Mr. Speaker, the Canada I think most of us envision is one that is prosperous, socially just and environmentally healthy. The motion on the floor of the House today, in a sometimes roundabout way, touches on a number of these themes. However, there is an additional theme it touches on as well, perhaps unwittingly, which is the importance of truth in our political discourse.
Given the economic focus of so many parts of the motion, it is important we examine its contents in the economic context we find ourselves today. It is important we start by acknowledging that over these past few years, things have actually been going very well for the Canadian economy. We know that since 2015, the Canadian economy has added over 800,000 jobs, primarily private sector full-time jobs. We also know that unemployment is at a historic low, the lowest in over 40 years, since we began tracking that data.
However, it is not enough to simply acknowledge the economy might be doing well. We have to ensure we take steps that make the economy work for everyone. In particular, we need to make sure the economy is working in a way that makes life more affordable for Canadian families struggling to make ends meet. This has been a focus of our government from the very beginning.
In particular, we can point to the fact that we know Canadian families today are, on average, about $2,000 better off than they were at the time of the last federal election. There are a number of reasons this is the case. First and foremost, we have introduced certain social policies that put more money in the pockets of ordinary Canadian families. If we look at the Canada child benefit, this is a program putting more money in the pockets of nine out of 10 Canadian families. To date, it has lifted over 300,000 Canadian children out of poverty. In the area I represent, it helps about 11,000 kids every month. The average benefit for families who qualify for this program is about $6,800. That is $48 million a year coming to the communities in my constituency and making life more affordable for Canadians.
While it is all well and good to be pointing out these statistics, which are meaningful, it is extremely important we remember there are human beings behind every one of these statistics. I remember a conversation with a single mom I bumped into in the town of Stellarton, who told me that she was able to afford a new outfit for her kids for the first day of school for the first time after she started receiving the Canada child benefit. She said that every year in September it was an embarrassing time of year for her because she never felt she could afford to put clothes on her kids' backs. These are the stories that will stick with me, as a representative, for the rest of my life.
I have talked to other families who have said that they have been able to enrol their kids in swimming lessons. I have spoken to other families who have said that they are trying hard to put healthier food on the table. These are positive social outcomes. It does not matter which party one represents, we can acknowledge that when families like this are better off then they are well served by government policies.
We can look at policies like the Canada workers benefit, which can put up to $500 more in the pockets of people who are working hard but unable to get ahead. We can look at policies like the tax cut on the middle class, which raised taxes on the wealthiest 1% of Canadian income earners and made life a little more affordable for the rest of us.
On a number of occasions, the motion before the House today suggests that life has somehow become less affordable under this government. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is not just these measures I can point to that demonstrate that life is actually becoming less expensive for Canadian families. If we look at the point in the motion that refers to the Canada pension plan, seniors are better off today than they were three years ago, and that is for a number of reasons.
We have rolled back the age of eligibility for old age security from age 67, under the previous government, to age 65. We have boosted the guaranteed income supplement, which helps low-income single seniors, some of the most vulnerable members of our communities, who can now receive up to $947 extra dollars a year as a result of this policy change. When it comes to the Canada pension plan, it is helping the generation currently working today have a more secure and dignified retirement when they finish their careers.
When it comes to students, which I know are referenced in the motion as well, we have made certain changes to previously existing boutique tax credits, but we have reprofiled benefits for students so that low-income students can afford to go to school. We have done this by increasing the Canada student grants program by 50%.
We have also made it more affordable on the back end of students' education so they do would not have to start repaying Canada student loans until they were earning at least $25,000. Coming from the province of Nova Scotia where so many young people get educated and have to move away, knowing they will have this relief on the back end of their education from one of our many universities or colleges will encourage more people to stay in the communities where they came from or where they gained an education.
The thing that is perhaps most disappointing is that each of the measures I just listed, that make life more affordable for Canadians could not earn the support of the Conservative Party of Canada. On the one hand, the Conservatives criticize us for making life more expensive. However, at each and every turn, when we put forward policies that are designed to improve the quality of life and affordability of life for Canadian families, they vote against those measures.
I note that the Conservatives have suggested in the motion as well that somehow small businesses are worse off as a result of the policies our government has introduced. This is completely false. I note in particular that as January 1, the small business tax rate has come from 11% to 9%. Put simply, nine is a smaller number than 11, and small businesses are saving money as a result of this policy change. A small business that is able to take full advantage of the small business tax cut can save up to $7,500 in an ordinary year.
However, it is not just the lower tax rate from which small businesses are benefiting. We have new trade deals with the European Union, the United States and with countries around the Pacific Rim as well. These are creating opportunities for small businesses to export their products and to hire more people in Canadian communities.
If we look at the measures that were announced in the fall economic statement this year, we are investing in measures that help businesses create jobs rather than just allowing a single person who might own all the shares in a company to become wealthier.
We are allowing businesses to achieve tax incentives if they invest in things like new equipment or new buildings that are going to help increase their productivity. I note as well that we have boosted investment at regional development agencies in Atlantic Canada, such as ACOA, that will help diversify our regional economy and create jobs.
Again, when we had a motion on the floor last year to increase support for Atlantic Canadian business growth, every Conservative member of Parliament voted against that measure. I do not want to beat a dead horse here, but we have extra investments in innovation and in infrastructure that are leading to projects in my riding, like the highway twinning between Sutherlands River and Antigonish, the creation of a new institute of government and centre for innovation on campus at one of my alma maters, St. FX University, and a new Pictou Campus trades innovation centre for the skilled trades in our community. Investments in infrastructure are putting people to work for local small businesses.
I have a specific interest in one particular part of the motion, given my role as . Subsection (h) of today's motion suggests that the cost of our environmental policy could go as high as $5,000 in the future. These numbers are just being picked out of the air. The Conservatives' strategy when it comes to the environment seems to be to trick Canadians and not take action on climate change.
Realistically, I assume the vast majority of us in the House can agree that climate change is a serious problem. If we can agree that it is a serious problem, and not all of us do agree on that, we can turn the debate to what steps we should implement to solve that problem rather than throw our hands up in the air, saying that this is not good enough, that we are not going to contribute anything to the debate.
In my opinion, we have a responsibility and an obligation not only to take action, but to identify the most effective measures. Canadians, by and large, know how serious the threat of climate change is. It was outlined in significant detail in the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the United Nations. We are staring down the barrel of a serious problem and it is incumbent on all of us in the House to take action to do something about that problem.
Our plan, despite the singular focus of the opposition on our plan to put a price on pollution, contains many different elements that will help us achieve meaningful climate emissions reductions in order to prevent catastrophic damage to our communities.
What a lot of Canadians do not realize is that we are putting forward policies that are going to ensure that by 2030, 90% of our electricity will be generated by renewable resources. We are making the largest investment in public transit to encourage more commuters to take mass transit to work rather than their own vehicles so they can minimize their own carbon footprint. We are phasing out coal by 2030, which is more than 30 years in advance of the schedule under the previous government.
The great thing about investing in these different kinds of programs is that this leads not only to a solution to a problem we are dealing with, but to an extraordinary, once-in-a-generation economic opportunity.
When I look at our plan to make investments in energy efficiency, I see that jobs are already being created in the communities I represent. I have talked about them a few times in the House. However, I will bring up the example once more of the Trinity group of companies, based out of Pictou County, Nova Scotia.
