimes the federal government is moving in one direction and the provinces are moving in the other, and we start to find increasingly that it falls upon us to help, especially with things like health care. We talked about the fact that we've increased funding for that, but I think all of us would agree that when we've heard the stories from the different groups that are looking for help and when we make a recommendation to that effect, we were hoping to see something from the government that could help, especially health care.
There are many things I was happy about, but I have to tell you I was very happy to see the addition to the compassionate care benefit by this government, which benefits so many groups like those with ALS. We celebrated that yesterday.
I wonder if you could maybe take some time and tell us who would benefit most from this generous benefit.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you, Minister and your officials, for being here this afternoon.
I do want to begin by thanking you, and certainly your predecessor, the late , for keeping a steady hand on the tiller. We all know that we're not out of the woods yet, and that the global situation is certainly still fragile. Starting back in 2006, initially paying off $38 billion in national debt put us in good stead for future growth in our economy.
What I want to say first of all is that your riding and mine both have very high immigrant populations. We're adjacent to each other in Eglinton—Lawrence and York Centre. A lot of people come to this country for hope and for opportunity for themselves and their kids. I remember that when my dad, a holocaust survivor, came to Canada he worked hard, just as many of these immigrant families work hard, and I see it every day. They are grateful for less taxation.
You mentioned that taxes have been lowered 180 different times. An average family of four is now saving $6,600 in tax. The tax burden is the lowest in 50 years.
Could you speak to the family tax cuts? Particularly I want to ask you how many families stand to benefit from the family tax plan and what the government is doing to ensure every single middle-class family takes advantage of these generous benefits and receives more money in their pockets. We all know that middle-class people work very hard for their money, and our aim is to make sure they're able to keep as much money in their pockets as possible. Could you please speak to that?