The House resumed from April 22 consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, when I started my speech, I started by saying that it was actually very telling that the first Conservative speech after the was by the , who is also the minister responsible for small and medium-sized businesses and the member for Beauce, the same one who advocates economic policies that could actually be called crank economic policies, such as zero inflation and a return to the gold standard. Those are obviously policies that make no sense in modern economics and yet that same member, who advocated those policies, gave the first speech, saying that the budget would be good for the economy.
This is not an economic budget; it is a political budget. I started talking about that yesterday, and I want to have a chance to talk about some other aspects in the few minutes that I have left.
Yesterday I talked about the fact that the budget was balanced in an extremely artificial manner, first by dipping into the contingency fund, and then by selling—at a loss—the government's shares in GM as well as dipping into the EI fund surplus, which is projected to be $1.8 billion next year. What a coincidence—the projected budget surplus is $1.4 billion. However, in 2013, then finance minister Jim Flaherty specified that a Conservative government would never use a surplus in the EI fund to create a surplus in the consolidated revenue fund. He pointed out that that is what the Liberals did, and said the Conservatives would never do that. This, then, contradicts the policy of the Conservatives' former finance minister, and yet they clearly do not feel any shame about taking that approach.
What is more, the EI surplus has been moved over to the consolidated revenue fund. This was done at the expense of its accessibility and to the detriment of seasonal workers, even though some regions, like eastern Quebec and the Maritimes, still rely heavily on such workers. We are reducing access to EI and creating a surplus in the EI fund, just so the Conservative government can use it however it wants.
I also talked about income splitting. The Conservatives talk about ending a discriminatory treatment. There is no discriminatory treatment. A couple in which one person earns $100,000 while the other, quite often a woman, stays at home, is not living the same reality as a couple where one person earns $50,0000 or even $30,000 and the other person is forced to go to work so that they can make ends meet. There is no comparison between a couple where one person earns $100,000 and the other person stays home, and a couple with two, three, or four children where one person earns $50,000 and the other is forced to work. That couple also has to pay for child care in order to be able to join the workforce and provide for the family.
Not only do the Conservatives' analogies not hold water, but yesterday in the media we learned that the then clerk of the Privy Council advised the at the time not to announce the measure before it was presented to Parliament. The Prime Minister and his cabinet ignored that advice, completely disregarding parliamentary institutions and members of the House. Those are not my words. A former legislative clerk of the House was quoted as saying that in the media.
I spoke about many of these things yesterday. I want to finish my speech by talking about other aspects of the budget, in particular the increase in the contribution limit for TFSAs from $5,500 to $10,000. Once again, I heard my colleague from say that there are 10 million people who have TFSAs and that increasing the limit will benefit these 10 million people. That is absurd. Yes, there may be 10 million people who have opened a TFSA. That shows how the TFSA may be a useful tool. However, only 15% of the people who contribute to a TFSA put in the maximum amount of $5,500. Most Canadian families do not have $60,000 at the end of six years to put in a TFSA. However, the $10,000 ceiling will ensure that this tool is no longer used solely as a savings vehicle, but will become a tax shelter for the rich. There are certainly exceptions, like people who save a lot and who may be able to save 15%, 20% or 25% of their income, especially, as my colleague mentioned, after the sale of a house. Those are exceptions. Honestly, the current ceiling of $5,500 is adequate. Once again, increasing it to $10,000 is simply going to benefit those people who are fortunate or wealthy.
These measures will cause a lot of problems for the Canadian treasury, while the measures we want to put in place across the country, such as the $15 child care program, will directly benefit these people, in particular the middle class. For example, two spouses who each earn $30,000 or $40,000 will not be able to take advantage of income splitting.
They will be able to take advantage of the universal child care benefit, and we are obviously not opposed to this improvement. However, we must put things in context. This is not a gift from the Conservative government to families. Improvements to the universal child care benefit were largely funded by the elimination of the child tax credit. Canadians filed their tax returns, and parents of young children were probably surprised to learn that this line no longer existed. Billions of dollars were given back to families through this child tax credit, which the government used to make this improvement. I do not want to hear the Conservatives tell us that this is a gift for families. It came, in large part, from the elimination of another tax credit.
I would like to take the last few minutes of my speech to talk about job creation because the budget does in fact contain measures that promote job creation. However, it is interesting that the measures that the government adopted are NDP measures. I know that the members on the other side of the House will not like hearing what I am about to say.
On February 6, 2015, the NDP moved an opposition motion in the House. I am going to read it again because it is very educational. It says:
That the House call on the government to take immediate action to build a balanced economy, support the middle class and encourage manufacturing and small business job creation by: (a) extending the accelerated capital cost allowance by two years; (b) reducing the small business income tax rate from 11% to 10% immediately, and then to 9% when finances permit; and (c) introducing an Innovation Tax Credit to support investment in machinery, equipment and property to further innovation and increase productivity.
The Conservatives voted against the NDP's motion that opposition day, but now these measures are included in the budget. They told us that we did not understand the economy; yet, now these measures are in the budget.
Once again, this budget is about politics, not economics. It is a pre-election budget that does not in any way take into account the reality of Canadian families, a reality that the NDP recognizes by proposing such measures as raising the minimum wage to $15 for employees of companies under federal jurisdiction and negotiating a pan-Canadian child care program that would cost families a maximum of $15 a day and would give Quebec the right to opt out with compensation, since it already has its own system. The Conservatives changed the retirement age to 67, but we want to reinstate the retirement age of 65.
The Conservatives' policies were harmful to the economy and Canadian families. When the New Democrats take office in 2015, we will change that and really work for Canadian families, the middle class and workers.
Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. Obviously, in the limited time I had for my speech, I did not get around to addressing the matter of infrastructure very much. I am glad to do so now.
Again, the Conservative government is using infrastructure as a political tool. I have two examples. The first is from 2012, when the announced the new building Canada program—not funding, just the new program—with great fanfare. The government said that the municipalities could use the communities fund, not the gas tax, as they saw fit, particularly for infrastructure projects related to sports and culture and so forth.
In 2013, when the conditions for the building Canada program were presented, the municipalities were denied the chance to use this fund for their own needs, particularly the municipalities that had already addressed their needs in terms of roads or water and wastewater systems. That is the situation the mayor of Rimouski finds himself in today. He was told he could use this fund, which is generally shared one-third, one-third, one-third between the federal, provincial and municipal governments. Today, Ottawa claims to know more than the mayor of Rimouski about what that municipality needs. Ottawa is telling the mayor that he can use the gas tax, but that will not be nearly enough to pay for the projects for a city like Rimouski. That is the first example.
The second example is that the still claims that this is a major investment program. Sure, there is funding for public transit in big cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. However, to start with, there is very little funding and it just does not cut it. Honestly, the funding for the first year for the City of Toronto might be enough for half a subway station.
That the government is boasting about investing in infrastructure in this manner is beyond comprehension. The use of the 150th celebrations as a political tool is also reprehensible. The Conservatives will pay for that in 2015.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from . We represent two regions that are very far from one another, but that have much in common.
Yesterday, I was asked the same question when I was interviewed by Radio-Canada on the program Pas de midi sans info. When asked who came out on the losing end of this budget, I answered that it was the regions.
Big cities are getting a little bit of money because they need it. However, as I said, it is not enough. There is nothing to help the regions with their needs, though, or to compensate for the major cuts made by this government over the past four years.
The effects of these cuts on the regions have been disproportionate. Funds allocated to the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec were not disbursed—the situation is not very different in other regions of Canada—and the reform of employment insurance has had a major impact on the regions, where there is always a large proportion of seasonal jobs, especially in tourism, agriculture, forestry and the fishery. The government is doing nothing to remedy the situation that it has created in the regions.
There is absolutely nothing in the budget to address regional realities, like my region's realities. We are home to the Technopole maritime du Québec, in the scientific field. That institution needs federal investments, because current investments are clearly insufficient. Regions like the Lower St. Lawrence are being prevented from reaching their full potential and taking their place among the premier research institutions in the marine sector.
It is extremely unfortunate to see that this government is in no way using its capacity for investment, which would yield significant returns and help the regions develop. The government is washing its hands of the regions, and unfortunately, it is regions like the Lower St. Lawrence and Abitibi-Témiscamingue that are suffering.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I am delighted to rise in the House today to voice my support for economic action plan 2015 to support jobs and growth, to support families and seniors, to ensure that communities prosper and to ensure the security of Canadians.
Despite the slicing and dicing by the opposition and some of the carping, complaining and hairsplitting by some of the more partisan members of the media party, I just want to say again in this House that the government has fulfilled its commitment to balance the budget. Economic action plan 2015, as I said, despite the slicing and dicing and the carping by the opposition, the budget is balanced and it has been done using the fiscal tools at the government's disposal. Economic action plan 2015 will create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
As we promised, this is a balanced budget that reduces taxes for hard-working individuals and families.
I would add that this is a prudent budget. It is a prudent plan. It is a principled plan that will see Canadians more prosperous, more secure and even more confident in our country's place in the world.
This morning I would like to speak to those elements of the budget that are important in my constituency of , which sits just atop the northern city limits of the Canadian metropolis of Toronto.
As this House knows, the government's long-term commitment to keeping taxes low is making life indeed more affordable for all Canadians. By reducing taxes year after year and enhancing direct benefits to Canadians, the government has given families and individuals a greater flexibility to make the choices that are right for them.
Canadian families and individuals will receive $37 billion in tax relief and increased benefits in 2015 as a result of actions taken since 2006. This includes measures announced by the in October 2014. On their own, the measures announced last October 30 will provide more than $4.5 billion in annual tax relief and increased benefits to all families and children under the age of 18. I repeat that these benefits will accrue to all families with children under the age of 18.
The proposed measures also include the enhanced universal child care benefit that will provide an increased benefit of $160 a month for children under the age of six, and a new benefit of $60 a month for children ages six through seventeen, backdated to be effective January 1, 2015. There is a $1,000 increase in each of the minimum dollar amounts that can be claimed under the child care expense deduction effective for the 2015 taxation year. The family tax cut, a federal non-refundable tax credit of up to $2,000 for couples with children under the age of 18, is effective for the 2014 taxation year.
The House will also recall that in his speech, the referenced the fact that as announced on October 9, 2014, the government doubled the maximum amount of expenses that may be claimed under the children's fitness tax credit to $1,000 as of 2014, and made the credit refundable effective for the 2015 and subsequent taxation years. Parents are already taking advantage of the new $1,000 maximum limit as they, even now, complete their tax returns for 2014.
Also, given that the government recognizes that all Canadians are interested in increasing their physical fitness, to this end the government intends to establish an expert panel to study the potential scope of an adult fitness tax credit.