It was started by a couple of guys who were good craftsmen. They were able to do home repairs. It was just two people in the beginning. However, when they started to benefit from government programs that invested in energy efficiency, they realized there was a market to not only bring down our country's emissions, but save ordinary Canadians money on their home heating bills each year. This was done by replacing old windows with more energy efficient ones, installing smart thermostats and taking other efficiency measures.
They are able to help bring down the cost of living for ordinary Canadians. They are able to take part in the global fight against climate change. Importantly, they are able to create jobs. There are dozens of employees working at home for this business now, making life more affordable and reducing our emissions at the same time.
However, this is not the only example that stands out. We can look at CarbonCure, which is in the member for 's riding. It has discovered a way to strengthen concrete by sequestering carbon out of the atmosphere.
There are some incredible technological developments going on. By investing in the green economy, we are able to achieve economic growth by being on the front end of a very important economic wave.
Of course, the policies I have referred to are not the entirety of our plan to combat climate change. Yes, our plan does include putting a price on pollution. Now that I have more than the 35 seconds allowed every day in question period, I am happy to make an attempt to explain it so more people can understand what is actually going on.
When we acknowledged climate change was a problem and when we acknowledged that we had to do something about it, we went through a process. We asked experts who had been studying climate economics and science for their entire careers about the best and most effective path forward. We learned that the single best tool we had to reduce emissions was to put a price on pollution, while maintaining the affordability of life, which I know is a real concern for so many of the people I represent. People will change their behaviour and we will bring emissions down over time and the revenue collected from the price on pollution will be returned to families to ensure that at the end of each year, they are left better off. This plan puts more money in the pockets of Canadians and brings emissions down.
Members do not have to take my word for it. They can talk to last year's Nobel Prize winner in economics, Professor William Nordhaus. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discovery that the method I just described was the most effective way to bring climate emissions down. When asked where we could look for models to implement the system, he pointed to the system in British Columbia.
This is a bipartisan idea. Stephen Harper's former director of policy is advocating for our plan. Preston Manning, who I think everyone in the House would recognize as a household name, is advocating to put a price on pollution. Even members of Doug Ford's team in Ontario testified before Parliament just a few years ago that the single most effective tool we had for transition to a low-carbon economy was to put a price on pollution.
A number of notable people on both sides of the political spectrum in the United States recently signed a letter, including chairs of the Federal Reserve and chairs of the economic advisory council to the President, saying this was the best opportunity we had to achieve meaningful emissions reductions.
It is important we talk about facts that we can agree on, rather than lobbying numbers in the air to trick Canadians about how expensive this plan will be, so we can debate the merit of ideas. If members of the opposition have ideas about how we can reduce our emissions, I will listen to them. If they are more effective than our plan, I will approach that conversation in good faith.
However, the response we have seen to date regarding our plan to price pollution and make life more affordable has been to spread misinformation about the cost. This is not a helpful contribution to the debate. It is perhaps the most important public policy debate we will have in my lifetime.
Many of us here are parents. We want to ensure our kids have a healthy environment to grow up in and to experience, as we did.
We also want to ensure that we capitalize on the $23 trillion opportunity, according to the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney. We have to take advantage of these opportunities. If we are not one of the first to market, we will miss the boat. It is the only way forward and it is the responsible way forward to meaningfully approach the threat posed by climate change.
However, I have good news. We are going to achieve social cost savings by making these kinds of investments. The cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of taking action. We are already paying the price if we look at municipal property taxes. I was speaking with a representative of the Insurance Bureau of Canada today. He indicated we were paying more today as a result of climate change and our failure to take action over the previous decades.
If we look at the big bond rating agencies, they are going to make it more expensive by downgrading the credit rating of municipalities that do not have a climate plan. They are going to make it more expensive to build, for example, flood mitigation infrastructure. They are going to make it harder to borrow money to deal with climate change on the back end if municipalities do not have an effective plan to combat climate change on the front end.
We recognize that we are already paying the costs. By 2030, I believe the estimate is that we are going to be paying about $5 billion to deal with the results of climate change, such as floods, wildfires and hurricanes.
It is important to make one final point during my remarks today. One of the themes that runs through each of the sub-points made in today's motion is the fact there are a lot of half truths and omissions that the Conservatives have used to try to drive home the point that life has somehow become less affordable. At the beginning of my remarks, I established that it was simply not true.
This assertion that 81% of middle-income Canadians are seeing higher taxes is false. The next point, that the average income tax increase for middle-income families is $840, is also false. There are allegations in here that we are trying to discount employee benefits and dental benefits. That is not happening. The Conservatives are suggesting that the price of our environmental plan is going to be $5,000 per family.
All pieces of information are false. The entire strategy of the Conservatives seems to be to throw information out there that is completely false in the hope that Canadians grab onto it and are scared to embrace a responsible plan that is creating jobs, reducing our pollution and helping ordinary families get by.
At a time in our global political discourse when we are seeing certain movements around the world rely on false information in the hope they can grab lightening and have some sort of populist movement is greatly disappointing.
As well, at certain times when the media calls out some of the falsehoods being peddled, there are attacks on it. We are operating in a post-truth era of politics and it is greatly disappointing.
While, in my opinion, the motion is inaccurate and somewhat ridiculous, it is disappointing to me that the strategy to earn the support of Canadians is to trick them into believing things like life being more expensive or plans being ineffective. If we are going to have a debate about ideas, it is essential that we rely on facts, not these half truths in order to deceive folks.
I want the people who are watching at home to pay attention to politics. We have the opportunity and a platform here to do serious good, to make life more affordable for Canadians, to improve our environmental protections and to grow our economy. If they watch closely, they will see that there are members, probably of all parties, who take liberties with the facts. However, there is something going on that we all need to be diligent toward, and that is ensuring the debates we have here are based on science, facts and evidence, not ideology and misinformation. Therefore, if they are watching and they see something they do not like, I encourage them to get engaged. If people are not going to take steps to move forward on the things they care about, nobody else is going to.
I am thankful for the opportunity to stand and debate the motion today. I care so strongly about making life more affordable for the folks I represent, for protecting our environment and ensuring we create economic growth opportunities so people in places like Pictou County, Antigonish and the eastern shore of Nova Scotia have an opportunity to make a living or to stay at home if they choose.
Madam Speaker, first off, I should tell you that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for , because we have much to say about this issue.
I want to pick up on my colleague's last few words. If the Liberals' carbon tax plan was really intended to return this money directly to Canadian families, why did they not propose such a plan in the first place? Instead, they asked the provinces to impose a carbon tax, and any holdouts had this solution forced on them. What a load of claptrap. Whenever we bring up the carbon tax with the members of this government, their story changes by the hour, and unfortunately, nothing is being done to help our planet.
We are here to discuss a real issue for Canadian families and indeed for all Canadians, namely the consequences of the 's mistakes. He is making Canadians across the country pay for his failures and for his inability to balance the budget. That means taxes will go up again, which will leave us more vulnerable to a possible economic downturn. Again, that is not something that is happening today, but it is something we can expect to happen, and Canadians will be the ones paying the price.
In 2015, the promised to balance the budget in 2019. Today, I just heard a speech about honesty in politics, openness and how to get people to pay more attention to politics. How can we trust a party whose leader promised over and over that if Canadians voted for him, he would post small deficits, then an even smaller deficit, and ultimately return to a balanced budget in 2019? That claim appears in his platform and was repeated many times. It was not just anyone saying it, it was the party leader, the person leading the government today.
