Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to be here today to discuss Bill , the new chapter of our government's economic action plan.
It is apparent that our plan continues to yield results. Indeed, Canada continues to move forward in the face of a fragile external environment and global economic uncertainty. Despite this uncertainty, Canada has achieved one of the best economic performances among G7 countries over the recovery. Real gross domestic product has increased more in Canada than in any other G7 country since the end of the recession. Furthermore, since we introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, Canada has recovered all of the jobs lost during the recession, and more. In fact, the Canadian economy has posted one of the strongest job-creation records in the G7 over the recovery, with over 1.2 million net new jobs created since June 2009.
Today's legislation would continue our government's hard work. It would help families and communities prosper, support jobs and economic growth, ensure the security of Canadians, and of course, fulfill our promise to balance the budget.
In my allotted time today, I would like to highlight some of the important and thoughtful measures in Bill and illustrate how they would benefit Canadians.
Our government holds a fundamental belief: those who work hard to earn their dollars deserve to keep them. It is why we have cut taxes over and over again. In fact, this government has lowered taxes every year since coming into office. That is over 180 different times. As a result, the overall federal tax burden is now at its lowest level in more than 50 years. Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from the tax relief introduced by our government, with low- and middle-income families receiving proportionately greater relief.
In 2015-2016, Canadian families and individuals would receive $37 billion in tax relief and increased benefits as a result of our government's actions taken since 2006. For example, a typical two-earner family of four would receive tax relief and increased benefits of up to $6,600 in 2015 thanks to measures such as the family tax cut, the universal child care benefit, the GST reductions, the introduction of the children's fitness tax credit, and other broad-based income tax relief measures.
By reducing taxes consistently and enhancing benefits to Canadians, the government has given families and individuals greater flexibility to make the choices that are right for them. Canadians know that it is only the Conservatives who can be trusted to truly lower taxes for them.
Bill would go even further to help Canadian families make ends meet by supporting tax fairness through the family tax cut, which would allow a higher-income spouse to in effect transfer up to $50,000 of taxable income to a spouse in a lower income bracket. By increasing the universal child care benefit for children under age six and expanding it to children aged six through 17, parents would be eligible for a benefit of $160 per month for each child under the age of six and $60 per month for children aged six through 17. This is great news for every Canadian family with children. Increasing the child care expense deduction dollar limits by $1,000, effective for the 2015 tax year, would mean that the maximum amount that could be claimed would increase to $8,000 from $7,000 for children under age seven and to $5,000 from $4,000 for children aged seven through 16, and to $11,000 from $10,000 for children who are eligible for the disability tax credit.
Every single Canadian family with children under the age of 18 would benefit from these important measures. The Liberal leader admitted that he believed “benefiting every single family is not what is fair”. I disagree. Our government believes that every single Canadian family would keep more of its own money, and that is the absolute definition of fairness.
We would also increase the tax-free savings account annual contribution limit to $10,000 to help Canadians save more of their hard-earned money. Whether they want to purchase a new home or car, start a new business, or save for retirement, Canadians have many reasons to save at every stage of their lives. That is the whole reason our government introduced the tax-free savings account in the first place. The TFSA provides greater savings incentives for low- and modest-income individuals, because in addition to the tax savings, neither the income earned in a TFSA nor withdrawals from it affect a person's federal income-tested benefits and credits, like the Canada child tax credit or old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits.
I am proud that Bill would give Canadians more options when it comes to saving for their future and would let Canadians, not the government, manage their own money.
Just as we are making it easier for Canadians to save, we want them to feel confident that they will be able to enjoy their golden years. The fact is, Canadians are living longer than ever and are opening new rich chapters in their lives in retirement. That is why Bill C-59 introduces measures to give seniors more freedom and flexibility when it comes to managing their retirement income.
For example, Canadians' retirement savings are typically held in tax assisted registered plans, such as RPPs, registered pension plans; registered retirement savings plans, RRSPs; registered retirement income funds, RRIFs; and tax-free savings accounts, TFSAs.
Bill would adjust the RRIF minimum withdrawal factors that apply in respect of ages 71 to 94 to better reflect more recent long-term historical real rates of return and expected inflation. As a result, the new RRIF factors would be substantially lower than the existing factors, helping seniors across the country. By permitting more capital preservation, the new factors would help reduce the risk of outliving one's savings while ensuring that the tax deferral provided on RRSP and RRIF savings continued to serve a retirement income purpose.
This is another example of how we are supporting seniors, not looking for new ways to tax them. Unlike the opposition members, who would much too eagerly jump at the opportunity to tax Canadian seniors, and they have proven that recently, we believe that the best thing we can do is provide extra support for seniors with lower taxes, solid pensions, and a strong health care system.
Let me take a minute to recognize the brave men and women who have stood and fought, and continue to, for our freedom. Those are Canada's veterans. We must never forget the contribution veterans have made to our freedom and security. They have willingly defended the security of Canadians knowing full well the potential cost of their own commitment. We owe them our compassion, our respect, and our gratitude.