Moving from families with young children to our seniors, the government has again renewed its support for seniors in economic action plan 2015. As a result of actions taken to date by the government, seniors and pensioners are receiving about $3 billion in additional annual targeted tax relief. In particular, since 2006 the government has increased the age credit account by $2,000: $1,000 in 2006 and $1,000 in 2009. Based on these increases and adjustments for inflation, the age credit this year, tax year 2015, is just over $7,000, providing tax relief of up to $1,000 for eligible seniors.
We have doubled to $2,000 the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit. We have introduced pension income splitting, which the opposition parties say they would revoke. I believe pension income splitting, which was the first phase and has been extended this year to families with young children, is providing benefits right across the country, and to folks in lower and middle income classes right across the board. Annually, over 2.2 million Canadians take advantage of pension income splitting.
As members will note, and as many seniors in my riding have communicated their satisfaction with, budget 2015 reduces the minimum withdrawal factors for registered retirement income funds. The old age security guaranteed income supplement programs and the Canada pension plan and Quebec pension plan form the first two pillars of Canada's three pillar retirement income system, but in order to supplement income provided by the first two pillars, many Canadians also rely on their own savings for income in their senior years.
I hope the opposition recognizes these benefits to families and seniors as they consider exactly how they will vote when the budget comes before the House for a vote.
There has been a great deal of talk from my colleagues across the way about funding for transit across the country. As we know, although some in the media, some in different parts of the country and some in the opposition seem not to have read what is quite clearly stated in the budget, economic action plan 2015 proposes to provide $750 million over two years starting in 2017-18 and $1 billion annually ongoing thereafter for a public transit fund. This is a guaranteed commitment to fund public transit across the country. Since 2006, the government has provided unprecedented support for public transit, committing close to $5 billion to date for public transit projects across the country. These are projects that have been identified as priorities by municipalities and their governments.
I see time is short, so I will just conclude by saying that given the fact that we are going to see quite a very different budget presented later today by the largest province in Canada, one which will reflect the gross mismanagement of that province's economy for the last several years, there is no fiscal imbalance in Canada. All governments have the capability, competence and capacity to balance their budgets, but as I said, not all governments have either the intent or the competence.
I hope my colleagues across the way will read very carefully the provisions in economic action plan 2015 and support this very important budget.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in support of economic action plan 2015, a budget that fulfills our government's promise to be back in the black in this year.
Pursuant to our long-standing commitment to responsible fiscal management, economic action plan 2015 will see the budget balanced, and Canadians can rest assured that Canada's fiscal house is in order. Under this plan, the deficit has been reduced from $55.6 billion at the height of the global economic and financial crisis to a projected surplus of $1.4 billion for 2015-16.
This government has lowered taxes every year since coming into office. In fact, since 2006, our government has introduced more than 180 tax relief measures. The overall tax burden is now at its lowest level in 50 years.
Canadian families and individuals have benefited from significant tax reductions that have given them the flexibility to make decisions that are right for them and not decisions that are made for them by bureaucrats. Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from the tax relief introduced by the government, with low- and middle-income Canadians receiving proportionally greater relief.
Canada's debt to GDP ratio is less than half the average of all G7 countries, making us the economic envy of most of the world. Indeed, real gross domestic product has increased more in Canada than in any other G7 country since the end of the recession. We have done this and much more without resorting to higher taxes and higher debt, as those across the floor would advocate. This budget is good news for Canada and Canadians today and tomorrow.
This will not surprise anyone who knows me, but I would like to focus my remarks on one group of Canadians for whom I have the utmost respect and commitment, our veterans.
The Government of Canada is dedicated to ensuring that veterans and their families receive the support they need, while understanding that there will always be more that we would like to do and more that we should try to do. With the implementation of the new veterans charter in 2006, the government significantly increased the range of benefits and services provided to ensure that disabled veterans not only receive compensation for the pain and suffering related to their disabilities but that they also receive support aimed at restoring their ability to function at home, in the community, and in the workplace.
With any new program, unintended gaps begin to appear, and it is the government's job to address those gaps effectively. No government moves as quickly as people would like. In truth, as a veteran, I wish we could have moved faster. That said, we have made significant progress with action on the recommendations of the unanimous report of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs tabled last June, and with more recent activities and announcements by the and his dynamic staff.
Since implementing the charter, the government has made important improvements to the new veterans charter to adapt it to the needs of veterans, allocating close to $5 billion in additional resources since 2006 to enhance veterans' benefits, programs, and services.
We established a minimum pre-tax income of $42,426 for veterans receiving the earnings loss benefit, which provides income replacement to disabled veterans to age 65. We introduced a new monthly supplement to help severely injured veterans who are permanently impaired and unable to return to gainful employment. We also increased the overall level of benefits provided to disability pension recipients by having the pension no longer offset other Veterans Affairs Canada and National Defence benefits, and a lot of the credit for that goes to a veteran named Dennis Manuge, who advocated tirelessly for years.
We expanded access to the funeral and burial program for younger veterans and we improved online services. We enhanced employment opportunities in the federal public service for veterans and Canadian Armed Forces personnel with the Veterans Hiring Act. We also expanded Veterans Affairs Canada's network of operational stress injury clinics to better serve veterans suffering from mental health conditions.
Building on progress to date, the government recently announced additional plans to invest in significantly expanded benefits and services for veterans and their families, reaffirming the government's ongoing commitment to veterans and their families. Beginning in March 2015, the government has announced a series of complementary improvements to the spectrum of benefits and supports available to veterans and their families.
Moderately to severely disabled veterans, those who need it most, will be provided with continued assistance in the form of a new monthly retirement income security benefit beginning at age 65 and continuing for life, and picking up where the earnings loss benefit leaves off. As of April 1, 2015, the permanent impairment allowance will be available to all Canadian Armed Forces veterans who have a permanent and severe disability, even if they do not require assistance to perform daily activities.
These lifetime financial benefits are designed to compensate for the loss of employment potential and career advancement opportunities caused by disabilities suffered while serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. Between the earnings loss benefit, the retirement income security benefit, and the permanent impairment allowance, moderately to severely injured veterans and their families will be assured of the necessary financial resources to maintain their quality of life in their retirement years.
The government also wishes to recognize the important contribution made by Canadian Armed Forces reserve force members; 25% to 30% of our combat commitment in Afghanistan was filled by reservists.
Therefore, economic action plan 2015 confirms modifications to the earnings loss benefit to ensure that part-time reserve force veterans have access to the same level of income support as regular and full-time reserve force veterans while they rehabilitate and transition to civilian life.
Previously, a severely injured part-time reservist would receive a minimum of $24,300 from earnings loss benefit per year. That will increase by 75% to a minimum of $42,426 per year. This is in addition to other benefits this veteran may receive under the improved new veterans charter.
Family members and informal caregivers are very often faced with helping to take care of seriously disabled veterans, and those dedicated people deserve our help. To better recognize this important contribution, economic action plan 2015 confirms funding to create a new family caregiver relief benefit to seriously disabled veterans requiring daily assistance from an informal caregiver. The new benefit will provide a tax-free annual financial support of $7,238 to eligible veterans so that they can purchase services to allow respite for an informal caregiver.
The disability award or lump sum kicks in after the final assessment of disability is made. Before that point, an injured veteran would probably have undergone a lot of pain and suffering through treatment and rehabilitation, such as recovery from surgery.
To recognize that, economic action plan 2015 confirms funding to create a new critical injury benefit. This new benefit will provide a tax-free lump sum amount of $70,000 up-front to compensate eligible Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans for the immediate consequences of very severe traumatic injuries sustained in the line of duty.
As part of our government's commitment to service excellence for our veterans and families, we recognize that veterans suffering from severe and complex disabilities need access to ongoing professional assistance with managing their care.
This critical element is provided by Veterans Affairs Canada case managers, and we are decreasing the ratio of veterans to case managers from 40:1 to 30:1, by hiring more than 100 permanent case managers, who will have more time to provide dedicated one-on-one support.
We also recognize that it sometimes takes too long to get disability benefits started because of backlogs in the approval process.
Economic action plan 2015 confirms funding to hire more than 100 new disability benefits staff to ensure veterans receive faster decisions on their applications. Faster decisions on disability benefit applications will in turn expedite access to other financial benefits, health care, and mental health treatment.
To further support rehabilitation of our veterans, the government has expanded vocational training in order to provide eligible veterans with the flexibility to pursue new career directions that are not directly linked to skills developed during their military service.
The budgetary process for all this is not simple and must comply with public sector accounting standards, which have been in place for many decades.
As such, the budgetary projections reflect the accrued value of future benefit payments to eligible veterans, which must be recognized up-front.
Consistent with that process, the value of the overall commitment that the government is making to veterans through these measures is estimated at $2.5 billion over six years, starting in 2014-15, and these amounts have been incorporated into the government's budgetary projections.
By recording $2.5 billion at this stage, the government is setting aside funding to ensure that enhanced benefits will be available to veterans and their families in the years ahead. The annual cash value of benefits provided to veterans will significantly increase over time.
For example, as more modern-day veterans reach age 65, they will become eligible for financial support under the retirement income security benefit. People need to understand that all these figures are estimates and that Veterans Affairs benefits are demand-driven. That means that no matter the level of demand, it will be met.
That is our solemn commitment to veterans and their families, backed up by legislation. It is no secret that this has been a difficult file, but it is absolutely not for lack of commitment to veterans and their families by every single member of this place and the other place.
Veterans issues will always be a work in progress, and there will always be more work to do as circumstances change The key word is progress, and with economic action plan 2015, our government is continuing that progress. I am proud of that, and I would welcome questions from my colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to address the current Conservative government's 11th, and hopefully final, budget.
Mr. Speaker, I will also be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
After a decade of Conservative government, middle-class families are working harder than ever yet falling further behind. Canadians spent the winter waiting for a plan focused on their priorities: giving their kids the best possible start in life and creating good jobs to support their families. Yet instead of presenting a real plan to invest in middle-class families feeling squeezed, the Conservatives have presented a perversely distorted Robin Hood budget, taking from the poor and giving to the richest Canadians.
Budget 2015 would stubbornly move ahead with a plan to spend billions on measures like income splitting for the wealthiest few, a doubling of the tax-free savings account contribution limit, and tax loopholes for CEOs, measures that would overwhelmingly help those who need it least.
At the same time, the budget fails to provide a helping hand for parents looking for child care, fails to lower the retirement age back to 65 for Canadian seniors, and fails to reinstate the minimum wage for federal workers.