What happened when that party took office? Once it got what it wanted, it no longer felt obligated to keep its promises and commitments and to run only small deficits, so we now have enormous deficits. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Department of Finance, with this government, it will take years to balance the budget. With a party that does that sort of thing, where is the honesty, justice and transparency for Canadians?
Every year that the Prime Minister runs deficits, he is borrowing money from future generations, my children and grandchildren and those of all Canadians. One day, someone will have to pay back that money. Unfortunately, it is our future generations that will have to pay for this 's mistakes, mistakes he will continue to repeat as long as he is the head of government. It is time to put an end to this government before the damage becomes irreversible.
That is why our motion today calls on the government to do one simple little thing. It would take the Prime Minister's Office two minutes to agree to the request in the motion we moved today. We just want the to confirm in writing that he will not raise Canadians' taxes any more. When the Prime Minister is in the House for question period, he can often be seen signing all kinds of documents. If he wanted to, he could take two minutes tomorrow to write up a little note saying that he promises not to raise Canadians' taxes any more.
However, judging from the speeches today and everything the Prime Minister and government members have said, they clearly have no intention of making any such promise. Why? Because they have no intention of keeping it.
Our motion summarizes the facts. I would like to take a closer look at it because I think that will be helpful to Canadians who will soon have an opportunity to put an end to the mandate of a who is more concerned about image than about Canadians' well-being. The only thing he is really interested in is Canadians' money, and that is because he needs to cover his massive deficits.
The motion begins as follows:
(a) 81% of middle-income Canadians are seeing higher taxes since the government came to power;
The fact is that the people of my riding, Mégantic—L'Érable, simply do not believe that the Liberal government has improved their lives in any way, shape or form since 2015.
The motion goes on:
(b) the average income tax increase for middle income families is $840;
Despite the government's rhetoric, it is always careful not to mention all the schemes it is using to try to take more and more money out of the pockets of middle-class Canadians, the very ones it claims to want to help.
Of course, the does not need to worry about a tax hike of $840. However, for many Canadians who are just $200 away from not being able to pay their bills every month, that is a lot of money.
Returning to the text of the motion, it continues:
(c) the government's higher Canada Pension Plan premiums could eventually cost up to $2,200 per household;
This is another Liberal government scheme. The Liberals take Canadians for granted, and they know full well the money will eventually run out because they keep posting deficit after deficit.
Every measure the government takes ends up with the need to come up with even more money. Where is the Liberal government going to get the money to pay for its out-of-control spending? Obviously, that money is going to come out of the pockets of Canadians in the middle class and those working hard to join it, as the government likes to say. They are the ones who have to pay for the 's mistakes.
The government is looking for money, but the benefits will not materialize until much later. By some magical thinking that I cannot even describe, the Liberal government thinks that the money will somehow end up in taxpayers' pockets. However, anyone who pays for a phone bill, power, bill, heating, groceries or a child's education knows full well that the family budget does not balance itself.
According to the Fraser Institute, more than 90% of Canadian families will pay more in taxes once the Liberals' increases in Canada pension plan contributions are fully implemented by 2025.
It goes on:
(d) the government cancelled the Family Tax Cut of up to $2,000 per household;
The government, however, claims to want to help families.
(e) the government cancelled the Arts and Fitness tax credit of up to $225 per child;
Thousands of Canadian families got a nasty surprise when the Liberals announced they were eliminating this tax credit, even though this was not mentioned in their election platform. This decision had an impact on hundreds and even thousands of young people. I know that many young families decided not to register their children in certain courses. Some children were deprived of their physical and cultural activities just because their parents could not afford it.
At one time, I was the head of a gymnastics club. I know just how hard the parents who volunteer at these clubs work to bring down costs as much as possible so that children can practice their sport. The more competitive an activity, the greater the cost. As the head of a club, I can tell you that many talented young people were no longer able to compete in their favourite sport because their family could not afford it.
Children are the big losers when a fitness and arts tax credit is eliminated, along with the parents who volunteer and the clubs themselves, which work hard to succeed.
The motion states the following:
(f) the government cancelled the education and textbook tax credits of up to $560 per student;
(g) the government's higher employment insurance premiums are up to $85 per worker;
(i) the government's intrusive tax measures for small business will raise taxes on thousands of family businesses all across Canada;
This is a shameless attempt to dip into farmers' pockets.
I could go on for another 20 minutes, and unfortunately I had a lot more to say, but my time is quickly running out.
I want to conclude by saying that we are right in demanding that the to provide written confirmation that he will not further raise any taxes on Canadians.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the very comprehensive motion before us, which is focused on taxes. A lot of it is focused on not raising taxes in the short term. However, most importantly, we also do not want to see this continuing growth of our deficit and debt in the long term. Therefore, it is about both the taxes of today and the taxes of tomorrow.
As we know, and as any family knows, a certain amount of income comes in, and there is only a certain amount of debt it can service. The current government seems to have an outrageous problem with spending.
If we go back to the campaign of 2015, the Liberals promised a balanced budget. They would run small deficits for the short term and then get back to a balanced budget. They predicted a recession and that things would be difficult. The former Conservative government left them with not only a balanced budget but things in place to create success in the economy. I would argue that the success of the economy, at least in the first couple of years, had nothing to do with the Liberals' policies but was a result of the appropriate moves the former government made, which left them in a good position.
Not only have the Liberals had deficits, they have had good times. Their argument was that they might have to spend a little money to stimulate the economy. Well, if we have to stimulate the economy in bad times and stimulate the economy in good times, and increase debt as we do it, we will run into a whole bunch of problems, and that is exactly what the government has done.
Quite frankly, I know a lot of people who call themselves Liberals. They were certainly Chrétien-Martin Liberals. They remember the 1990s. They remember the challenges of the massive problem we got ourselves into in terms of debt that was increasing and the very difficult job of getting ourselves back into a reasonable fiscal position. I will give the former Martin-Chrétien group credit for recognizing that there was a serious issue and for making some of those hard choices. Of course, they paid down some of the debt. The Conservative government, in good times, before the global recession, also paid down significant debt.
What we have is a Liberal government that made a specific promise, and quite clearly it has broken it. A recent report by the Macdonald–Laurier Institute says that the Liberals are leaving what will be a really unfair tax burden on our children and grandchildren. When they talk with pride about spending money here and spending money there, what they really mean is that they are leaving debt for our children and grandchildren. Perhaps they should look more closely at that. This report is not from a right-wing think tank. It is a very reasoned report in terms of the current situation. It is saying how unfair it will be to our children and grandchildren if they continue in this way. Quite frankly, we cannot afford another four years of this total disregard for taxpayers' dollars and how they spend it.
What we are talking about is a lot of taxes. The Liberals have a desire to spend money and have a very tough time saying no to anything. They are trying to find ways they can pay for this spending and maybe not have that debt look quite as significant and severe.
Let us talk about some of the things they have tried to do in terms of sneaking in extra taxes to pay for their out-of-control spending. We all remember the changes the Liberals were going to make for small businesses and the uproar from small businesses across the country. The Liberals backed away partially from that move.
We all remember what happened all of a sudden for someone who worked in a McDonald's and maybe got a complimentary Big Mac meal. These people make minimum wage, but they might get a meal. All of a sudden, government wanted to tax that as a taxable benefit. The Liberals quickly heard that that was not going to work. They could not get tax money there, so they backed off from that.
Then the Liberals were going to try to tax health and dental benefits. Again, they quickly heard an uproar and moved back from that idea.