With the implementation of the new veterans charter in 2006, the government significantly increased the range of benefits and services it provides to veterans. This included not just compensation but support to help restore their ability to function back at home and in their communities. However, we can always do more for these heroes, which is why I am extremely proud that Bill proposes additional improvements to the charter, including new investments to enhance benefits for moderately to severely disabled veterans and increased support for family caregivers. Specifically, it would create a critical injury benefit, which would provide a $70,000 tax-free award to Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans who have suffered service-related severe, sudden, and traumatic injuries or diseases.
Furthermore, many veterans depend on the support of friends and family who often provide informal caregiving services. Therefore, the bill would create a new tax-free family caregiver relief benefit to seriously disabled veterans who require daily assistance from an informal caregiver. This new benefit would provide annual financial support of $7,238 to eligible veterans so that they could better afford paid services and give respite to their loved ones.
When I speak with veterans in my home riding of North Vancouver, I appreciate the sacrifice these Canadians have made. I am pleased that the bill can go a long way in giving them more of the assistance and support they need.
However, there is still more, and I would like to turn my attention to small businesses.
We know that small businesses are the lifeblood of the Canadian economy. They account for over 90% of all businesses in Canada and employ two-thirds of all Canadians. Needless to say, our government believes that small businesses should spend their time growing their businesses and creating jobs, not choking on high taxes and excess red tape. It is why we have repeatedly cut taxes significantly for small businesses and their owners. Building on our record, today's legislation would reduce the small business tax rate to 9% by 2019, the largest tax rate cut for small businesses in more than a quarter of a century.
For example, for a Canadian small business with taxable income of $500,000, as a result of this tax cut and other measures since 2006, the amount of federal tax paid would be 46% lower than in 2006, which is nearly half of what is was just nine short years ago. This would mean an annual tax reduction of up to $38,600 that could be reinvested in the business to fuel its growth, retain capital and create long-lasting jobs.
I would now like to discuss one of our government's most important promises: balancing the budget.
When the great recession hit us, we responded quickly and effectively with a historic stimulus program. Our plan worked. We emerged from the recession faster and stronger than virtually any other major advanced economy. When the crisis passed, we set out on a course to balance budgets, but we did not do it by raising taxes or slashing transfers for education and health care, like the Liberals did in the 1990s.
It is really important to point out that we balanced budgets while keeping transfers now at the highest level in history. We focused on controlling operating expenses for federal departments, identifying efficiencies that focused on making government operations better and more efficient. As a result, the deficit has been reduced from $55.6 billion at the height of the global economic crisis to a projected surplus this year of $1.4 billion and $1.7 billion the year after. This is great news for Canadians everywhere.
Indeed, when we survey the state of the global economy, Canada's reputation for sound fiscal management is ironclad, and the world looks to Canada as a leader and economic powerhouse, well tested against the odds. That is a reputation our government intends to keep and it is exactly why Bill introduces balanced budget legislation. The legislation would ensure that the hard-won gains achieved over the past five years would remain in place for future generations.
We have said it before and we will say it again: budgets do not balance themselves. The opposition members, who seem preoccupied with high taxes and deficits, may think that they do, but here on this side of the House we know that fiscal discipline, balanced budgets and strong leadership will leave our children and grandchildren with an even more prosperous country.
The legislation would also ensure that the only acceptable deficits would be ones that respond to a recession or an extraordinary circumstance, such as a war or natural disaster. Deficits outside of a recession or an extraordinary circumstance are unacceptable and the need to return to balanced budgets is immediate. To that end, this legislation proposes that, should Canada again enter into deficit, the finance minister would be required to testify before the House of Commons committee on finance within 30 days and present a plan with concrete timelines to return to balanced budgets.
Moreover, should the deficit be due to a recession or other extraordinary circumstance, operating spending would be frozen, as would the salaries of cabinet ministers and deputy ministers government-wide once the recovery begins. If on the other hand the deficit is due to mismanagement, operating budgets will be frozen automatically and the salaries of cabinet ministers and deputy ministers alike would be reduced by 5%.
This approach would ensure that any increase in spending to respond to a recession, war or natural disaster would be temporary, targeted and timely. It is just another way that our government is taking leadership to ensure long-term prosperity for Canadians.
I could list many more measures in this bill that would benefit all Canadians, but I see that my time is almost up.
Our government's hard work has borne fruit. Our economic action plan is working, and we continue to get noticed on the global stage for our rock solid economy. In fact, ours is the largest economy that still has a Triple-A long-term credit rating. Canada is one of only a handful of countries in the world that still has that Triple-A credit rating.
For example, the World Economic Forum rated Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world for the seventh year in a row in its annual Global Competitiveness Report. This is unheard of. According to KPMG, total business tax costs in Canada are the lowest in the G7, and 46% lower than those in the United States. In fact, Bloomberg says that Canada is the second best place in the world to do business. When was the last time that happened? I do not think that has ever happened.