The Conservatives' unfair income-splitting scheme would take billions from the middle class and give it to the rich; 85% of Canadians would get nothing at all. The Parliamentary Budget Office has highlighted this disparity, noting that only the wealthiest Canadians would benefit from the Conservatives' income-splitting gift. Even Conservatives are critical of the scheme, with Conservative insider Michael Taube publicly equating income splitting to “state-run socialism for the wealthy”.
The doubling of the TFSA contribution limits would just create more tax loopholes for the wealthiest, while ordinary Canadians working hard to pay the bills would not even be able to take advantage of it. In fact, most low- to middle-income Canadians cannot afford to double their contributions to the TFSA, with fewer than 16% of working Canadians maximizing contributions under the current limit, according to the recent Broadbent Institute report.
Conservatives know that the expansion of the TFSA would be unsustainable and that their plan would be a huge burden on future generations, with indications that doubling the limit could cost $15 billion a year within a few decades. The admitted as much when he stated that we should “leave that to [the Prime Minister's] granddaughter to solve that problem”.
New Democrats oppose placing this financial burden on the backs of future generations for the sake of the wealthiest Canadians. It is morally unconscionable that the expects his granddaughter's children to clean up the financial mess his government is intentionally leaving.
Speaking of leaving a mess to future generations, the budget shockingly makes no mention of the environment or climate change. It offers little support for first nations or coastal communities, and its transit commitments would not start soon enough or go far enough to meet the growing challenges facing Canada's urban centres.
Budget 2015 also demonstrates, once again, that the Conservatives take B.C. for granted. For instance, New Democrats have repeatedly urged the Conservative government to reverse cuts to marine safety by reversing the Conservatives' closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base and cuts to Marine Communications and Traffic Services centres, but the budget has failed to do that.
The budget also fails to address B.C.'s need for significant investments in housing and infrastructure, providing no additional funding for new affordable housing or roads or bridges.
Canada's New Democrats have presented a significantly different vision that would ensure a prosperous long-term future for our country by proposing practical steps that would help fix the damage done by the current . They would create good jobs and opportunities for families, new supports for small businesses and manufacturing, a $15 federal minimum wage, and public, affordable, accessible child care.
There are currently 900,000 children in Canada whose parents lack access to quality, affordable child care spaces. In many parts of the country, parents face monthly child care bills in the thousands of dollars.
Canada's New Democrats have presented a plan to create or maintain one million affordable child care spaces across Canada to ensure that parents do not pay more than $15 a day for a child care space. Our plan would build on the successful child care model in Quebec, where research from economist Pierre Fortin showed that affordable child care helped 70,000 mothers join the workforce and boosted the economy by $1.75 for every $1 invested by the government. That is a plan that makes sense for families and for the economy.
Canada's New Democrats are also committed to making life more affordable for Canadians by raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Under the , Canadian families are working harder than ever but are falling further behind. The Liberal government before the Conservatives eliminated the minimum wage for federally regulated workers in 1996, and the Conservatives have done nothing to boost wages since then.
The introduction of a $15 an hour federal minimum wage would help fight growing income inequality and would provide leadership to increase standards for workers in all sectors of the economy in all regions in Canada. All Canadians who work hard and play by the rules should be able to make a decent living. Restoring a federal minimum wage would help make life more affordable for many workers and would help build a fairer, healthier, and more sustainable society.
New Democrats also understand the importance of increasing productivity by making smart investments in our roads, bridges, and public transit to help families get around faster and help Canadian businesses get their products to their customers, yet this budget would not do anything for local roads and bridges. It contains no new spending for new affordable housing and nothing for tourism, sports, recreation, or cultural infrastructure.
While the budget contains new money for public transit projects, it is a pittance compared to what is required to meet the growing challenges faced by municipalities in the Lower Mainland, like Coquitlam, New Westminster, and Port Moody. Most worrisome, investment is contingent on municipalities borrowing money from private lenders, requiring them to use “alternative financing and funding mechanisms involving the private sector”. This raises real concerns about whether the stringent rules would once again keep infrastructure investments from getting out the door in communities that remain opposed to public-private partnerships.
On a positive note, after a relentless NDP campaign, the government decided to use the copy and paste function and inserted our proposal to lower the small business rate from 11% to 9% to create good local jobs. The government inserted that into its budget. Whether they are local coffee shops, hair salons, or bakeries, small businesses continue to be the engine of our local economies and the backbone of thriving, prosperous, and sustainable communities. It is these small-business owners who create jobs, employ our neighbours, and support our charities. That is why the NDP has prioritized supporting small businesses as part of its practical plan for jobs and the economy.
Why then would the government make incremental reductions that would not be fully realized until 2019 instead of providing immediate help for Canada's hard-working small-business owners, who create 80% of all new jobs in this country? Instead of offering immediate tax relief to the richest 15% of Canadians through the government's income-splitting scheme, would it not make more sense to provide this immediate tax relief to companies that are already creating good jobs and investing in our communities now?
In conclusion, Canada's economy is only strong when it has a thriving middle class. This budget would do nothing to address Canada's struggling middle class. Instead, it would focus on handouts to the wealthiest 15% of Canadians.
The is a principled leader with the experience and the plan to help grow the middle class, create good jobs, protect our environment, and fix the damage done by the and his Conservative government.
In October, Canadians will have a historic opportunity to support the NDP's practical plan for Canada when they reject the Conservative approach and elect the first-ever federal New Democrat government.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak to the Conservative budget. The budget is no pleasure, but to have a chance to talk about what is wrong with it, where it is lacking, the negative direction it is taking the country and some of the things that my party, the NDP, would do instead is something I cherish.
The Conservative budget would spend billions in handouts to the wealthiest at a time when the government should be investing in accessible child care, affordable housing and supporting seniors who are struggling to get by. Places like Newfoundland and Labrador and the people there and the Atlantic who have critical issues that need to be addressed, like regional economic development and supporting communities, issues such as the constitutional obligation of the government to support Marine Atlantic, are absent from this budget.
Absent as well are the $280 million that the government promised the government of Newfoundland and Labrador in a fishing industry development fund in response to the consequences of CETA and the request to remove its powers to expect local processing in fisheries. Where is that? All of these are absent.
Instead, we have a claim for an allegedly balanced budget. After nine years, in which the Conservatives increased the size of the deficit by a total of $150 billion, they now have an allegedly balanced budget, and this is supposedly a talking point that they think will take them to the election and bring them another majority government. That is not going to happen, because people are starting to realize that the Conservative administration is, in fact, not the prudent fiscal manager that it claims to be.
How did the Conservatives balance the budget? What do we have here? They claim to have a balanced budget. How did they get there? They got there by taking $2 billion out of the contingency fund. It used to be $3 billion, and now it is only $1 billion. They achieved $2.1 billion by selling off GM shares to add to the budget. If they had waited another couple of weeks, they would have actually made another $100 million. Now there is prudent fiscal management. There are another $3.4 billion. Where did they get it? They stole it from the EI fund, the employment insurance fund.
We have $3.4 billion, we have $2.1 billion, and we have another $2 billion shaved from the contingency fund. That is where the Conservatives come up with a phony balanced budget. Are we really talking about prudent fiscal management or are we talking about a shell game that is designed to confuse people and let people believe that they have somehow or other magically balanced the budget through prudent fiscal management? What really has happened is that they taken away important sources of income from the government, like the corporate taxes that are necessary to pay for the services that Canadians need and deserve, and they have done that in a way that is basically a corporate gift. We now very likely have the lowest corporate tax rate in the whole OECD. All of the wealthiest nations in the have corporate tax rates higher than ours.
We would do something about that. If people want to call it raising taxes, yes, that would be raising taxes. My colleague in the provincial party in Newfoundland, when confronted with the notion that the NDP was supposedly a tax and spend party, said yes, it was a tax and spend party. It would tax fairly and spend wisely. The Conservative government would do the exact opposite of that. It would take away the taxes that other countries all across the world make corporations pay, give away revenue and then take away the services for which that revenue pays.
When we look at the things the Conservatives do have in the budget in making special arrangements for the wealthy, the first one that is obvious and jumps out at everybody is the income-splitting proposal, $2.4 billion. It is income splitting for families with children under 18, income splitting that does zero for single-parent families that are among the poorest families in the country and families without children under 18 or parents who are in the same tax bracket. With a cost of $2.4 billion, this gives zero benefit to 86% of families, but helps the wealthiest.
Is that wise spending of the government's money? Is that good for the future of our country? Is that good for solving some of the problems Canada has? No. When we add on top of that the significant increase, almost doubling, of the tax-free savings account, what do we get? We get another program that helps, and is designed to help, the wealthiest of Canadians.
We just heard someone opposite talk about his mother, aged 98, putting money into a tax-free saving account. It is wonderful that she is able to do that. We need a reality check with the government because it is ignoring the vast majority of Canadians.
There was a survey done by the Canadian Payroll Association, and this is not a left-wing think tank. Last September it said that 51% of employees found it difficult to meet their financial obligations if their paycheque was delayed by one week. Therefore, they are living from paycheque to paycheque. They are not putting $10,000 each or $20,000 per couple into a tax-free savings account. They are just not capable of doing that because they are doing their very best to try to meet their obligations, paycheque to paycheque.
That is just people who are working. That is not people who are unemployed, or people who have been looking for work for a long time, or who are disabled or living on social assistance because of their difficult circumstances. These people are working. Where is the benefit to the people of Canada to have this tax-free savings account almost doubled. It is not there. It does nothing to solve the problem Canadians have now.
What is the government's answer? The answer of the when someone said that this was putting an unfair burden on taxpayers to take away this source of revenue, and it will grow over the years, was that we would let the 's granddaughter solve that problem. That is the answer. The Conservatives will let the Prime Minister's granddaughter solve that problem somewhere down the road.
We have a plan that will make our children and our grandchildren better off, because we want to have a program that serves their interests now. One of the most obvious ones—we have announced it already and it is something that is gaining more and more attraction as time goes on—is the national child care plan for a maximum $15 a day child care.
What would that do? It would ensure that single parents would have an opportunity to get to work, to finish an education, to ensure that their children would be looked after and have a better income for themselves. It would ensure that couples would be able to work as well as look after their children, instead of having, what in many cases is, the next highest expense next to their mortgage. That is what needs to be fixed to make life better for our children and our grandchildren, and not go the other way, which the government seems to be quite happy and content to do.
We have proposed measures that will do positive and good things for the future of our country and help solve some of the problems of inequality, ensure that families have a better opportunity to look after their families and the future of their families, and the government ignores those needs in a crude attempt to try to buy the votes of people with their own money. It is an old game, and it is one that will not work because Canadians are wiser.