Then, of course, who could forget when the CRA decided to go after diabetics, who have huge challenges in terms of the management of their disease and the number of hours that they have to spend managing their disease? All of a sudden, the Liberals decided that managing a chronic disease such as diabetes was not really that bad and that diabetics really did not deserve to have the disability tax credit.
What we see are broken promises, out-of-control spending, the inability to not say yes to everything, and now the Liberals are looking for ways to actually pay for what they are spending.
So far the Liberals have backed off from these unpopular decisions, but as I have indicated, if they are in power for another four years, we could see not only those issues coming back to the table but many more that might be up their sleeves.
Let us go a little more into taxes and what is truly happening in the real world for small business operators. I am going to use an example.
I met with a number of people who sell small boats, little fishing boats, and they are scattered across British Columbia, where we have beautiful lakes.
In the summer these businesses were saying that the aluminum tariffs were really going to be a challenge for them, because they had to order right then for their product to arrive for the 2019 season. They were asking if the tariffs were going to be removed and whether they should wait a few weeks or months to do their orders, because it would have a very significant impact on their business if every boat they brought in from an American manufacturer was subject to a significant tariff.
I could not answer that question at the time, and it is a good thing I did not answer it, because had they decided not to order their product, they would still be looking at the same issue many months later. They would not have any product coming in. What many of them had to do was just go ahead, do the order and pay the tariffs, which would be passed along to the consumers.
Not only that, but at the same time, these business owners in British Columbia were being hit with an employee health tax that the provincial government decided to impose. The Canada pension plan premiums are going up. All of a sudden small businesses are facing increases in payroll taxes, employment insurance, Canada pension plan, the new employee health tax and a 15% premium on the products they are bringing on.
What has happened for people like these small boat manufacturers is that they have had to lay off staff, and in some cases their businesses are no longer viable. It has been incredibly crippling. It is just raising the cost of everything, even if they have consumers who can actually afford what could be a 20% or 25% increase in terms of the product.
I have to use British Columbia as an example in briefly mentioning the carbon tax. The Liberals love to talk about how the carbon tax in British Columbia has worked so well and has been there for 10 years and is just great. What they never tell anyone is that with a stroke of a pen, what was a revenue-neutral carbon tax in British Columbia became a tax grab by the NDP government. It was done with the stroke of a pen.
The Liberals can say all they want about how they are going to give a cheque to those four provinces that do not have their own plan and how they are going to take as much out of the right as they are going to put in with their left, which no one believes, because they could never put as much in when they take that much out. No one believes it is going to be the same amount of money. More importantly, as everyone knows, it is not going to take very much—just one slash of a pen—for that to go from revenue neutral to a tax grab to pay for the Liberals' out-of-control spending.
I think we can see small businesses right there.
This is an important motion, and there are very good reasons that we have put it forward.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today about our government's significant enhancements to the betterment of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
It is important when we look at the country we are building to note the difference between the two parties that are sharing this debate with great vigour today. One party simply builds balance sheets, and that is it. We see that they are not even very good balance sheets when we look at that party's historic record. The other party is focused on building the strength of Canadians, their communities, and by extension, the country as a whole.
Our investments over the last three years, since the last election and in our first few budgets, really show where we are making a difference in the lives of Canadians. For example, the Canada child benefit, the improvements to the Canada pension plan, the investments in housing and infrastructure are all about not just building capacity in the lives of ordinary Canadians and Canadians who have real and determined needs, but also about making sure the communities they reside in also get stronger and in turn build a strong economy with new jobs that employ Canadians as we move forward together.
In fact, Canadians have been given the opportunity over the last three years to produce well over 800,000 jobs through investments we have made. That is because the dollars are getting out the door, contrary to some of the criticisms we may hear from the opposite side. They know as well as we do that the government pays the invoices on completed projects. We do not simply mail cheques to municipalities and say “Go build something.” We pay what is expended, as opposed to what is projected. That is one of the ways we apply good fiscal management to the infrastructure dollars.
It also means, however, that it appears that a lot of dollars have not been spent, when in fact those dollars are being spent in communities right across the country, including in my riding, where we have literally billions of dollars being spent in infrastructure being developed in partnership with the previous provincial government and our municipal partners.
We also have financed this by taking steps to make the tax system more equitable. Yes, we can listen to the talking points of the American-funded Fraser Institute and we can do math that has only half the equation, which is a terrible way to do a balance sheet, but the reality is that we have lowered taxes on Canadians and raised them on some who are more affluent as part of building a social contract to deliver greater capacity to the government and also greater fairness to Canadians right across the country. Since 2015, as a result of these very careful investments, we have the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years.
We often hear the Conservatives say the best social policy is a job, and while I do not think a job is a social policy but a function of good economic investment and stewardship, the reality is that when 800,000 more Canadians are working than when they were in charge, that is good news. Only a Conservative could see that as bad, but somehow that is the negativity we encounter from the opposite side.
We have also seen in the past three years that Canada has one of the fastest-growing economies in the G7. Again this is directly due to some of our investments. In fact, the World Bank has looked at the Canada child benefit. We made it tax free so that we do not send money to Canadians and then claw it back. This makes it much more robust and makes sure Canadians get it as a right, as opposed to having to go through a very complicated application process.
We are renewing and enrolling people automatically and using Service Canada to look for those gaps where people are not receiving the proper benefit. In doing so, we have invested substantial dollars into the economy. These are substantial dollars that have supported Canadian families in building good, strong, resilient kids as we move forward.
This has caused enormous economic growth in the country. In fact, because it is delivered in ways that are equal right across the country and in low-income communities, the investment into families has generated economic activities in those communities. When families have more to spend on supporting their families and their children, we see the corner store do better. We see the Canadian Tire down the street do better. We see people starting to invest in the local businesses on the main street. Then those main street businesses have the capacity to hire more people. This is one of the ways we stimulate positive economic growth. We have done that, and it is good policy.
My fear is that the party opposite wants to roll the clock back to Stephen Harper's days, when the only tax credits Canadians could get were boutique tax credits that required them to have the money to spend up front and then perhaps they would get a little back a year later. That kind of policy benefited affluent families, but it left low-income families at the side of the hockey rink, not watching their kids play. It left students who could not afford their books to begin with having to rely on skipping the purchase of all the books required for university and college courses. It was a reactionary approach to economic development. More importantly, it left low-income Canadians outside the conversation about how to better their families.
As I said, the Canada child benefit is one of the reasons why we are most optimistic about our plan and one of the ways that we measure our success, because of the number of kids that have been lifted out of poverty, which is a good thing for everybody but most importantly for those children.
We know that it is expensive to raise children. Healthy food, warm clothing and winter boots are not cheap. We know that when we can deliver those dollars and they are delivered tax free, parents do not have to worry about the taxman coming at the end of the year to claim the money back.
We also know that as we introduced the Canada child benefit the most important thing was that, in modelling that program, we modelled it with the other social programs to make sure that new dollars arriving in the front door of a family that had needs were not being clawed out the back door by other governments. We think this is also important. If we are going to make social investments, they should not displace other levels of government programs from making a difference. They need to be layered into people's lives and make a real difference.
The other thing that is important is the way in which we have done things like rolling back the age of retirement. We know this is going to prevent hundreds of thousands of Canadian seniors from falling into poverty, but then we have also looked at the impact that gender has as people age. We know that men die sooner than most women. We know that men often carry the pension and often carry a lot of wealth because of past inequities in our system. We know that if we do not specifically address single seniors, the predominance of them being women, with special top-ups, we cannot alleviate seniors' poverty either.