This economic resilience also reflects the actions that our government took before the global crisis, including lowering taxes and paying down debt. In fact, we paid down about $39 billion in debt prior to the recession. We have also reduced red tape and promoted free trade and innovation.
Our government's priorities have always been to create well-paying and secure jobs for Canadians and Canadian families, to lower taxes for Canadian families and businesses, and to balance the budget. Bill does not stray from these priorities. In fact, the bill would ensure that Canada's future is secure and prosperous, with a healthy economy fuelled by low taxes and sustainable public finances, all while helping families, seniors, veterans, small businesses and many more. It is another reminder that a government can reject high-tax and high-spend schemes that would put us back in a deficit and still provide meaningful support for all Canadians.
I encourage all members of the House to read the legislation. I hope that the opposition gives the bill the support that it deserves.
Mr. Speaker, as always, I am honoured to speak in the House, but I am not particularly honoured to speak to Bill . This bill is more than 150 pages long and will be devastating not only for the Canadian economy, but also for Canadian workers.
The Conservatives have once again introduced an omnibus bill designed to push through hundreds of changes that are not subject to study or oversight. This bill contains more than 270 clauses amending dozens of laws, most of which have nothing to do with the budget.
The Conservatives' income splitting plan will cost Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars and will benefit only the wealthy. The increase to the TFSA limit will only make things worse.
With more than 150 pages in this massive omnibus bill, yet again we see the Conservatives essentially abusing the parliamentary process. Today The Globe and Mail called it a “contemptuous disregard for Parliament” and “an ugly precedent”.
I remember what the current —and not for long prime minister—said while in opposition about omnibus legislation that he did not like. He said:
Second, in the interest of democracy I ask: How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?
We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse?
The massive omnibus bill that the was criticizing was 20 pages long. However, Conservatives have brought in three omnibus bills that were over 450 pages long, and another one topped out at over 880 pages.
Therefore, I guess what Conservatives are saying to Parliament and to Canadians is that in such an abusive relationship, this is just a small abuse, so we should accept it and tolerate it. However, in one fell swoop, dozens of laws would be affected, from Parliament Hill security to terrorism to veterans to undermining basic human rights protections for unpaid interns to undermining the charter protection for collective bargaining for public servants in this country. All of that is rammed into this one bill, and Conservatives are going to ram it through Parliament just as surely as day follows night.
Let us first set the context of where this particular budget lands in the Canadian economy.
Members will notice that the Conservatives' talking points about the economic performance of the government are increasingly stale. That is because the only numbers that show any positive light on what is happening in the Canadian context are now three, four, and five years old, and according to the Department of Finance, for the last 15 months growth in Canada's economy has been less than 1%.
To put that in historical context, that is the worst record outside of a recession for any government in more than 40 years. I will repeat that: outside of recession, the last almost year and a half has been the worst growth record of any government in the last four and a half decades. Still Conservatives would have us believe that everything is fine, despite massive job losses in the energy sector, retail sector, and sectors like manufacturing. We have now lost more than 420,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs over the nine long years since the Conservatives took power. That is more than half a million manufacturing jobs lost since 2000.
This is devastating for the Canadian economy. As we have seen and as the Governor of the Bank of the Canada shows us consistently, when oil prices rise, the Canadian dollar rises, which tends to have a somewhat negative effect on manufacturing output, and when it drops, manufacturing typically picks back up in Canada. However, the Canadian dollar now hovers around 80¢. We have not seen that uptick in the manufacturing sector, because things are different now. Under the Conservatives' watch, the downturn in manufacturing has become more permanent.
There are in fact 250,000 fewer jobs in Canada right now than before the recession hit and more than 160,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians than before the recession hit. We have not yet recovered from the depths of the recession. We have not yet seen the recovery that Canadians were expecting. Certainly, if one believed all the ads the government has bought with taxpayer money—almost $750 million worth—one would think everything was perfect. However, Canadians know different, because Canadians right now are carrying the highest debt loads in Canadian history. Each individual household is now carrying, on average, more debt than we ever have since our country was founded.
We also see, from a government that claims fiscal austerity and prudence, that the historical record has actually met the current record. The Conservatives have added more than $150 billion to the national debt. That is $4,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. We know it is more than $4,000 per person because by the time we pay that debt off—if we ever pay it off, and certainly not under our current government's plan—it will be much more than $4,000, because when one borrows money, it always ends up costing more. Every Canadian has had that experience with student loans or car loans or a mortgage. However, that is how much the Conservatives have added to the national debt.
People might ask what we got in return. Did we get a robust economy? Did we get a more diversified and sustainable economy, such as the one the leader in Alberta, Rachel Notley, talks about creating for that fine province? No. We have again seen an overreliance on a soaring commodity price that goes up and goes down. We have seen yet another opportunity squandered by the government.
If the Conservative economic plan was working, then the Conservative economic plan would be working, and it is not. Canadians know it, and no $750 million ad buy is going to convince them otherwise.