We look forward to an election coming up later on this year because we have plans and proposals that we believe can help solve some of the problems that Canadians have. We have a vision for a more equal Canada and a greater opportunity to work together to build our country instead of tearing it down.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the great member to the north of me in the riding of .
It is always a joy to speak in this House on important issues, particularly at this point in time when this Conservative government has just presented economic action plan 2015.
What are budgets? Budgets, whether they are business, government, or personal ones, need to look back a little bit to assess what has worked, what has not worked, what the business plan is. Then it moves forward with an analysis of what one has, what the requirements are for the business, or in this case, the government, and then what is needed for the present.
Since 2006, we have had the incredible leadership of the , as well as the finance ministers. The new just presented his first budget. They not only have the intuition of what is coming and what is needed, but more importantly, how we should move forward so that as a country and a government we can continue on the path we have been on.
In 2006, after we were elected to government, we presented a budget. In 2006, 2007 and 2008, this Conservative government focused on how to continue to pay down the debt, which we did by almost $40 billion over those first three budgets. We did that with the initiative of lowering taxes.
Then in 2008, we saw as a government something coming that did not look good. It was not just happening in Canada. It was an international recession. It struck in 2008 and stayed for 2009. In 2010 this country was coming out of it. I might add that Canada was the only country in the industrialized world that was basically coming out of it.
We made an agreement in 2008, because what was happening was a worldwide recession. I do not want to overestimate or underestimate the significance of that event. I know in the 1990s when the Liberals were in power, there was a blip in the economy. I believe they manufactured this huge issue about how bad it was for Canada. However, this one was not; this recession was actually global. It reached deep into the pockets of everyone, every industry, every family, every business, and every government. It was the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Quite honestly, there was a lot of good discussion here in this House. It was agreed by the parties that we needed to do something to help stimulate the economy, and we did.
We put forward one of the largest stimulus packages in Canadian history. There were guidelines that our government put in place that it would be temporary, for two years. We actually wanted to see what was going to happen at the end of that time. We had implemented a lower tax, giving people and businesses back the money that they needed to help stimulate the economy. We came out of that better than just about any country in the world.
We now have budget 2015, and it is called Canada's economic action plan, as the budget was called in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010. Why? Our government has the true belief that we should build a plan around economic growth. Canada's economic action plan is the reason we now have the lowest tax rate for individuals in this country in 50 years. It is why the tax rate is the lowest that it has been for our industry, businesses and small businesses.
We are here to rebuild our country and we have done it, but we are not done. That is why we look to the future when we are building a budget. This plan looks not just at the present, but it has a vision for the future of how we are going to build and help continue to create jobs, on top of the 1.2 million net new jobs that have been created by businesses in this country. We have created the environment for that. Governments do not create jobs that create much economic growth; it is businesses and individuals that do that.
I come from Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. All members will say their riding is the greatest, which is a proud statement we should all make. My riding is very much comprised of small businesses and agriculture. When we looked at the significance of leaving money in taxpayers' pockets, we did what our people and small businesses wanted, and that was to give them an opportunity to grow and hire people. Let us look at what we have done.
Let me start with families, because they are the foundation of every country. Families are the foundation of my riding, but it would not matter if I lived in a rural riding as I do or in one of the urban ridings. The foundation of this country is families, and those families run small businesses or people work for small businesses.
I am a father of three children. I am a grandfather, and I am proud to say that by July I should have 10 grandchildren. I am a little behind my colleague, who announced yesterday that he has 32 grandchildren.
However, with a focus on the significance of what families do for this country, we should leave money in their pockets and as a government only take from people what we need to provide the services. We should run this country like a business. Although governments are not businesses, we should run them like a business with the same principles. When we do that, we look to families and think of what we can do to help keep them remain solid and leave money in their pockets.
We have done a number of things, particularly with our tax cuts over the years, which have lowered taxes for families by $3,400 since we were elected in 2006. On top of that, we have just added universal child care benefits and programs for children six and under, up to $160 a month, with benefits for children six to 17. We also thought about what we can do on income splitting for parents. Also, one of the greatest assets for many families is the tax-free savings account, and I am sure I will get some questions about that.
In conclusion, we made a promise to balance the budget, which we did. We made a promise to maintain a strong and stable economy. We promised to create jobs. We promised to cut taxes. I am proud to stand here today, because not only did we say it, but we also did it. Budget 2015 is a budget for hard-working, responsible Canadians, and we will make sure they receive what they deserve.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today and speak about the budget and most importantly, speak about a balanced budget. When I was first elected in 2008, we certainly were in some very serious and challenging economic times and that is putting it lightly. We were in the midst of the worst economic downturn in a generation.
We have been able to carry through that time over the last number of years, almost seven years now. We were able to provide stimulus to the Canadian economy to keep Canadians working to lessen the blow to our economy. As time passed by, we were able to eliminate some of the stimulus and get back to balance. That is what we have done and now the economy is responding like it should and in the budget there are many years of balanced budgets moving forward.
Another key indicator is our debt-to-GDP ratio. We have committed by 2021 to have that at 25%. We are by far heads and tails above other developed G7 countries. We are way ahead, so that is encouraging. There have been 1.2 million jobs added to the Canadian economy since 2009. The marginal effect of the tax rate when we first took government in 2006 was at 33%. Today it is at 17%. That allows businesses to keep more of what they earn so they can reinvest.
Another kind of checkpoint as to where we are is on the fiscal balance with our provinces, municipalities and cities. Currently, we are at about 50%, so 50% of the taxes collected in this country are from the provinces, municipalities and cities. We have our fiscal balance. Again, when we look at other countries, other developed countries, this is one of the best rates going. Of course in the budget document it is the best going.
In Huron—Bruce, we are Ontario's west coast. It is a very rural riding with a mixture of agriculture, tourism, energy production is significant as well, and light manufacturing. The budget really does address a lot of the needs and initiatives that we need to keep the economy growing in Huron—Bruce and the greater region of southwestern Ontario.
As for the small business tax rate, in 2008 we took that number from 12% to 11%. In this budget document, we are dropping that level from 11% to 9% over the next number of years. In addition to that, we have increased the threshold. A number of years ago it was $300,000. It was increased to $400,000 and now it is at $500,000 of earnings. This allows employers to keep what they earn, reduce the tax on that and again, be able to reinvest.
There is a fairly large automotive manufacturer in my riding. I worked for it years and years ago. There is an auto supplier innovation fund of $100 million over the next five years. We know that in Ontario there is a tremendous number of automotive parts manufacturers. Linamar and Magna are two of the larger ones that come to mind. This fund in the next five years will help automotive parts suppliers do some innovative things. One is to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. These are important investments. For my former employer Wescast, in the exhaust manifold business, anything it can do to improve fuel efficiency with large manufacturers is of great benefit to it.
Another one important to remember as well is the auto innovation fund. There has been over $1 billion invested in the auto innovation fund. Large manufacturers like Ford, Toyota, Honda and again, Linamar and Magna have all benefited from the auto innovation fund to keep our local economies moving.
Another important investment in the budget is the extension of the accelerated capital cost allowance, allowing manufacturers that purchase machinery and equipment in their facilities to accelerate at 50% per year. This would be extended for 10 years. This is something that the government has remained committed to for a long period of time. This would help to increase investment and spur manufacturers to continue to innovate and modernize their facilities.
Coupled with this is making Canada a tariff-free zone for machinery and equipment purchased in a manufacturing facility. There are 1,800 tariffs that we would eliminate. That would be a savings to manufacturers of about $450 million a year. When we couple that with the accelerated capital cost allowance, we would really start to put some dollars into job creators to create future jobs, become more efficient and be able to sell around the world. That is great.
We have committed our investments in IRAP. Those who are involved in it will know what the acronym is. That is to help with research and innovation.
I would also like to mention the member for , who is the . The percentage to GDP of research and innovation in this area is the highest in the world among the G7 economies.
We are doing things for today, but with the investment in research and technology, we would also make those investments for tomorrow.
I did mention that agriculture is a massive economic component to the Huron—Bruce economy. The lifetime capital gains exemption is very important to farmers who are looking to transition their farms to the future generations. We know that farm families put everything that they have into their farms. The ability to increase the lifetime capital gains exemption in the Conservative government's time frame has doubled from $500,000 to $1 million. That is important recognition of the importance of farm families in our communities.
All the while, I should mention that the annual budget of agriculture has seen the commitment from this government. There are billions of dollars per year in non-business risk management and business risk management. We are certainly thankful in our areas for that. There are a couple of additions to that budget. One is increasing the trade commission. We know the importance of the trade commission's role in the countries that we serve and where we have embassies, as well. There is also the market access secretariat. This has proven to be a vital investment to growing trade and maintaining what we have, making sure that if the market does get closed down for a brief period or there is an interruption with its work, we have the great relations to get it open again so that we can get our beef, pork, or whatever it is, back into those markets. There is the agrimarketing fund, and we have made enhancements there.
Many of the members on this side of the House are going to talk about the family tax plan and the benefits therein. This is important to families in Huron—Bruce as well.
I see that there is one minute left. I have probably got 45 minutes' worth of material here, but I want to highlight the fact that families would now be able to split their incomes. We have increased the universal child care benefit from $100 to $160 per month. For children over six, that is $60 new per month. In addition, children's activities are fully refundable, whatever they may be. Parents will see that. There has been $6,600 in tax relief to the average Canadian family since the Conservative government took office. That is important.
Today, we are going to see the provincial budget. The province takes and takes from Canadian families. The Conservative government has provided tax relief time and time again to Canadian families, as well as to seniors. I know that I will probably get a question on seniors as well. Doubling the tax-free savings account would be great for families and seniors. In addition to that, reducing the minimums for RRIFs at 71 would also be beneficial.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the MP for .
I am pleased to rise, today, to speak to the Conservative government's latest, and last, budget. It is not a budget without some provisions worthy of support, but it is a budget for the few, not for the many, and the few for whom the budget would make a difference are, by and large, the wealthier few.
The income-splitting provision, for example, would cost $3 billion in lost revenues to the federal government. Singles would be excluded; single-parent families, accounting for one in five Canadian families, would obviously also be excluded from the program; families with partners in the same tax bracket, accounting for another 30% of Canadian families, also would be excluded. In fact, nine of ten Canadian households would receive nothing at all from this program.
The increased limit under the tax-free savings account would also heavily favour higher-income earners. While the immediate cost impact of revenues would be significantly less than the income-splitting provision, the longer-term impact would be significantly greater. At maturity, the cost to the federal government is estimated to be upwards of $15 billion annually. This is not a sustainable way to budget.