The increase to the guaranteed income supplement is one of those investments that targets specific Canadians in specific ways and makes their lives that much better and easier. We are proud of those investments. We will not back away from them as we move forward as a country together.
The other thing I am most proud of is the investment in housing: $5.7 billion has been invested since we took office. We know that the previous government was walking away from housing, literally in places like Alberta, pulling subsidies from seniors' residences or rent geared to income, suggesting that they could pay their own subsidies. Somehow the poor were going to subsidize the poor in some sort of assistance.
We have restored and tripled those subsidies with transfers to the provinces. We have doubled the amount of money being spent on homeless individuals and this investment of $5.7 billion has in broad numbers been invested almost one million times in Canadian households across the country. Close to 15,000 new units are being built and close to 150,000 have been repaired, keeping people in housing that is safe and secure. As well subsidies for close to 700,000, almost 800,000, Canadians have now been delivered on a month-by-month basis, making sure they have the dollars to pay the rent and stay housed.
The cost of not doing things, the cost of only focusing with a very narrow intent on the balance sheet means that we miss the opportunity to support Canadians in very dynamic ways that prevent poverty. We know from every study that has been done that the cost of poverty has a huge impact on educational outcomes and has an impact on Canadians supporting themselves as they grow older.
We also know that as we de-house people or cut housing support, it has a huge impact on the health care system. Housing is one of the most important determinants of health. When we can make these investments, not only do we employ people fixing and building the housing, but we give people a place to call home and that prevents them from falling into harm's way and in particular prevents costs accruing to the health care system, which is one of the most cost-intensive parts of the federal budget.
These programs that we have stepped up with and invested in have created not only the strong economic growth, not only the strong job numbers, but they have also been investments in ways to prevent other costs from accruing to the government. If we were to cut away these supports, it would be penny-wise, but perhaps pound foolish, as the old saying goes. In other words, cutting away these sorts of supports has a negative impact on Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
The Conservatives brag and campaign on a series of pledges that they wish to go back to the days of Stephen Harper, when we had low growth and high unemployment, when there was still $150 billion added to the deficit and there was the failure by that government, despite repeated promises, to balance the budget. They only did it by selling GM shares. That is like selling the furniture to pay the rent. When we hear proud proclamations that they want to go back to those times, I can only say that this government is committed not to doing that.
Canadians will have a choice in the next election. Canadians can decide between a party that knows the price of everything but the value of nothing, or they can choose a party that sits down with Canadians from coast to coast to coast; examines the regional differences in this country, the economic differences in this country, the opportunities that support can provide; and understands that when we grow the economy and the capacity to pay debt and keep the GDP ratio as low as we have, good things happen. Canadians are working and healthy.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the motion moved by my Conservative Party colleague today, but I do not know where to begin addressing this motion riddled with misinformation.
Canadians made a choice in 2015. They supported a plan to invest in the economy, strengthen and grow the middle class, and provide real help to the people working hard to join the middle class. We came in determined to help hardworking Canadians share in the benefits that come from a strong and growing economy, and that is exactly what we have done.
That is why our government's first action was to ask the wealthiest Canadians to pay more tax so that we could cut taxes for the middle class. We asked the wealthiest 1% to pay a bit more tax so that we could lower taxes for the vast majority of Canadians. As a result of these tax cuts, over nine million middle-class Canadians have more money in their pockets. They can save more, invest or buy what they need.
Instead of offering tax credits to millionaire families, our government created the Canada child benefit, or CCB, which is a more generous tax-free benefit designed for the families that need it most. Thanks to the CCB, nine out of 10 Canadian families are getting more money than under the previous government. This benefit has lifted hundreds of thousands of children across Canada out of poverty. In my riding, as in every riding, this benefit has made a huge difference in the lives of many families in need.
As a result of the tax cut and measures like the Canada child benefit, a typical middle-class family of four is receiving, on average, about $2,000 more each year to help with the cost of raising children, save for the future, and help grow the economy for the benefit of everyone. That is $2,000 more than that family was receiving in 2015, under the previous government.
This completely contradicts the misinformation presented in the motion moved by the member for , which is based on a study that falls apart under closer scrutiny. Naturally, since the Fraser Institute does not take the Canada child benefit into account, it is hard for it to come up with reliable figures.
The fact is that most Canadians are paying a lower effective tax rate under our government than they did under the previous government. Individuals are paying less, single-earner families are paying less, two-earner families are paying less, and single mothers are paying a lot less. The only Canadians who are paying more are the wealthiest 1%, so that we could lower taxes for the middle class.
A typical middle-class family of four is receiving on average about $2,000 more each year. That money is changing those families' lives. For example, it is helping them put healthy food on the table, clothe themselves, prepare for back to school, and buy warm clothes for winter.
Moreover, in the fall of 2017, the government introduced measures to help low-income workers, and this led to the creation of the Canada workers benefit, or CWB, in budget 2018, and I am very proud of that. The CWB is basically an enhanced, more generous and more accessible version of the former working income tax benefit. Beginning in 2019, the CWB has made it possible for low-income workers to keep more money in their pockets. This new measure will also encourage a larger number of workers to secure and keep jobs while providing real assistance to more than two million hard-working Canadians.
We also recognize that small businesses are key, vital drivers of the Canadian economy. Small businesses provide 70% of all private sector jobs in Canada. That is why, in January 2018, our government lowered the small business tax rate to 10%. In January of this year, we lowered it again to 9%. The combined federal, provincial and territorial average tax rate on small businesses is now 12.2%—by far the lowest rate in the G7.
Consumer confidence remains strong and corporate profit margins are good, which opens the door to other investments that could lead to the creation of more meaningful, better-paying jobs for Canadians.
Our efforts to build a more just and equitable society where we give more back to the middle class have helped make Canada's one of the fastest-growing economies in the G7.
Over the past three years, through their hard work, Canadians have created over 800,000 new jobs, most of which are full-time jobs. As a result, our unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in over 40 years.
Our government is also committed to advancing gender equality, which will support long-term growth in Canadian businesses. The costs of the unequal participation of men and women in the economy are not only moral but also economic. The studies are clear on that.
We also signed new trade agreements, which will create more economic opportunities for Canadian businesses in the years to come. Canada is making historic investments in infrastructure, innovation, science and research. Budget 2018 included the biggest new investment in science in Canadian history. We are also making investments in skills development and training to ensure that Canadians have the skills they need to succeed in the labour market.
The policies and measures that we put in place are in keeping with the commitments that we made during the election campaign and the course of our mandate. We have taken concrete measures for Canadians. These measures were the right thing to do to create new jobs and lay the groundwork for long-term prosperity for Canadians.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be joining this debate late in the day. Before I continue too far, I want to say that I will be splitting my time with my newest colleague, the hon. member for . I want to make sure I say that, because I am known for running on and speaking too much. I want to make sure I give the member part of my time.
I want to address some of the things I have heard during the debate so far today in the House on this very reasonable Conservative motion to ensure that Canadians' taxes do not go up again. We have had difficulty, obviously, in convincing the government of this fact. As we have seen in the Liberal election platform, it means nothing to them. Every promise that is made by a Liberal government is meant to be broken.
The most important of those promises was balancing the budget. This year, in 2019, Canadians were promised a balanced budget of $1 billion. Instead, what they have is a deficit that is closer to $20 billion. That brings up a Yiddish proverb, and members know I love Yiddish proverbs: “Anything in excess is unhealthy.” Excessive deficits, debts, and piling on the debt, are unhealthy exercises of the government's power to borrow on the backs of Canadians and future Canadians.