We have also seen in the budget document, this omnibus bill, that there are a lot of perks in it for the wealthy and the well connected. They do okay. In fact, they do great.
Bankers do not tend to use very colourful or aggressive language generally, but when asked about the performance of the Canadian economy just a few weeks ago, the Governor of the Bank of Canada called it “atrocious”. He is right.
In an atrocious economic environment, one would think job one from the government of the day would be to create jobs, to get people back to work, to diversify the economy, to invest in the economy in ways that would actually produce the jobs that we have been missing since the last global recession. Instead, we see the true priorities of the Conservatives when it comes to jobs, and that is their own jobs. They are hoping to buy back re-election just one more time.
“Give us one more chance”, say the Conservatives, “We're going to figure this thing out this time.” What they are looking to do is buy some votes and trick folks yet again with something like income splitting, which will cost in the order of $2.2 billion and do nothing for 85% of Canadian families whatsoever. It does something for 15% of families, and those families are particularly in the wealthier brackets. Nearly $2.5 billion will go to help the top 15%, and produce what in the economy? Nothing, except a little help for those who already have had quite a bit of help.
One might say that is enough of a bauble to give to wealthier Canadians, but the Conservatives say, “Wait; there is more. We are going to take a thing called the tax-free savings account, which right now has a limit of $5,500 per year, and nearly double it to $10,000.”
When we look at the actual impact of doing something like this, we see that tax-free savings accounts, despite the claim from the government, have not increased savings for Canadians. There is no evidence whatsoever that since TFSAs were first introduced in 2009, there has been any increase in savings for Canadians, which is the whole reason the government brought in the program in the first place. If the intention of the program was to help people save and people are not saving as a result of the program, we enter the very definition of insanity, which is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. However, that is exactly what we get when we deal with Conservatives.
Let us look instead at what the doubling of the TFSA actually does. There was a moment of truth in this whole debate that came from the . Occasionally he drops by and says some things or talks to the odd reporter.
He said that this thing gets very expensive later on, which was the question, because it does. The cost to the treasury gets up into the tens of billions of dollars. He said, “Why don't we leave that to the 's granddaughter to solve that problem?” Is that not nice? Is it not nice when a generation before us says, “Yes, we're creating a huge hole, but we're going to let the people a generation or two down the line fill it in”.
Those are not the conservatives I know. In the place I represent in northwestern British Columbia, the conservatives I know always look to make things better for their kids and grandkids, and that extends beyond the financial into the environmental. It is the idea that we try to leave the place better than we found it. Both on economics and the environment, Conservatives are at least consistent. They are into the scorched earth policies. They are into the ones that they will pay later. They are like the guy in Vegas with the ATM card who just does not know how to quit.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, which the Conservatives routinely quote in this place, an office we helped the Conservatives create, if we all remember, some nine years ago, this doubling of the TFSA would give the top 20% who receive this benefit 180% more than every other group of Canadians below them. Think about that for a moment. Almost double the advantages, almost double the money, almost double the benefits of everyone else combined would go to the people at the very top of the pile.
We also know that the PBO expects the benefit to high-wealth households to increase by 35%, while low- and middle-wealth households are, and this is a quote, “not projected to be materially affected by the proposed changes”. Therefore, middle- and working-class Canadians get bupkes; nothing. It is for the wealthiest group, which does have 10 or 20 grand just burning holes in their pockets at the end of every year.
I do not know what middle-class group of Canadians the Conservatives are talking to, but the ones I deal with are struggling just to make ends meet, with the high cost of child care, electricity, paying for their mortgages, and just keeping their homes good and happy. Most of the families I talk to do not have $10,000 or $20,000. Do members know who does? Do members know who is maxing out on this already and will max out in the future? It is the wealthy households. This is why the Conservatives are able to skew the stats. The children of wealthy families are maxing out their TFSAs and will again. It is a shelter for wealthy Canadians, which is how they are proposing to use it, making the problem even worse.
New Democrats maintain that keeping the TFSA where it is is fine, but doubling it will end up costing tens of billions of dollars, and again we have to ask to what effect.
There is so much in this bill. Let us talk for a moment about a proposal the NDP made as the government was clamouring to get to a balanced budget. We said we have this child poverty situation in this country that years and years ago the House of Commons solemnly committed to eradicate, under the leadership of Ed Broadbent, the former New Democratic leader and a mentor to many of us. All members stood in the House, Conservatives included, and said, “We are going to get to this problem, because it is a problem that affects all of us. It does not know right and left. It is right and wrong, and this is right”. The House of Commons said it was going to do something about it, so New Democrats came up with a solution.
The tax code is thousands of pages long, by the way. It costs billions of dollars for Canadians to file every year. The Conservatives only make that problem worse and more expensive for individuals and small businesses. They do not mind, because it is all about the next election. However, under that massive tax code, there is a little loophole for CEOs, for those who receive their pay in stock options. Again, I am thinking about the middle- and working-class Canadians I know. Not a lot of them get paid in stock options.