These two measures, alone, would continue the long-standing trend in this country of undoing the progressivity of our tax system. Even prior to these measures, our tax system was the fourth least effective among OECD countries in reducing income inequality, with only Israel, the United States, and Chile, having less progressive tax systems. A progressive tax system is but one of the many buttresses against income inequality that successive federal governments have dismantled over almost 30 years. It would leave us with a country not quite as advertized, not as generous as most Canadians would like it to be and think it ought to be, with a level of income inequality by which Canadians are both surprised and disheartened.
The figures are, in fact, quite shocking. The wealthiest 20% of Canadians own 70% of the country's total wealth. The poorest 20% own less than 1%. In fact, the bottom 50% own just 6% of the country's total wealth. The gap is growing, thanks to budgets like this one. In fact, income inequality has become the hallmark of Canadian cities. In some Canadian cities, this is owed, in part, to stubborn, persistent levels of unemployment, but the problem also exists in booming urban economies with low unemployment rates. It is really about the changing labour markets in Canada's global and globalizing cities.
A study released just this month by the Metcalf Foundation, focusing on the working poor in the Toronto region, also looked at nine of Canada's ten larger cities, including Calgary and Edmonton, cities booming with the extraction economy, until recently at least. In only one city, Quebec City, did the percentage of working poor actually decline, and then just marginally. Toronto and Vancouver, Canada's two richest and most globalized cities, are becoming, in the words of the report:
...giant modern-day Downton Abbeys where a well-to-do knowledge class relies on a large cadre of working poor who pour their coffee, serve their food, clean their offices, and relay their messages from one office to another.
With tongue in cheek, I will share the report's good news. The good news is that the population of working poor in Toronto grew by only 11% between 2006 and 2012, which is a far cry from the 39% growth in Toronto's population of working poor for the first five years of this new millennium under a Liberal federal government.
However, while the growth rate has moderated, it is particularly worrying that the number of working poor is growing at all, in the context of a shrinking number of those actually working; that is, in the context of a falling employment rate in Toronto.
It is getting increasingly difficult to make ends meet in Canada's richest city. While workers fall behind, costs continue to rise. While the percentage of working poor has increased by 11% in Toronto, child care costs have gone up by about 30%, rent by about 15%, and the cost of public transit by about a third.
A recent study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives sets the living wage in Toronto for a two-parent family of four at $18.50 per hour, with full-time work weeks for both parents—no money left over for TFSAs there, no return on the tax form for a split income. That is just paying the basics and getting by.
In Toronto we are seeing the suburbanization of working poverty in cities that are having the highest growth rates of working poverty, such as Markham, with a 27% increase, and Ajax, with a 25% increase. People are moving out of Toronto to escape high housing costs but are moving to places farther from employment centres and public transit. This is Canada's richest city, and there is nothing in the budget that acknowledges this as a reality. After 10 years, the current government still does not understand cities. It does not understand that, with 80% of Canadians living in cities, a federal budget must address the realities of urban life in Canada.
This year there will be $3 billion given back to the wealthier few in the form of income splitting and nothing to address the pressing need for public transit. In fact, there will be more than $6 billion given back in income-splitting tax returns before a single new federal penny gets invested in public transit. Even then, in the third year out, the Conservative government proposes that we start up the gentlest of inclines to meaningful dollars, dollars caught up in the red tape and bureaucracy of their mandatory P3 scheme.
However, on the issue of housing, there is not even a recognition of need. Long-term operating agreements that provide housing subsidies to more than 600,000 households in Canada will continue to expire. In Toronto, where 45% of renters cannot afford the homes they live in, there has been virtually no growth in new purpose-built rental housing since 2006. In Toronto, while 90,000 households, which is about 200,000 or so people, sit on a waiting list for affordable housing, only 260 new units opened up in 2013. There is nothing in this budget to remedy or ameliorate this situation.
If this budget were worthy of being called an economic action plan, it would surely address the set of economic circumstances at the heart of my riding in Beaches—East York, where a Target store has shut down leaving nearly 200 workers without jobs. The history of that site tells a story about the neglect of urban economies by not just the current government but by successive federal governments over a long period of time. The Target store started its life out as a Ford auto plant. Its workers were the highest paid factory workers in the British empire. A prosperous east end of Toronto was built on jobs like that. However, over time we have seen those kinds of jobs slip away. The auto plant gave way to high-end, unionized retail, an Eaton's store, then to a Zellers store, but still with a unionized staff, and finally to a Target store, a foreign-owned, non-union discount retailer that has now picked up stakes, leaving an enormous hole in the centre of this community, a community where over a third live below the poverty line, with an unemployment rate that is double Toronto's, and with an expansive shadow economy as people desperately seek survival jobs in Canada's richest city.
The promised every assistance to those who lost their jobs in the Target chain. However, he could not write a budget that would make a meaningful difference to circumstances like these. He could not write a budget that even hinted at some hope for change. This is a government for the very few, for the wealthier few. It writes budgets, as it always has, for its own electoral constituency and leaves the rest of Canada out. What is most troubling is that it is a government that is blind to urban Canada, to the communities in which 80% of Canadians live. It fails to see and address the challenges of Canadian cities, and it fails to see and harness the great potential of Canadian cities and the people who live in them. It fails as a government, and this document fails as an economic action plan for Canada.
Mr. Speaker, the issue of the funding formula for public transit in this budget is a very curious one in light of the government's proclamations that it respects the jurisdictions of other levels of government.
The government is imposing, through the public transit funding, when that funding finally comes through in three years, a funding mechanism that will require that cities engage in private-public partnerships to build their public transit.
It ought to be left to cities, and the citizens of those cities, to determine the best way to build the transit they require. The government ought not to be imposing on cities a funding mechanism. Councillors and mayors of many cities who I talk to are struggling under the mandatory PPP screen that already exists for infrastructure. It imposes enormous administrative burdens on cities for which the federal government does not pay. It delays money getting out so the infrastructure can actually be built.
It is similar to the same disrespect the government has for other funding obligations it imposes on cities across the country. It has decided in its wisdom to amend the regulations to waste water treatment. The implications of that are $18 billion of required capital expenditures that will have to be borne by municipalities across the country.
These are not insignificant amounts. They are enormous amounts of money that the government has imposed on municipalities with absolutely no support. Metro Vancouver will have to pay $1.5 billion in order to implement these new regulations. For Halifax, it is almost $1 billion; Cape Breton, $423 million; Montreal, Quebec, over $1 billion; and so on and so forth.
For smaller communities, these become incredibly onerous per capita charges. For the town of Burgeo, Newfoundland, whose member is sitting directly in front of me, the per capita cost is somewhere between $24,000 and $27,000 to implement these waste water treatment regulations, with absolutely no support from the federal government for those municipalities.
Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the budget before us shows the real lack of vision of the Conservative government and the Liberal governments before it. They put all their eggs in one basket and missed the boat on economic diversification.
The budget before us will mostly help the wealthy. Just look at the increase in the TFSA limit, which is going from $5,500 to $10,000 a year. The vast majority of Canadians do use the TFSA, but the vast majority of people do not even reach the current ceiling of $5,500 a year. This increase will benefit only the wealthiest Canadians. Just look at income splitting. Not only does this measure benefit only the wealthiest 15%, but it is also a regressive measure that might encourage women to stay home instead of going to work because it is more advantageous to have a large difference in income. The other provinces do not have subsidized day care, so with the cost of child care for two or three kids and other related expenses, a person might come to the conclusion that it does not make sense financially to go to work unless they are able to earn a very good income. In addition to helping the wealthiest Canadians, this measure might have a regressive impact on women. I find that particularly unfortunate.
The budget also contains primarily recycled announcements, that is, funds that have already been announced. The Conservatives are leveraging them, telling people that this is new money, that it has just been released, when in fact, most of these funds have already been allocated and announced.
In cases where there is any new money, quite often those funds will not be available until 2017. Of course, everyone knows that there is a federal election in October 2015 and, in the end, there is a very good chance those funds will never be allocated.
It is a balanced budget, but at what cost? It is balanced at the expense of the contingency fund. The government is dipping into our contingency fund. We no longer have any wiggle room to deal with any emergencies that arise. Given that the government is not putting any money into fighting climate change, and that the emergencies that have come up in recent years were often related to climate change, we will probably need that money. Just think of all the flooding that has occurred at various times and how much it has cost Canadians and the Canadian economy.
The government also balanced the budget by selling its shares in General Motors and by not using the funds that had been allocated to help our regions and Canadians and returning them to the public treasury. Employment insurance surpluses now go to the treasury. At what point the budget is truly balanced and surpluses accumulated is debatable. We see that it takes financial gymnastics to arrive at this outcome. The worst part is that the budget contains absolutely nothing for rural regions like mine. They are left to their own devices once again.
We need only think of the infrastructure funds. At present, there are not even enough funds to meet the needs of even one major Canadian city. What will be left for the small municipalities like those in my riding, where there are sometimes 150 to 250 taxpayers in the entire municipality who have to try to cover the cost of renovating infrastructures that are in serious need of attention? We have community infrastructure that needs to be renovated. There are roads in our villages that need to be repaired.
Some municipalities have two or three bridges to repair. The municipality of Angliers, in my riding, has not had clean water since 2008. The water in this municipality is quite yellow. It is difficult to wash white and coloured fabrics.
Municipalities also need to maintain their sewage and water systems. Once the major cities have dipped into the community improvement fund, there will only be crumbs left for the towns and villages like mine in rural areas.
In recent years, various arms of the public service have been cut in order to reduce costs. However, this has been at the expense of rural regions like mine. Jobs at Service Canada have been eliminated and the budget for service counters at the Canada Revenue Agency and the Canadian Forces recruiting centre have been slashed.
As a result, not only are people not receiving proper services, but the hands of the public servants who work in those offices are tied. They have to tell people that they cannot give them more information and that they will have to call or visit the website. What is more, they also no longer have the right to manage the money allocated to their region themselves.
For example, with regard to the Canada summer jobs program, public servants in Laval, which is 600 kilometres away, now decide who will receiving funding in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Those decision-makers, who have likely never set foot in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, are deciding how to help our region instead of us. It is the same for many other programs. We can no longer even take care of our own regions ourselves. Programs are being managed from elsewhere. This government regularly accuses the NDP of being a centralizer, when it is certainly the most centralizing government I have ever seen.
People are having more and more trouble making ends meet. Rate increases are never compensated by an increase in benefits, however small it may be. People are paying more and more for basic necessities. They are getting ripped off with banking fees and ATM fees, and there is no one to stop that from happening. Canadians have to pay $2 to receive a paper copy of their bills and they are being told to just get them online because companies do not understand that they do not have the money to pay for an Internet connection or to buy a computer. Let us also not forget that some of these people do not even know how to use a computer. Nevertheless, they are still being told to go online to save money and get services.