I am sure that a Liberal MP will stand up and say that the previous Harper Conservative government borrowed gobs of money, ignoring the fact that there was a great recession, while also conveniently ignoring that it was the Liberals at the time who called for three times as much borrowing. All they need to do is go back to a time when a certain leader, Stéphane Dion, signed a coalition agreement calling for more spending, which was three times as much as proposed by the Conservatives.
Today, the Liberals will say that the Conservatives did it too. However, the Liberals have neither a great recession to face or a minority government. They simply have an inability to spend within their means, something that every Canadian family has to do at the end of the month. If their bills do not add up, if the debits and credits do not add up to zero, or close to zero, these families would be taking on more debt which they have to pay back. They do not have the luxury of a AAA credit rating that they can just keep borrowing on well into the future. Canadian families do not have that great advantage that the Government of Canada has. It is easy for governments to borrow large amounts of money.
There is no expectation of a balanced budget until 2040. There is no chart in any of the budget documents thus far demonstrating a return to a balanced budget or the method by which the government will do so. If we add up the national debt along with Crown corporation debt, it is over $1 trillion already. It is $1 trillion right now. If we add in provincial government debt and municipal debt, it would probably be closer to $2 trillion.
The taxpayer has to pay all of that. There is no one else to pay for it. If corporations are taxed, they will simply pass the higher prices on to consumers, which is the main reason we are opposed to the carbon tax. Government document after government document demonstrates that the carbon tax, per GHG tonne, has to go up. The pricing has to go up in order to meet international obligations, in order to meet the government's own goals. The Liberal government's own documents demonstrate that the costs must go up for families.
What we saw with the Australian taxpayers, Australian citizens, was that after two years of carbon tax, they said, “We have had enough. The experiment has failed. Try something else.” That exact same scenario is repeating itself here in Canada today.
The cost of living is going up. Monthly bills are getting higher. That is the feeling that Canadians have. We all saw the reports from RBC saying that almost 50% of families are $200 away from not being able to make ends meet. That is because their daily cost of living is going up, something we call affordability. I call it the cost of living, and it is all going up.
We have had a succession of costly mistakes. There was the expropriation of the Trans Mountain pipeline by the Government of Canada. We found that the government paid the sticker price. Basically, it walked into a dealership and said, “We would like that Denali pickup truck, please.” It was told the sticker price, and then they said, “We will buy it. No negotiation is necessary.” The government bought it, just like that. It overpaid by $1 billion.
It is not the Conservative opposition saying that. It is not the New Democrats saying it. It is the Parliamentary Budget Officer saying it. The PBO did an analysis showing that the government overpaid for the pipeline.
This is a pipeline that has to be expanded, which will cost another $9 billion. After the evaluation is done, we will not even get that $9 billion back for a pipeline that today the Government of Canada is losing money on. The operating fees and royalties being paid on the contract are not equivalent to or more than the cost of borrowing the $4.5 billion. Somehow the Government of Canada is managing to lose money on the most profitable part of the oil and gas sector: the shipping. It is amazing.
When I go door to door in my community, when I talk to people in the coffee meetups we have or when I do Facebook town halls, I have a lot of oil and gas workers who are unemployed, under-employed or barely getting by, and they cannot believe we can lose money on shipping. Extraction is one thing. Running a refinery is one thing. Those are difficult parts of the oil and gas industry, the downstream and upstream, but not the middle. How do we lose money on that?
There are more mistakes. Illegal border crossers are costing Canadian taxpayers over $1 billion. We have resources being reallocated to ensure the public safety of Canadians.
The cost of government is up 25% from 2015. We heard the member for say this. This is not President's Choice; this is the Prime Minister's choice, and it comes with a 25% surcharge. We are paying more for government. I meet very few people who say that they are getting their money's worth from the federal government in terms of services provided or transfers provided. I do not think anyone on the opposition side could say that we are getting value for the money being spent by the Liberal government. We are paying for the mistakes. Canadian families are paying for his mistakes, and it is just the beginning. After the 2019 election, as the member for as well as other members on this side of the House have said, Canadians will pay even more, because that is when the full bill will come due and the decisions the government has made thus far will come to roost.
As I said at the beginning, anything in excess is unhealthy. Large government borrowing is destabilizing to the economy. I often hear Liberal caucus members claim that we have the best growth numbers ever. Everything is great. Everything is going well. However, in every single budget document tabled so far, the GDP growth numbers have been revised downwards. I wonder why. When we look at OECD numbers, we are not leading in the G7. The United States is leading. Our main competitor, main supplier, main consumer, and main client is growing faster than we are. That discrepancy between the two is pretty significant.
Our numbers keep being revised down, and we now have a stress test that will eliminate 200,000 residential construction jobs between now and 2021. We have successive government decisions that are again hurting job creation, reducing job creation, and providing an inability for the private sector to maximize the return of opportunities. We have a government getting in the way of the private sector, the energy sector, making it more difficult for Alberta's, Saskatchewan's and British Columbia's energy workers to get back to work and actually earn an income so they can pay taxes and pay fees and the companies can pay their royalties. All those things are beneficial. We have a government intent solely on obstructing and getting in the way. It is another mistake. Canadians will pay. Over the next eight months, they will pay even more, but the bill will come due only after the election.
I know that Liberal caucus members will sing and dance about how they have introduced the CPP enhancement, which will not do anything for anyone today. No senior today will gain more than maybe a few dollars, at best. The federal government's own website says that one can work for 40 years before one gets the full benefit of the CPP enhancement. That means that if 2025 is when it is fully phased in, it will be 2065. My kids will be able to take advantage of it, but no senior today will. The baby boomer generation retiring today will not get almost any benefit out of that. However, the Liberals are claiming great victory. They will use rhetoric. They will use personal attacks on members on this side of the House in both parties. They will also attack, as we saw from one parliamentary secretary, their provincial counterparts. It must be their new intergovernmental strategy to improve their relations with the provinces.
The motion before us is very reasonable. What we want to see is a commitment in the House to not raise the taxes of Canadians and to stop making them pay for the 's mistakes.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to give my maiden speech and to speak to today's Conservative motion on taxes.
I would like to start with what brought me to run for the riding of Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, and that was the passing of my friend and mentor, my predecessor, Gord Brown, who dutifully served in this House for the residents of Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes and all Canadians for many years. Gord was a great Canadian, and I learned a lot working with him. He was very generous with his time in teaching me about the work he did and the work we can do as parliamentarians for our communities.
In seeking the nomination, I had great support from my constituents and my community. The list goes on and on. There were people like Randy and Gloria Stowell, Ena and Rick Ward, Nancy and Chris McCluskey and Tory Deschamps and Erin Merkley, to name a few. With the support of those volunteers and supporters, old and new, we achieved a positive result. It brought me to be able to campaign in a by-election, where I heard about many of the things being discussed in this House today: affordability, taxes and the direction of our great country.
I had many volunteers who helped me. There are too many to name. The days started with Bob Hayes pounding in signs at all hours. There was Reilly Dwyer, my financial agent, and Michael Jiggins, Renee Jackson, Andrew McCue, Ken Neuman and Isaac Roke. The list goes on and on of people who were committed to delivering a Conservative member back to this House to advocate and fight for the things that are important to them. As I said, those are the things being discussed here today.
I would be remiss not to mention my family and the support of my mom and dad, Chris and Anne Barrett. My mom took an interest in politics very early on in life and, in fact, was raised here in Ottawa. She never sat in the gallery in the chamber to attend a debate. The first time she took a seat in the gallery was the day she watched me take my seat in this great place and took in question period. I am so blessed to have had the support and to have had them present here that day.