People who get paid in stock options pay almost half the tax that everyone else does. Is that not nice? Is it not nice to get paid in stock options and only pay half the tax? For people making north of $250,000, $350,000 a year, times are tough.
There is a $750 million per year loophole in the tax code now that we said should be closed. It is easy, it is understandable, and we know what to do with it: take every single dollar from that loophole and help eradicate child poverty in Canada. Who is going to vote against that? Who is going to stand in this place and say no, no, no, the folks in the corner offices, the CEOs, the guys driving the Maseratis and the Ferraris, they need that money. It is hard to get to St. Barts and St. Kitts these days. Prices are high for that second, third, and fourth vacation home.
Instead, New Democrats said to use it to eradicate child poverty, which would help right across the board, not only the children and families involved who are living below the poverty line but our education system and our health care system, and it would help Canada be a more productive and prosperous nation.
We have also seen in this massive bill the ramming in of an entire veterans bill, which was before the House, Bill , and that the government has been stalling on for years, to help out our veterans. After the Conservatives' shameful treatment, which continues to this day, denying veterans of this country the benefits they are so deserving of, they decided to pick it up holus bolus and drop it into an omnibus bill.
Just before this debate started, we sought the strength of the House of Commons to take that veterans bill and move it right to committee today. What did the Conservatives say? No. They said no. They said they did not want to do that. They would rather have it go through this process that will take weeks and perhaps months and go to the Senate and all the rest of that stuff. That is how much they care about veterans. It is a political football for them to toss around again and again.
The changing of Hill security, the changing of a constitutional decree about how security should be done on the Hill, is also in this.
New Democrats have been fighting, through the good work of a number of our MPs from all across the country, to protect unpaid interns from unreasonable work and sexual harassment at work. We had a bill we have been fighting for through Parliament. The Conservatives denied it. They put something in here, but they forgot to put the part in to protect unpaid interns from sexual harassment. They forgot, they said. It did not come up, they said. We had legislation going through the House. These are disproportionately young Canadians and they are vulnerable in the workplace because obviously, if they are seeking an internship, particularly an unpaid one, they are trying to get a resume together, trying to get a foot in the very difficult marketplace and job market. Yet Conservatives found no room in their hearts to actually fix this.
I have to say a couple of things that are positive, because I am an optimistic guy. There are four things out of 157 pages. That is not bad. Unsurprisingly, they were proposals we put forward to the House of Commons.
Before I went into politics, I was a small-business owner. I know intuitively, and the facts back it up, that small businesses are the engine of the Canadian economy. They create eight out of 10 new jobs in Canada in the private sector. They account for almost 45% of our GDP, the strength of this economy. While Conservatives and Liberals alike have been handing out billions upon tens of billions of corporate tax cuts to the largest corporations, we said how about a little break for small businesses. The NDP proposed a 2% drop in the small business tax rate.
We also said that manufacturing has been hammered. More than half a million jobs have been lost in just 15 years, and more than 400,000 jobs have been lost in manufacturing since the government took over. We said let us help out manufacturing.
We also said that we want to see innovation, because Canada's private sector consistently has one of the lowest levels of innovation in research and development of any of the developed nations. We have to change that, so we put a motion to the government and debated all day in the House of Commons. What did the government say? It said that is was bad economics and a bad idea, and the Conservatives voted against the NDP motion.
Lo and behold, surprise of surprises, those very same ideas ended up in the omnibus budget bill. I guess they were such bad economics that the Conservatives found themselves agreeing with the NDP's ideas. Good for them. Imitation is the best form of flattery, but imitation is obviously not as good as the original. The Conservatives decided to lower the small business tax rate twice as slow as what we had proposed. There is urgency in trying to buy some votes from wealthier Canadians, but they will take their time when it comes to helping small businesses.
Conservatives also changed some rules about RRIFs, which the member for had proposed, and they extended the compassionate care benefits in EI to help people who are caring for a loved one at end of life. We think that is good. We think we need to change the rules around EI so that more people, particularly women, who are the ones who do 75% of this palliative care, actually qualify for EI.
In summation, to say this is yet another failed opportunity is far too gracious. This is a government so focused on its own prospects it is unable to see the concern we have, shared by the governor of the bank, by private sector economists, and by developed nations, writ large, that the Canadian economy is sputtering. It is not creating the jobs. It has not recovered those jobs.
Mr. Speaker, I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
“this House decline to give second reading to Bill C-59, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 21, 2015 and other measures, because it:
a) fails to support working- and middle-class families through the introduction of affordable childcare and a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage;
b) imposes wasteful and unfair income-splitting measures which primarily benefit the wealthy and offer nothing to 85% of Canadian families;
c) fails to protect interns against workplace sexual harassment or unreasonable hours of work;
d) implements expanded Tax-Free Savings Account measures which benefit the wealthiest households while leaving major fiscal problems to our grandchildren;
e) rolls a separate, stand-alone, and supportable piece of legislation concerning Canada's veterans into an omnibus bill that contains vastly unrelated, unsupportable measures; and
f) attacks the right to free and fair collective bargaining for hundreds of thousands of Canadian workers.”