What is more, over the years, the government has made cuts to community Internet access centres, which is sometimes the only way people have of accessing the Internet. Meanwhile, it is putting more and more of its services online. People in the regions are increasingly getting short shrift from this government. The Conservatives have no understanding at all of the reality of people who live in the regions.
Furthermore, we have had a housing shortage for years. This hurts our economy, since people who find work in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, for example, cannot move there because there is no housing. Not only is the government not helping the regions, but it is also sometimes hindering their economic development, which is unacceptable. This shows a lack of vision on the part of this government with respect to the economy, in particular the economy in the regions.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Canada's economic action plan for 2015.
I am excited about this budget. In fact, I only have 10 minutes, because I will be sharing my time with the member for , but there is so much in the budget about which I want to talk.
Before I do that, I would like to congratulate the member for . I understand this will probably be the last budget to which he will be presenting. I also acknowledge the great work he did on the agriculture committee and in the background in Ottawa to represent his constituents of Medicine Hat. He does such a wonderful job and we will definitely miss him.
I want to talk about what the budget means to the people in Saskatchewan, particularly in my riding of Prince Albert.
When I went through my riding doing pre-budget consultations, my constituents told me that we needed to be focused on jobs and the economy. They told me that we really needed to be focused on doing things that were right so their kids would have jobs in Saskatchewan now and into the future, which is what the budget presents.
We have a balanced budget, about which my constituents are excited and happy. Saskatchewan is the only province that has a provincially balanced budget and now we have a federally balanced budget, and the people of Saskatchewan respect and understand the importance of that. Not only do we have a balanced budget, but we will have a surplus of $1.4 billion, which is huge.
I look back at what we faced in 2008 with the economic downturn and recession and how we handled that. We had to go into deficit to provide the jobs and growth that were required to keep people working right across our great country, and we did that in a strategic way. We put in water treatment plants, sewage and roads. We put in the infrastructure that was required for our economy to grow into the future. Therefore, we are excited to see that we have basically the best debt to GDP ratio in the G7, with 1.2 million net new jobs created, which are high-paying jobs. Again, when my constituents talk to me about being focused on the economy, this budget definitely is focused on the economy.
The other thing my constituents asked for was support for families to ensure they would become strong and thrive. We have done that since we came into power. In fact, when we look at the support we have given to families, an average family have $6,600 in their pockets to spend because of this government. We have done things in such a way that we have balanced the books and have allowed taxpayers and families to keep money in their pockets. That is $6,600 they can spend as they see fit.
There are other things we have done for families. When we look back to previous budgets, we have increased the amount Canadians can earn tax free. We have removed over one million Canadians from the tax rolls. We have introduced the children's arts tax credit, children's fitness tax credit, the family caregiver tax credit and the first-time donor's super credit. There are a lot of examples of what this government has done that is progressive and beneficial for all Canadians, which is exciting. I know when I go back to my riding in Prince Albert this week, my constituents will thank us for doing these types of things.
We have also expanded the universal child care benefit. For a child under six, parents will now get $160 a month. For children aged 6 to 17, parents will get $60 a month that they never received before. This is exciting, and they will thank us for that because they asked for it.
We will introduce the family tax cut and let families decide how they want to raise their family and how they want to have their income split, which is a great thing. When we think about it, people can split their income with their spouse or partner to bring down their overall family tax to such a rate that they could benefit their entire family. What is wrong with that? It is such a positive and progressive tax idea. It is just wonderful, and I think Canadian families will be appreciative of the fact they can share their income and make decisions based on what is best for their families.
I want to talk about what we have done for small businesses.
The business tax rate has been reduced from 12% to 11%, and now it will go down to 9%, which is fabulous. This is a bit of relief that the small business can take advantage of and hire another employee or student. That is a big deal. This acknowledges that we understand small businesses and that we will help them as they grow their businesses.
Hopefully, as these small and medium enterprises grow, they can take on trade and look outside the great country of Canada, and we will be there to support them. With the benefit of EDC and BDC, businesses can take advantage of the big markets we are opening up for Canadian enterprises, which is one thing this government has done very well compared to previous governments. It is this government's aggressiveness that has opened up world markets, signing free trade agreements with countries like Chile, Peru, Colombia, Honduras, to name just a few in the western hemisphere.
CETA will be tremendous for Canada. The TPP and the agreement with Canada-Japan will cement our ability to grow and foster our economy. We will be able to take advantage of markets and have preferential access compared to our competitors, or at least be on a level playing field with them. Again, the benefits come back right into every small town in Saskatchewan, so we are excited about seeing that.
We also have support for seniors in the budget. Seniors came to us and said that they wanted us to change what they had to withdraw from their RRIFs, that it was not fair, so we did that. We made that change in the RRIF so seniors can withdraw as they see fit because the minimum is different now. This benefit will help seniors enjoy their retirement years.
Another small thing a lot of Canadians have been taking advantage of is the tax-free savings account. We have doubled the amount from $5,000 to $10,000. A lot of people may not put $10,000 in it. Some may put $6,000, some may put $5,000 and some may put $2,000 or $3,000, but it is there. If they should come across some extra cash and they want to go to $10,000 one year, they have the ability to do that.
I look at that as part of a suite of packages we have when we plan for retirement. When we have RRSPs, the tax-free savings account and our pensions, we have a suite of things we can work with as we plan for our retirement, and that will pay dividends greatly into the future years as more Canadians retire.
When we look at the farming community, the average age of farmers is getting older. We have to see what we can do to bring in more young farmers. The best thing we can do to bring in more young farmers is to give them a market in which to sell their product. By removing the Canadian Wheat Board and giving farmers freedom, we are starting to see more young farmers coming into the agricultural community. This is exciting.
When I go to a town hall or to the post office and look around, I do not recognize a lot of the young people in our community. They have come back to take advantage of raising a family on the farm. In order to do that, they realize they have to buy the land. A large number of farmers are at the age when they want to retire. The $1 million capital gains exception for the selling of farmland is huge to them.
These guys have worked hard. The families have worked hard. They have gone through a lot of things over the past 30 or 40 years. They have seen droughts, floods, they have had their hands tied by the Canadian Wheat Board and they have seen rail issues. Every year there is something new and they have had to deal with it, yet they still claw their way through, survive and thrive. Now, as they approach retirement years and they sell their assets, this will allow them to have a proper nest egg as they go into retirement. That is appropriate. They asked for this and we provided for it in the budget.
The farming community is very excited about that. However, the other thing we did for them was the export market development programs. Again, $20 million over two years, helping them expand their exports. We grow more than we could ever consume in Canada, so we need to be able to export that product around the world to get the maximization of prices in Canada. Every once in a while we need to have some help from market development to sell those products that we normally do not consume in Canada, so this $20 million will definitely go a long way.
Whether we are talking about farmers or small business, and small and medium enterprises, the one thing they told us in the trade committee was that they wanted to see us enhance the Trade Commissioner Service. We have done that. In 2015, we have put $14.3 million over two years and $9.3 million per year thereafter to expand the footprint of the resources of the of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service.
These guys are great. They are located throughout the world. If individuals own a small or medium-sized enterprise and they want to go into a new market, for example, Brazil, they would phone the Trade Commissioner Service and tell it the product they want to sell, that they want to go into Brazil. Trade professionals will go into the marketplace and tell individuals some good potential partners, potential customers and the nuances the individuals need to know about a marketplace. They do that over and over again to help small and medium enterprises take that leap into becoming exporters.
Ten minutes is definitely not enough to talk about the budget. One thing I will say about it is that when I go back to my riding tomorrow and talk to my constituents throughout the weekend, they will be happy with this budget. In fact, I call it a blue jean budget. Anybody who has ever worn blue jeans will receive a benefit from the budget.
I am excited about that. I am proud to say I am part of it. I am also proud to say that this Conservative government has kept its word and balanced the budget. Going forward, we will have balanced budgets that will leave our economy strong going into the future for our kids and grandchildren.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from for sharing his time with me today on the budget speech. I also want to congratulate him for all of his hard work on the agriculture committee. He was a very good support for me, as well as a great inspiration. I would also like to thank him for his work on the international trade file. He has done an outstanding job.
It is a privilege for me, as a member of Parliament, to get up and speak to Canada's economic action plan, 2015, entitled “Strong Leadership: A Balanced-Budget, Low-Tax Plan for Jobs, Growth and Security”. I want to thank our hard-working , the hon. member for , for the long hours and late nights spent working on this outstanding budget. I also want to recognize the hard work of past years by the late beloved hon. Jim Flaherty. God rest his soul. We got here, in part, thanks to Jim's vision and talent.
As promised, and as the so proudly pointed out with reason, this economic action plan, 2015, is a balanced budget written in black ink. Indeed, I believe we will soon be faced with similar choices when we go to the next federal general election campaign later this year. I urge all Canadians to choose wisely between the risky economic plans and plans to increase spending and taxes by the NDP and the Liberals, and our Conservative government's proven track record of delivering on economic promises and our low-tax plan.
Our economic action plan contains a number of initiatives that will be particularly beneficial to the people of the Medicine Hat constituency, whom I have had the tremendous honour and privilege of representing here in the House of Commons since 2008. I will talk a little bit about all of them.
A very important part of this plan encourages investment in Canada's manufacturing sector. It will do this by maintaining a low tax burden on business to encourage investment in Canada by providing manufacturers with a 10-year tax incentive to boost productivity-enhancing investment, among other things. This will come in an extension of the accelerated capital cost allowance for investment in machinery and equipment used in manufacturing or processing for 10 years until 2025. I know that this will be an important initiative in my constituency, as I have met with stakeholders who have continually pointed out the necessity of such incentives to grow their businesses here in Canada, thus creating more jobs right here in Canada for Canadians.
The 2015 budget also proposes to lower the small business tax rate to 9% by 2019. This is good news for small business owners.
Another major section of the economic action plan is the plan to lower the EI premium by 2017. This is expected to result in a substantial reduction in EI premiums from $1.88 in 2016 to an estimated $1.49 in 2017, a reduction of 21%.
One of the big beneficiaries, of course, will be our farmers. My colleague talked about farmers. I have many farmers in the constituency of Medicine Hat, and they will be very pleased to hear that we will increase the lifetime capital gains exemption to $1 million for those who own farm property and meet the criteria. This will be very helpful to our farmers, who are the backbone of our rural communities and are certainly critical in making sure that our cities are fed. It is estimated that the measure would reduce capital gains taxes for owners of farm and fishing businesses by about $50 million over the 2015-16 to 2019-20 period. Also, to support agriculture and grow our exports, our budget will boost agriculture marketing by $12 million.