I had many mentors over the years, including Jack Doyle and the McCluskey family, Peter, Bonnie and Ian. Of course, I had my siblings, my sister Allison and her husband Kyle MacDonald; my brother Matthew Barrett and Sulin Quant; and Liz and Rob Waring. My in-laws, David and Arlene Bruce, filled a very special role during my by-election. My wife and I had had our fourth child, James, who arrived prematurely. They were very giving of their time and their house, along with Natalie and Mike Coulter, Tiffanie and Rob Comeau and of course, their children.
I would like to mention my grandparents, Francis and Betty Barrett. Francis was a civil servant, serving the RCMP and CSIS. They were unable to join me on the day of my swearing in but did watch from home and were so proud.
I know that right now at home, eating three bowls of plain noodles with just butter on them, are Luke, Ama and Michaela, and beside them is James, with my wife Amanda.
I mentioned that my son James arrived prematurely. That my wife Amanda knows the importance of the work done in this place was very apparent to me. After a week in hospital with James, my wife said to me, “This is great.” I looked at her, and I looked at James. They were both alive and healthy, and I thanked God and said, “Yes, this is great.” She said, “Yes, now we are not going to have a baby in the middle of an election.” She is such a wonderful supporter. She knows that I have spent my life wanting to be here. I worked incredibly hard to join the 337 parliamentarians who work in the best interests of their communities and their ridings, and I am honoured to join them. I consider it a blessing and something I have been called to. I am honoured to be here.
I did also say I would speak to our opposition motion today, and it is so important to do so. These are the things I heard about across my riding as I met thousands of my neighbours and constituents. I knocked on many doors and sat at many kitchen tables, which was a nice relief because it was very cold to stand on the doorsteps at the time.
When the Conservative government was in power, it delivered on its words with great action. That is juxtaposed against what we heard in 2015. There was a promise of three modest deficits in exchange for an infrastructure program the likes of which we had never seen.
In my riding alone, the former Conservative government delivered infrastructure, as it did across Canada. There was a $12-million investment in the Port of Johnstown, in partnership with the municipality and the Province of Ontario, and $110 million were invested in broadband in eastern Ontario. After my election, I met with chambers of commerce, business leaders and members of the community regarding access to broadband. Many would be surprised to know that many Canadians do not have access to reliable Internet for their businesses and homes and for their kids to do homework. That is sorely lacking.
Today, I call on the government to make that investment, to invest in our rural communities and invest in broadband, as the Conservative government did when in power.
The Conservatives made $25 million in investments in local infrastructure for roads, bridges and facilities across my riding, and a $60-million investment at the two international border crossings, which eased both tourism and trade in eastern Ontario and in my riding of Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes. We have seen what an effective infrastructure program can look like. We have seen what happens when a government lives the phrase “deeds and not words”. That is what we saw with the previous Conservative government.
Now we have a Liberal whose failure to get tariffs lifted after renegotiating NAFTA is hurting businesses. We have businesses that are paying tariffs when they buy the raw material and when they export the finished product. They are getting hit both times, and they do not understand why the government will not stand up for them.
Canadians are tired of paying for the 's mistakes. They know that his out-of-control spending and ballooning deficits will be the taxes of tomorrow. Tomorrow is not that far away.
On April 1, we will see the implementation of a carbon tax in Ontario. It disproportionately and unfairly targets all people, including the people in my riding of Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.
We have just experienced very Canadian, very cold weather. We have one of the coldest climates on the planet. Heating our homes is not a behaviour that needs to be corrected. Driving a car to work or taking children to dance, hockey or soccer is not a behaviour that needs to be corrected. Driving to get groceries or to the doctor is not a behaviour that need to be corrected with a carbon tax.
The good people of Westport would love to hop on the GO train to head over to Merrickville, or take the SkyTrain from Kemptville to Cardinal or take OC Transpo from Gananoque to Prescott. However, public transit is not available throughout most of my riding, and it is not available throughout most of Canada.
We need a government that is going to reduce the burden on Canadians, cut taxes and make life affordable. That is what we are calling on the government to do. That is what the residents of Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes sent me here to do, with the support of the people I listed and the support of hundreds more.
Madam Speaker, I second the suggestion from the member for , and I congratulate the member for .
I will be splitting the time with the member for .
I welcome the opportunity to speak to this opposition day motion. However, I have to admit I am somewhat saddened that the official opposition, under the leadership of the member for , would allow such an absence of truth in the written and spoken word. I say that seriously. It is becoming very obvious that there has been a great attempt in recent weeks by the Conservative Party of Canada to misrepresent the work of the Liberal government in this the 42nd Parliament.
Through my remarks today, I will deal, one by one, with the misrepresentations of the facts by the member for in his motion.
In parts (a) and (b), he tries to allege taxes are higher. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that starting off, in our very first budget, we reduced taxes for the middle class, while raising taxes on the wealthiest 1%. Specifically, the government lowered taxes on the middle-class tax bracket of $44,702 to $89,401 to 22%.
An hon. member: Wayne, you can do better than reading notes of Gerry Butts.
Hon. Wayne Easter: Maybe the member heckling over there would like to pick up the tax code and check the facts instead of listening to the rhetoric that comes out of the research department over there. All the Conservatives know how to do is not talk about facts but attack and misrepresent.
In addition, this government introduced the Canada child benefit, which will help nine in 10 families. Better yet, we made it tax free. Those two measures will mean a typical middle-class family is now $2,000 better off per year than they were under the Harper Conservatives.
In fact, for the member for Carleton's riding, the told him in question period today that 30,000 people in his riding of had lower taxes and 16,000 children in that riding benefited as a result of this government's measures with respect to the Canada child benefit.
The bottom line is that a majority of Canadians are paying a lower effective tax rate under this government as a result of the actions we have taken since 2015. Regardless of how the official opposition tries to confuse and fudge the numbers, those are the facts. Lower taxes for the middle class and better opportunities as a result for families moving forward are the facts.
On his third point, the member for talked about the government's higher Canada pension plan premiums and used an exaggerated number out decades from now. Do the Conservative members not meet with seniors in their ridings? Do they not understand the facts on the ground, that people without pensions can hardly afford to put food on the table? The Canada pension plan changes are all about that. It is not a tax, but an investment in the future of seniors so future generations of MPs in our positions do not have to see the agony of people coming through the doors when they do not have the money in their pensions to meet the necessary essentials of life.
The Canada pension plan is an important vehicle for retirement. Private pensions are disappearing across the country and around the western world. Pensions are a fundamentally important mechanism to ensure Canadians have security in retirement.
Again, pensions are not taxes but investments in the security of seniors in the future. Members who are worth their salt have seen those seniors come into their office without the money to meet their needs.
In their motion, the Conservatives came up with a number on cancelling the family tax credit. Again, they misrepresent the facts. We instituted, as I said earlier, the Canada child benefit, which has seen more money going to more families than before, stopped giving money to the highest-income families and has indexed that benefit to inflation. It is a more efficient model than the previous model, because it more effectively targets families and parents who need financial assistance.
As stated earlier, in the riding of the member for , 16,000 children will benefit from the Canada child benefit. Is the member and the leader of his party telling families in his riding that they want to do away with that and go back to the old system where their benefits were taxed? Is that what the member is saying? There are consequences to some of these points that members opposite make.