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today on behalf of the people of Bourassa, whom I represent, and to present the position of the Liberal Party on omnibus Bill .
This bill says a lot about the Conservative government's current state. It is obvious that we are headed towards an election. This government has always had a single priority: remaining in power. Therefore, it is not surprising that budget 2015 and the bill before us are all about electioneering. Unfortunately for Canadians, when electioneering becomes the sole priority, the government loses all its vision. There is nothing in the budget for economic growth, jobs, the environment or first nations.
The major challenges that we are up against today are completely ignored. Why? There is an election this year, and the sole purpose of the Conservatives' budget is to please its political base. The priorities are now giving gifts to the wealthy and partisan advertising.
The only thing that almost made me smile yesterday after my team, the Canadiens, lost, was the knowledge that we will no longer have to watch the Conservatives' partisan ads at the expense of Canadian taxpayers. The measures in this bill, which we are supposed to be debating today, have already been advertised to all Canadian homes, as though Parliament had nothing to say about the matter. That is essentially how it works under the current government. The governs, and once he has ruled, we, as representatives of Canadians, have nothing left to say. We are familiar with this. Even the members on the other side of the House are muzzled.
I rise today in the House to debate this bill, but I also rise in direct protest of this undemocratic way of running the country's affairs. Fortunately there is an election this fall. It is high time for change. This government is preparing for an election instead of governing, so it is no surprise that its bill is completely out of touch with Canadians' priorities. Although the bill does contain some small measures that we support, its main elements are policies that will simply not benefit Canadian society. That is why we will not support this bill.
I would like to list some of the measures in this bill that are utterly unacceptable. Let us start with income splitting. This is a clear example of how out of touch with reality the Conservatives are because, as we know, only families whose two incomes are in different tax brackets will benefit. That excludes single-parent families. Even a family that the Conservatives would consider typical, a four-person family—according to their 2014 budget—would not get a cent from that. I am talking about people with incomes ranging from $48,000 to $72,000. Such a couple cannot benefit from income splitting at all. We might wonder why the Conservatives are bound and determined to implement this unfair measure that will not do anything for the economy. Put simply, this is an election promise. It was a mistake in 2011, and it is still a mistake now. Still, they insist on bringing in income splitting. Ever since they made that promise, publications and testimonies discrediting the measure have been piling up.
If the government would get its head out of the sand, it would have heard when the C.D. Howe Institute was the first to sound the alarm way back in October 2011. That organization said that 85% of Canadian families would receive nothing, and that among two-parent families, nearly half would receive absolutely nothing or just a few scraps.
In January 2014 the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives was the next one to say that 86% of families would not receive anything and that 60% of families with the lowest incomes, that is under $56,000, would receive only $50, on average, based on the Conservatives' proposed income splitting.
In June 2014 the Broadbent Institute said that nine out of ten families would not get anything. This measure, which targets families with children under the age of 18, has completely missed the mark. Most of them will receive absolutely nothing.
This year, on March 17, the Parliamentary Budget Officer was the next in line to say that the Conservatives' plan for income splitting will cost $2.2 billion in 2015. He estimates that the average benefit will go to families with incomes above $180,000, and that this measure will encourage the person with the lower income, the secondary income, to leave the labour market to try to take advantage of it, which could cost up to 7,000 full-time jobs. Once again, the Conservatives' income splitting measure will cost $2.2 billion.
It is no surprise that, even among the Conservative ranks, some members oppose this measure. I hope they will say so publicly, here today in the House. Yes, some will be held to account, but I also want to talk about one Conservative in particular. The former finance minister, the late Jim Flaherty, had been sounding the alarm from the beginning. On February 12, 2014, he said, and I quote:
I think income-splitting needs a long, hard analytical look...to see who it affects and to what degree, because I'm not sure that overall, it benefits our society.
It benefits some parts of the Canadian population a lot and other parts of the Canadian population virtually not at all.
The Conservative government insisted on introducing income splitting anyway.
Income splitting has gotten a lot of coverage in the national media as well. In an article in the Financial Post, on February 14, 2014, entitled “Forget income splitting, Canada needs to cut tax rates”, the Fraser Institute said that Jim Flaherty was right about income splitting and that this measure does almost nothing to stimulate the economy or improve Canada's competitiveness.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said:
[This program has] been denounced by every credible economic think tank, representing every shade of the political spectrum. Even the federal finance department has weighed in—that analysis is so damning that nearly everything but the commas was redacted before it was released to the public.
The only person who believes in and cares about income splitting is the . It should be noted that he stands to get $2,000 from this measure, but single-parent families will not get a penny from it. We know full well that even within the Conservative caucus, not everyone is comfortable with this patently unfair measure.
With a middle class that is having difficulty making ends meet, a collapsing job market and zero economic growth, we could surely find a better way to spend the $2 billion. The Liberal Party is proposing to give back to the middle class and stimulate economic growth.