The economic action plan will help to train the workforce of tomorrow by supporting provinces and territories to facilitate the harmonization of apprenticeship training and certification requirements in targeted Red Seal trades. It will help by providing $1 million over five years to promote the adoption of the blue seal certification program across Canada, and by making a one-time investment of $65 million to businesses and industry associations to allow them to work with the willing post-secondary institutions to better align curricula with the needs of employers.
Our action plan also will support Canadian workers. I know that this is important to many of my constituents. It will do this by investing $53.8 million over two years to extend the employment insurance working while on claim pilot project to August 2016.
We will continue to pursue negotiations with provinces and territories on the $1.95 billion per year labour market development agreements to reorient training toward labour market demand. Economic action plan 2015 will provide $35 million over five years to make permanent the foreign credential recognition loans pilot project.
The government recognizes that the skilled trades are essential to Canada's economic prosperity. To reduce barriers to accreditation in the skilled trades and to improve labour mobility, our action plan proposes to extend further support to the provinces and territories for implementing recommendations made by the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship to harmonize apprenticeship training and certification requirements in targeted Red Seal trades. For example, the jurisdictions will work toward adopting common sequencing for technical training curriculum content and similar total hours for training both in class and on the job.
Our economic action plan proposes to reallocate $35 million over five years starting in 2015 to make the foreign credential recognition loans pilot project permanent to support internationally trained workers in their pursuit of foreign credential recognition. I know this will be beneficial to many of my constituents in Medicine Hat.
To build on the achievements to date, our plan also promises $18.1 million over two years starting in 2016-17 to expand the activities of the market access secretariat to introduce new agricultural trade commissioners abroad and play a more active role in setting international science-based standards and build on the opportunities created by our trade agreements.
I would also like to point out that the transition of the Canadian Wheat Board to a private competitor on the world stage is complete. With this deal it certainly opens up more opportunities for our grain farmers in western Canada. I thank the , the hon. member for , for his hard work in delivering marketing freedom for the many grain farmers in my constituency.
Our action plan will help families make ends meet and will help our seniors.
In October 2014, the announced further tax relief and benefit increases for all families with children. These proposed measures include enhancing the universal child care benefit, increasing the maximum dollar amounts claimable under the child care expense deduction, and introducing the family tax cut. The government has also doubled the children's fitness tax credit amount and has made it refundable.
Our economic action plan builds on this record of support for Canadian families by proposing to increase the tax-free savings account annual contribution limit to $10,000.
Our action plan also proposes to extend employment insurance compassionate care benefits from six weeks to six months.
This budget will also implement a new home accessibility tax credit for seniors and persons with disabilities. The proposed 15% non-refundable income tax credit would apply on up to $10,000 of eligible home renovation expenditures per year, providing up to $1,500 in tax relief. Eligible expenditures will be for improvements that allow for seniors or a person who is eligible for the disability tax credit to be more mobile, safe and functional within their home.
Our action plan also confirms funding to create a new retirement income security benefit for moderately to severely disabled veterans who receive income replacement under the earnings loss benefit or the service income security insurance plan. This new benefit will provide additional financial security by guaranteeing that the income of eligible recipients after age 65 does not fall below 70% of pre-65 income provided through National Defence's service income security insurance plan and through Veterans Affairs Canada's earnings loss benefit, permanent impairment allowance and permanent impairment allowance supplement. This will ensure that moderately to severely disabled veterans have the necessary financial resources to maintain their quality of life in their retirement years.
Starting in 2017, our plan will increase the amount of money for the Department of National Defence by $11.8 billion over 10 years. This is good news for our Canadian Armed Forces and our ability to keep our country safe. It also enhances national security by investing $292.6 million over five years in intelligence and law enforcement agencies for investigative resources to counter terrorism; by providing $12.5 million over five years, starting in 2015-16, and $2.5 million ongoing thereafter, in additional funding to the Security Intelligence Review Committee to enhance its review of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service; by providing $58 million over five years, starting in 2015-16, to further protect the Government of Canada's essential cyber systems and critical infrastructure against cyberattacks; by investing $36.4 million over five years to support the operators of Canada's vital cybersystems in addressing cybersecurity threats.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. I encourage all Canadians to visit budget.gc.ca online to see the details.
Mr. Speaker, I will be speaking on the federal budget today. I will be splitting my time with the member for .
This budget has no real plan for jobs or growth. It gives the most to people who need it the least, and it keeps Canada in a deficit situation.
The 's claim of a balanced budget is about as credible as George W. Bush's claim, in 2003, when he declared “mission accomplished” on the Iraq war. History proved the president wrong; the U.S. remained in Iraq for another seven years.
I think history will prove that this is wrong to declare victory on deficits. It is a cautionary tale about premature declarations of victory. This lesson is lost on the Conservative government. Instead of learning from history, the Conservatives are using this budget to declare mission accomplished in a fiscal year that will not even end until March 31, 2016.
The budget shows that after seven consecutive deficits, the federal Conservatives have yet to balance the budget. Canada has not been in a recession since May 2009. In fact, the Conservatives have been breaking the principle of their proposed balanced budget legislation since then.
Now the Conservatives have fabricated an illusory surplus on the eve of an election. How did they do that? First, they cut the contingency reserve. That is right. In the past, they kept intact the contingency reserve put in place by finance minister Paul Martin. If the Conservatives had actually done that this year, the budget would have shown that the Conservatives would be in deficit until at least 2017.
Slashing the rainy day reserve is just plain reckless. Last year, then-finance minister agreed. He said it would be “imprudent” to cut the contingency reserve. Earlier this year, the then-employment minister, now the , promised that the government would not touch the contingency fund. He said, “We won't be using a contingency fund”, to balance the budget. “A contingency fund is there for unforeseen circumstances, like natural disasters”.
This and the did not listen to either. Instead, he has recklessly cut the contingency reserve, leaving the government with no room for any unforeseen events.
The 's reckless streak does not end there. His budget also depends on a 50% increase in oil prices. The Bank of Canada knows better than to build its forecasts around the hope that oil prices are going to go up in the mid-term. The Conservatives should be similarly cautious. It is reckless to build a budget around rosy assumptions.
The cut to the contingency reserve, in fact, is not the only item in this budget that is larger than the illusory surplus. There is also the one-time asset sale of GM shares, a $2.2 billion sale of GM shares that is actually bigger than this illusory surplus.
That confirms the reason the sat on his hands and delayed the budget until April, after the fiscal year had already begun.
Since 2010, job growth in Canada has been stagnant, and with the fall of oil prices, Canadians have been losing their jobs. The Bank of Canada has called the economy in 2015 “atrocious”. The Governor of the Bank of Canada actually took action in January. He stepped in with a historic interest rate cut to strengthen the economy. Meanwhile, the was nowhere to be found. He went into hiding, avoiding questions in Parliament for months. Now we know the real reason he did this. The was putting politics ahead of the economy and the Conservatives' political fortunes ahead of the Canadian priority of having a real plan, in a timely manner, to create jobs and growth for Canadians who need them.
He delayed the budget so that the sale of GM shares would count toward this fiscal year instead of last. That is not a plan. That is a gimmick. It is not just unsustainable, it is pathetic. It is playing politics with the livelihoods of Canadians.
The Canadian economy desperately needs a plan for jobs and growth. Instead, the Conservatives remain committed to their fiscally irresponsible plan for income splitting and the doubling of the TFSA contribution limit. They spent the surplus even before it arrived, and they are spending it on those who need the help the least.
Neither income splitting nor the increase to the TFSA limit would do anything for job creation. Neither of these measures would create the jobs and growth Canadians need or help young Canadians find work. Both of these measures would skew benefits toward the rich, doing little for the middle class and those Canadians working hard to join the middle class.
Doubling the TFSA limit would be particularly reckless, because the cost of the measure would ramp up dramatically over time and would gut the capacity of future governments by tens of billions of dollars every year. According to the PBO, a third of that cost would be borne by provincial governments, and because TFSAs would not count toward income-tested benefits, it would also result, perversely, in billions of dollars each year in additional old age security payments for wealthier seniors.
At some level, the seems to understand that doubling the TFSA would create a problem for the next generation. When asked about that problem, he acknowledged that there would be a problem and said “why don't we leave that to [the Prime Minister's] granddaughter to solve”.
Canadian parents believe in building a better country for our kids and our grandkids. We do not believe in burdening the next generation with today's tax breaks for the rich. We do not believe in gutting our social safety net to pay for those tax breaks.
The Conservatives do not get this. They have grown out of touch with the challenges faced by middle-class Canadian families. Instead of building for the future, the Conservatives have engineered, effectively, a reverse mortgage on Canada's fiscal house to help them pay for giveaways to the rich. Doubling the TFSA limit would dramatically reduce the government's capacity in the future to invest in what matters.
All of this is bad enough, but it was only three years ago, just shortly after the last election, that these same Conservatives falsely claimed that they had to raise the age of OAS from 65 to 67 because of financial pressures. They falsely claimed that the OAS program was not financially sustainable. They passed these measures in Bill , the spring 2012 omnibus budget bill, which resulted in cutting OAS and GIS to Canada's most vulnerable seniors for two years.
When fully implemented, Bill C-38's cuts to OAS and GIS will take $32,000 away from each of Canada's poorest and most vulnerable seniors. The Conservatives will be taking that money from low-income seniors at precisely the time when doubling the TFSA limit will start to get really expensive for the government and when the extra OAS payments for wealthier Canadians kick in.
The Conservatives are playing anti-Robin Hood. There is an adage that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Under this Conservative budget, it is now official government policy.
Raising the age of OAS and doubling the TFSA limit would take money away from the poorest, most vulnerable seniors and would give it to the rich. It would give that money to the select few who have an extra $10,000 burning a hole in their pockets every year. We need to keep in mind that some families are wealthy enough that there would in fact be two adults who could each contribute, so that is $20,000. I do not know a lot of families like that in Kings—Hants. People are working hard. They are struggling. Middle-class families are barely getting by.
The Conservative decision to take from the poor and give to the rich is unfair and un-Canadian. It is another example of how out of touch with the priorities of Canadians and the challenges of middle-class families the Conservatives have become.
The budget has no plan for jobs and growth. It would do next to nothing to help Canada's struggling middle class. It would do the most for the people who need it the least, the rich, and it would keep Canada in deficit.
A Liberal government will have a real plan for jobs and growth and support for Canada's middle class, and we will balance the books.