Conservatives talked about the cancelling of a couple of tax credits. Members on the opposite side maybe do not understand what a tax credit really is. Tax credits are only available to those who have the means to get them. In other words, they have to have a substantial income in order to benefit from them. That means that those who do not have that kind of income do not get the tax credits, and they are the ones who really need the chance to enter sports and other areas.
Tax credits like the ones mentioned are marginal at best, because tax credits are only helpful to people who can afford the goods and services in the first place. If people want to sign their children up for summer soccer, send their children to university and claim eligible books or any other eligible deductions, they have to have already had the money to acquire those things in the first place. Tax credits do not assist individuals who are the most financially vulnerable. There are people who live paycheque to paycheque. They do not get the benefit from those tax credits, because they cannot afford to send their kids to soccer in the first place. That is not effective tax policy. We need effective tax policy, and we need to ensure there is fairness in the tax system. That is why the tax credits were done away with and we moved to the Canada child benefit and other means.
The member's motion states that the government's higher employment insurance premiums lead to higher costs per worker. Do the members opposite believe they are telling the truth when they make that statement? Let me turn to insurance premiums in the documents from EI. In 2013 through 2016, the rate was $1.88. Today it is $1.62. Can members opposite not add and subtract? That is a lower rate: $1.88 down to $1.62. It means that the maximum annual employer premium has gone down from $1,337.06 to $1,204.31. That is not increasing premiums. Come on, folks. Let us at least lay out the truth in this place.
As a final note, we in this government invest in Canadians and the things that matter most to them. We are keeping a close eye on our fiscal track, carefully managing deficits and protecting Canada's long-term fiscal sustainability, with a steady declining debt-to-GDP ratio. Canada has, by far, the lowest net debt-to-GDP ratio among the G7 countries.
Across Canada, more Canadians are working, and middle-class Canadians have more money to save, invest and grow the economy. We will continue to stand up for the middle class, while the only plan of the Conservatives is austerity and cuts. As we have seen in this motion, we cannot believe what they claim to be facts, because they are, quite honestly, not truthful.
Mr. Speaker, rising in the House today gives me the opportunity to talk about the greatest country in the world, and that is Canada. In my opinion, the greatest value of this country is fairness. It does not matter where one comes from, what race one is, what religion one believes in, the size of one's wallet, how much money one has or who one is connected to, this country is about opportunity, fairness, hard work and our people.
We in this country are so lucky. We are rich in resources. We have oil and gas. We have iron ore, nickel, and we have diamonds. However, our greatest resource is our people, and investing in our people is what makes this country the greatest place on earth.
That is why our government believes in investing in our greatest resource, our people, and investing in their health care, in the infrastructure in their communities and helping businesses. Our plan includes investing in transit, in providing more CPP, so that our seniors will have more money in their retirement years, and increasing the guaranteed income supplement for our seniors and our vulnerable people.
Our plan included bringing forward the Canada child benefit, which impacts so many families. Nine out of ten families have more money in their pockets today to invest in their kids.
Our plan includes lowering the cost of higher education for our students, so that they can have hope and the opportunity through their hard work to become our future astronauts, construction workers, nurses, doctors and any other profession under the sun.
This is our competitive advantage. Canadians know that when everyone is at their best, when we work together, we build together, dream together, we can achieve anything.
Canadians deserve to feel confident that their hard work will be rewarded with greater opportunities and a fair chance at success. We believe that a fair tax system is fundamental to instilling this confidence. When middle-class Canadians have more money to invest, save and grow the economy, all Canadians benefit.
Right from day one, our government has taken action on this understanding. Our first legislative action was to raise taxes on the wealthiest Canadians in order to cut taxes for the middle class, and now nearly nine million Canadians are benefiting from this middle-class tax cut. Single individuals who benefit from the middle-class tax cut are saving on average $330 a year, while couples who benefit are saving about $540 a year.
We then moved to provide simpler, more generous and better targeted support to those Canadian families who needed it the most. We did this by replacing, in 2016, the old child benefit system with the Canada child benefit.
During the first year of the new benefit, over 3.3 million families received more than $23 billion in CCB payments. As a result of the CCB, 9 out of ten families were better off during that first year. These families received on average almost $2,300 more in tax-free benefits, unlike the previous program. I am proud to say that the CCB has helped to lift about 300,000 children out of poverty. What an amazing measure. The government has worked on poverty reduction for many years, but the CCB made a monumental difference in the vision we have, that no child and no family should live in poverty in our great country.
To ensure that the CCB continues to play a vital role in helping those Canadian families, our government strengthened the CCB by indexing those benefits, and we did that to the cost of living. We did that for two full years before we made an announcement. That will help to grow our economy and help our fiscal position.
This is an important achievement, not just for those looking to build a better future for their families but for all Canadians. Thanks to the middle-class tax cut and the Canada child benefit, now a typical middle-class family of four receives, on average, about $2,000 more each year to help with the cost of raising their children, saving for the future and growing our economy for the benefit of everyone.
Following this success, our government went even further to deliver tax support to those who need it most. We know that low-income Canadians are working sometimes two or three jobs so that they can join that middle class. They are working hard. We have to give them those rungs on that ladder so that they can continue to climb. They want to give their children and their grandchildren a better chance at success. Like all Canadians, they deserve to have that through their hard work and be rewarded through opportunities that we will provide.
Through our budget 2018, we introduced the new Canada workers benefit, a new tax benefit that would put more money in the pockets of low-income workers. The new Canada workers benefit builds on the former working income tax benefit, or WITB, to give even more people greater financial benefits from working. Compared with the WITB, the new Canada workers benefit will increase the maximum benefit and raise the income level at which the benefit is entirely phased out. That means now that somebody working under WITB, a low-income worker, would earn up to about $500 more. On an income of $15,000, that is a huge difference.
All together, our government's actions mean almost $1 billion of new support starting in 2019 for low-income workers under the Canada workers benefit. By increasing these financial benefits associated with joining the workforce and staying in the workforce, the Canada workers benefit is proving that the best way to take people out of poverty is through a job.
Our government knows that small business is a key driver in our economy, accounting for 70% of all private sector jobs. I know that in my riding of Mississauga East—Cooksville, from going to the restaurants or financial services or the local garages, how hard those small business people work. That is why over the years and up to this year, we have lowered that small business tax from 11% down to 10% and now to 9%. What I am hearing from my small businesses is that this is terrific. They can now hire more people and they need more people. What all the businesses around my area are asking for is more people. That is because our economy is doing so well.
Our economy has created 800,000 new jobs since we came into government. That is tremendous. What that is doing is fuelling our communities and fuelling our neighbourhoods. We know that our plan, with all of these ingredients, is working. That is what has caused these 800,000 net new jobs. We are supporting small businesses by lowering their taxes.
Last year, we showed leadership by introducing pay equity legislation in federally regulated sectors. We are committed to ensuring that women receive equal pay for work of equal value, again all of this getting back to that so important value of fairness. In many countries this is not possible but here it is and we continue to invest in that value of fairness because that is our competitive edge. However, what we hear from the Conservatives is that they want to back out. They are talking about cuts to infrastructure, cuts to investments, cuts to health care, cuts to education, cuts to our communities and cuts to the hardest-working people in Canada.
We have to give people hope. People are working hard. We want to give them hope. Through our successive budgets that is what we have done. That is what I am hearing from people in my community. They say to continue to provide these incentives and to continue to give them help so that they can invest in their families, invest in our community, invest in our country and continue to make Canada the greatest place on earth.