To conclude with income splitting, I also want to talk about the misinformation being spread by the Conservatives to the effect that the Liberal Party of Canada is against income splitting for seniors. That is false. We are against the $2 billion income splitting measure in this bill.
Another measure in this omnibus bill concerns the TFSA, or the tax-free savings account. We have to talk about this. I will come back to the fact that this is an omnibus bill, which is really ridiculous.
I would like to clearly state that the Liberal Party supports TFSAs. In their current form, they are an excellent savings vehicle. However, the government has decided to double the TFSA limit in this bill, and that is not right.
Some incorrect statistics are being quoted about TFSAs. Let us clarify. According to the Department of Finance, 18% of Canadians contribute to a TFSA and 40% of those people make the maximum contribution of $5,500. That means that only 7% of Canadians make the maximum contribution of $5,500 to a TFSA.
The government likes to bandy those numbers about and often says that families that earn $60,000 will benefit from the TFSA. Let us clarify. Before TFSAs were introduced, families were struggling to save money. When that measure was introduced, they took all of their savings from previous years and contributed the maximum amount to a TFSA.
The Conservative government always likes to boast that families that earn $60,000 or more can contribute the maximum amount to a TFSA. However, let us be clear. How can a family with a gross income of $60,000 a year that files a tax return manage to save $20,000 per family or $10,000 per person? I do not know any Canadian who earns $60,000 and can save $10,000 a year. That is completely unacceptable.
Still on the topic of the TFSA, the Parliamentary Budget Officer's job is to keep us informed, and he thinks that one-third of the cost of the TFSA will be borne by the provinces. We now understand why the provinces hate this proposal.
Since TFSAs are not taken into account in the calculation of income-tested benefits, old age security cheques will start showing up in the mailboxes of seniors who do not need it. What did the Conservatives do? They have no problem taking away these payments from the seniors aged 65 to 67 who need it most. That is the reality.
We now know why the Conservative government chose to push the retirement age to 67. It wanted to save some money at the expense of seniors aged 65 to 67 who are most in need of help. Why? In order to finance gifts for the wealthy or those who are already well off. A society is judged on the basis of how it treats its most vulnerable. That is worth mentioning.
Let us talk about other measures. The universal child care benefit, the UCCB, is a good idea to give back to families and enable them to take care of their children. It is expensive to raise children. Putting money in the pockets of parents helps them make their own choices about how best to raise their kids.
The thing is, not all Canadian families have the same needs. The families of the and the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada do not need this benefit, this enhanced version of the universal child care benefit, the UCCB, that provides $100 here and $60 there. That money should be going to middle-class families and those working hard to join it. Giving money back to those who really need it should be the priority.
That brings us to the plan that the Liberal Party leader announced on Monday. It is clear. The plan says that we will give money back to the middle class and stimulate growth through very simple, generous, ambitious and, above all, tax-free measures. The Conservatives think that Canadian taxpayers are not smart enough to understand some of the measures they have come up with. The UCCB is taxable. The Conservatives dole out $100 here and there, but it is not really $100 because the following year, people have to include that amount in their tax return and pay tax on it. That is unacceptable. Why play with tax measures like that? It is fundamentally a very complex law, and the measures they are proposing add to that complexity.
We say no. We need to simplify it as much as possible. For instance, if a family has a child under the age of six and an income of $30,000, we will give that family the non-taxable amount of $6,400. That amount is net and crystal clear. If, however, that child is between the ages of 6 and 17, we will give that family a Canada child benefit worth $5,400. It is clear. Those amounts are based on income, and there are other benefits that families with higher incomes will receive.
Those are two simple measures. First of all, there is a general 7% tax cut for the middle class. This measure will really benefit all Canadians. The second measure is the Canada child benefit. I do not think that the 's family or the Liberal leader's family need to receive the universal child care benefit, as I said. Let us give it to the people who really need it the most. That is what our measure does.
This is a clear and ambitious plan, as I said. All of that is in the bill, and the government introduced an omnibus bill. I should be talking about that in my speech. There are some measures in the bill that we agree with. However, since it is an omnibus bill, we will be voting against it. It contains some important measures, but for us, the most important thing to remember is that everything I talked about is for the rich. The Liberal Party has presented an ambitious and generous plan for all families, because we need to give money back to middle-class families and stimulate economic growth, which will be good for Canada as a whole.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to budget 2015 and Bill , an act that would implement various measures contained within the budget. The budget contains many measures that I know Canadians are looking forward to seeing put in place.
Before I go on, I should inform the House that I plan to split my time with my hon. colleague from Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette.
I would like to congratulate the on his first budget and, especially, for all of the hard work that he has put into it. It has long been my view that governments should spend when spending is necessary and save taxpayers' money when saving is possible. This budget controls spending within a balanced budget and provides important tax breaks and cost-saving measures for taxpayers. For this, I congratulate the minister on his very important work.