Mr. Speaker, let me begin by thanking the good people of Etobicoke North, the beautiful community where I was raised, for the privilege of serving them. I hope our community members know that our constituency office is their home and that we are always here to celebrate the good times and to provide support during the challenging times.
I will not be supporting the budget as it gives the most help to Canadians who need it the least. The Conservative Party's proposals will benefit the rich on the backs of the middle class. That is simply not fair. For example, the priority of the Conservatives is a $2-billion tax break for the rich. What is more, they are doubling the TFSA limit by taking away tens of thousands of dollars in old age security for seniors. In the long term, doubling the TFSA will help the rich and do nothing for the middle class.
Our Etobicoke North community needs jobs. I have worked hard to get a $500,000 job program and to help my constituents find jobs they need to support their families. I personally review resumés, often doing two and three drafts. I get people into job programs. We follow up with them to see if the program is meeting their needs, and we provide other necessary support such as clothing and food programs. Finding jobs in this economic climate is not easy. Unemployment last year, including youth unemployment, was still higher than before the recession. According to the CIBC, job quality in Canada is at its lowest in a quarter century. For the past 16 months, job growth has been under 1%. This is the first time in four decades this has occurred outside of a recession.
Over the past year, close to 80% of the people I have seen need a job. Many are youth with bachelor's, master's, nursing and law degrees. Some have been out of school with no work for two years despite spending each day sending out resumés. Many are internationally trained professionals, and some are people who have been downsized after working 20 years for one company. They are good people with good skills and would be an asset to any organization. However, they are struggling. In some cases, they cannot feed their children. In some cases, they cannot buy medication for diabetes, heart disease and multiple sclerosis. In some cases, they cannot pay for their children's dental care. We do the best we can to help.
I have already heard from our youth who are looking for jobs. They want the Conservative government to know that $7 million to “support the relocation of youth and immigrants to areas where job opportunities exist” is, in their words, inexcusable. Perhaps the government is unaware that the youth employment rate in Ontario stands at 20%, and that one in five young Torontonians cannot find a job. They also want the government to know that they would like to have the opportunity to stay in their community, to get a job, to work and be near family if they choose. They should not be forced to look elsewhere. They also ask whether the government understands the gridlock and lack of transit in Toronto, and that it can take two hours to commute from our community to the downtown core for a job. They see through why there will be no new investment in community infrastructure for two more years, even when cities are calling for help today.
Our Etobicoke North community and Canada deserve a better plan for investing in jobs and growth for the middle class and those working hard to join it.
I will now turn my attention to two of my critics roles, namely international development and status of women, and what was not in the budget. I will begin with international development.
According to a new study by Engineers Without Borders Canada, 94% of Canadians say it is important to improve the health, education and economic opportunity for the world's poorest people. After reviewing the budget, one humanitarian responded with, “was there development in the budget?”
The Conservative government is once again balancing its budget on the backs of the world's poorest. Liberals believe that development assistance must help reduce systemic poverty by stimulating the creation of democratic institutions, economic opportunity and job growth.
The government has announced a development financing initiative, or DFI. DFIs work with the private sector to promote development and investment in developing countries. While DFIs can be effective in job creation, which is a massive need for developing countries seeking economic progress and stability, these institutions must be managed properly in order to ensure that development outcomes are prioritized.
I have several questions about this new organization. First, where is the money coming from? According to the OECD, Canada's aid spending dropped to .24% of GDP in 2014, down from .27% the previous year, one of the country's lowest rates in more than a decade. It is very important that the DFI be funded with new money and not from the current official development assistance, or ODA, budget. Will the look elsewhere for funds and when will funding start?
A decrease in ODA spending is not the only worrying trend I see with this budget on the topic of international development. The Conservative government has shifted its aid priorities to reflect its commercial and political interests to the detriment of the poorest and most fragile countries, where local capital is limited and short-term risks are too high for banks or other investors.
The last issue I will address is what is in the budget for women. The budget focuses on women entrepreneurs and women on boards. These are important issues. I have many questions related to the government's proposals, which I will table as a written question to the government, but the major question is: Why is there no money attached to the action plan for women in business?
Last night, I attended a fundraiser for our local women's shelter, Ernestine's, which daily undertakes lifesaving work and is a refuge and touchstone in the Etobicoke North community. Men and women attending the fundraiser wanted to know what was in the budget for ending violence against women and girls. They were clear that we need a national action plan to end violence and that we need an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. They do not accept the government's round table on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls as sufficient or acceptable and they asked me to bring this up today.
They also asked that I discuss the Canadian Network of Women's Shelters & Transition Houses' latest report that shows that in just one day, 231 shelters welcomed 122 new women and 81 children, but they had to turn away 302 women and 221 children due to a lack of resources. Moreover, only 20% of shelters said they felt well equipped to help women with mental health concerns and only 31% said they could help women with substance abuse concerns.
I am thankful for the opportunity to raise concerns I have heard from the Etobicoke North community concerning jobs, economic growth, lack of infrastructure and lack of real help in the budget and to raise concerns of stakeholders regarding international development and women and men who support Ernestine's and want the violence to end. I cannot support this budget because it fails our communities and it fails Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am pleased to rise in this House today to speak to budget 2015, introduced this week by our government.
In response to the greatest global downturn since the Great Depression, our government introduced the necessary and strategic investments to keep Canadians working and maintain confidence in the economy. These investments paid off as Canada rebounded out of the recession faster than any G8 country, with the best results. Indeed, since 2009, Canada has generated the greatest real GDP growth; created more than 1.2 million net new jobs, 80% of which are full time and in the private sector; maintained the greatest performance of private sector investment; and maintained the lowest debt to GDP ratio.
This last point is particularly important. Whereas many nations tried to fight the recession by flexing fiscal and monetary policy almost without limit, our government, under the leadership of our , prudently balanced strong public investments to support the economy with necessary reductions in federal discretionary spending. The result is that our stood in this House this Tuesday and announced a $1.4 billion surplus along with a $1 billion contingency. The result is that, without the implementation of this government's disciplined and prudent cost-saving measures, the current deficit would have been $17.2 billion.
The result is that our economy is healthy, strong, and growing. Circumstances of other nations have proven that neither reckless spending nor severe austerity is the answer. Success comes from long-term, disciplined leadership.
I am particularly proud of the fact that this government did not balance the budget on the backs of honest, hard-working Canadians. Nor have there been any cuts to critical services such as health care or key programs such as infrastructure, which remain at a historical high. No, we balanced the budget while simultaneously reducing the tax burden on Canadian families to record lows.
The GST was lowered from 7% to 5%. Small-business taxes have been cut. Various tax credits have been introduced for caregivers, volunteers, and those with disabilities. We introduced the tax-free savings account, raised the minimum income Canadians can make before federal rates are levied, reduced the lowest income tax rate, lessened EI contributions, and introduced assistance for first-time homeowners. I could go on, but the bottom line is this. As a direct result of our government's policies, for the typical Canadian family of two parents with two children, there are savings of an average of $6,640 every year.
Balancing the budget has never been just about sound and responsible fiscal management. It has been about principle. Our government promised Canadians that it would balance the budget, and Canadians sent the government back to Ottawa in 2011 with a clear majority and a mandate to do just that. This budget also would cement another promise made to Canadians, that of introducing income splitting for families. The principle of this government has been and remains that we keep the promises we make.
With my remaining time, I would like to highlight specific initiatives from the budget that would particularly benefit my constituents in Nipissing—Timiskaming.
For seniors, we would reduce minimum withdrawal rates for registered retirement income funds, or RRIFs. We would introduce a new home accessibility tax credit. Seniors and persons with disabilities would be able to claim up to $1,500 in tax credits for specific home renovations.
For families, we would increase the TFSA contribution limit to $10,000 so Canadians could improve their investments and have easier access to cash flows when they need them. I would just point out for the opposition members that it is the majority of middle-income Canadians who will benefit from TFSAs, not the wealthy. The facts are that 11 million Canadians have TFSAs and 60% of them make $55,000 or less.
We would expand the eligibility for student loans to make post-secondary education more affordable. There would be $184 million for students applying to short-term programs, and $119 million to reduce expected parental contributions to loan programs.
We would expand EI benefits for Canadians who need to leave work for compassionate care purposes. Benefits would be increased from six weeks to six months.
Budget 2015 confirms the family tax cuts and benefits introduced last fall. They are income splitting and increasing the universal child care benefit and the children's fitness tax credit.
For small business, we would improve access to financing. Available financing would be increased to $1 million from $500,000, and eligibility would be broadened from $5 million in revenue to $10 million in revenue. We would further cut taxes on small business, reducing the tax on small business by 2% from 11% to 9% over 4 years.
We would further reduce the EI premiums. The surplus gained by the EI fund would be reimbursed to employers and employees to lower EI rates.
For the space sector, we would invest in Canada's satellite industry with $30 million to support satellite research and development projects through the Canadian Space Agency. As my hon. colleagues may recall, I have recognized Nipissing—Timiskaming's entry into the space sector on several occasions, and I am very pleased that the government continues to mark its growing importance to our economy. These investments would ultimately serve to expand the space industry in Nipissing—Timiskaming and create high-paying, high-skill jobs.
We are further recognizing the increasing importance of space to Canada's economy and security. For aerospace and manufacturing, we would accelerate aerospace supply chain competitiveness and performance. We would continue to provide accelerated capital cost allowance measures to help manufacturers grow and create jobs.
For agriculture and agrifood, we would promote Canadian farm exports and improve competitiveness, with over $18 million to expand the Canadian Market Access Secretariat and provide more support to farmers trying to access foreign markets. Some $12 million of additional funding would go toward expanding the agrimarketing program to increase the demand for Canadian agricultural goods. We would also increase the lifetime capital allowance for farmers from $750,000 to $1 million.
Finally, for infrastructure, we would continue the improvement of the $53 billion new building Canada plan announced in March 2014. An additional $750 million would go to improve public-private partnerships in addition to continuing to provide $5.3 billion per year for provincial and municipal projects. The new building Canada plan expands on the $33 million building Canada plan introduced in 2007, which included increasing contributions from the gas tax fund, which supports municipal projects, as well as making it permanent.
We remain on the right track. Canada's fiscal position is the envy of the world. Taxes continue to fall for families and small businesses, and key investments in infrastructure, research, and development continue to be realized. The budget is balanced, and further measures have been introduced to ensure that it stays that way, with immediate penalties to senior government leaders who fail to keep it so. Furthermore, Canada is now uniquely positioned to attack its sovereign debt and will do so by applying unused contingencies to it to maintain at least a 25% debt to GDP ratio.
All of this is to say that, in budget 2015, promises made are promises kept.