I would like to acknowledge the work that was carried out by the previous minister of finance, my good friend, Mr. Jim Flaherty. Mr. Flaherty paved the way for this budget during his time as the minister of finance. He oversaw important stimulus funding during the recession and reeled in spending following the recession. His success as minister of finance has allowed Canada to be in the strong economic position that it is in today.
In terms of the budget itself, I am pleased to see that it is balanced. A balanced budget allows governments to cut taxes and pay down debt. It should be noted that before the 2008 recession, this government had already paid down $37 billion of federal debt. This has allowed Canada to emerge from the recession as a global economic leader with the lowest net debt to GDP ratio in the G7.
Canadians expect the government to work within its means, as they have to. That is why having this balanced budget is so important. The budget is balanced while at the same time maintaining record transfers to the provinces for health and education, and keeping the overall federal tax burden at its lowest level in more than 50 years.
This is no easy feat, but maintaining balanced budgets when possible is what is expected of any government. That is why I am pleased to see that the government has introduced legislation to ensure that all future budgets, except during times of recession, are balanced.
I recently hosted a community teleforum for residents in my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, which allowed constituents to vote on several poll questions and call in to express support for or concern about actions of the government. There were several callers who expressed their appreciation that the government had balanced the books. Furthermore, I asked participants to vote on a poll question related to the new balanced budget legislation. The result was an immense amount of support for this legislation.
Having discussed the efforts that the government has taken to balance the budget, I would now like to highlight several measures contained within this implementation act that would greatly benefit residents of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound and, indeed, all Canadians.
The first measure is the reduction in the small business tax rate from 11% to 9% by the year 2019. This measure will affect 100% of the small businesses in my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound and will support the local economies of the many small communities in the area. It is estimated that this measure will reduce taxes for small businesses by $2.7 billion over the 2015-16 to 2019-20 fiscal years. This is an extremely positive measure that is very widely supported.
Another measure that I am supportive of is the increase in the lifetime capital gains exemption from $800,000 to $1 million for owners of farms and fishing businesses. Several farmers in my riding over the past couple of years have expressed support for this measure and we are very happy to see that it is in there. They realize that it will keep more money in the pockets of farmers who are trying to pass on their farms to the next generation. Without this, when they transfer capital, it will otherwise be lost in taxes. This is a huge benefit. In all my work and time on the agriculture committee, and the minister was there today, we are always looking at different ways that allow young farmers to get into the business, and this is a big one.
The lifetime capital gains exemption was increased in budget 2007 from $500,000 to $750,000, and then increased in 2013 to $800,000 and now up to $1 million. That is double over the course of those years. Since 2007, it has been more than doubled, and that is great news for all farmers.
Furthermore, increasing the tax-free savings account annual contribution limit to $10,000 is a very positive measure for many residents in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. I have already had several constituents contact me asking when they can begin investing more in their TFSAs. I have been pleased to inform them that this measure is effective for the 2015 taxation year. Despite what some people have said about this measure, the TFSA helps many seniors and low and middle-income Canadians save their money. In fact, more than half of tax-free savings account holders earn less than $42,000 per year, and nearly 700,000 seniors who earn less than $22,000 have a TFSA. Therefore, this measure supports a wide range of Canadians.
Along with the TFSA, seniors rely on their registered retirement income funds, or RRIFs as they are commonly known. Many seniors welcomed the announcement that budget 2015 would reduce the minimum withdrawal factors for their RRIFs. Currently, seniors are required to withdraw 7.38% of their RRIFs in the year they turn 71. Although I cannot remember the year, we actually raised that age from 69 to 71. The percentage then increases each year until age 94, when it is capped at 20%.
The new RRIF factors would range from 5.28% at age 71 to 18.79% at age 94. This would allow seniors to have greater flexibility when drawing on their retirement savings and it would also reduce their risk of outliving their savings. It is important to point out that seniors raised that money during their working years, and we have enabled them to use it to enhance their retirement, but more on their terms versus the government's.
Finally, the bill would also implement several important measures to support our veterans and their families. This would be done by providing a new retirement income security benefit to moderately to severely disabled veterans, expanding access to the permanent impairment allowance for disabled veterans, and creating a new tax-free family caregiver relief benefit to recognize caregivers of veterans. These important measures would ensure that our brave men and women would have the support they need and most certainly deserve.
In conclusion, I would like to highlight the success of this and previous budgets since 2006.
Since 2006, a typical two-earner Canadian family of four will receive tax relief and increased benefits of up to $6,600. This is due to the fact that the government has consistently been lowering taxes and introducing support measures. I believe we are up to around 140 different taxes that this government has cut. I stand to be corrected on that number, but I believe I am pretty close. That is a lot.
When we hear from constituents, some will say that a certain tax cut does not benefit them. One thing I remind constituents is that not every tax cut benefits every Canadian. For example, seniors will not benefit from what we have done for families with young children, the same way young people will not benefit from things put in place for seniors. Overall, every Canadian will benefit from at least one of our cuts.