On behalf of the 3.3 million members of the Canadian Labour Congress, we want to thank you for the opportunity to present our views today. The CLC brings together workers from virtually all sectors of the Canadian economy, in all occupations, and in all parts of Canada.
Part 1 of Bill C-59, which we're speaking to today, would implement a wide variety of income tax and related measures. Today our comments will be limited to three provisions: reducing the required minimum amount for withdrawal annually from the RRIF; increasing the annual contribution limit for the tax-free savings accounts; and renewing the accelerated capital cost allowance for investment in machinery and equipment.
First of all, in terms of retirement security, the changes to the RRIF withdrawals and the increases to the tax-free savings accounts are measures that are both related to retirement security, but it will be no surprise to members of this committee that the Canadian Labour Congress feels that expanding the Canada pension plan is a much better solution to the looming retirement security crisis in Canada. Changes to RRIF withdrawals benefit older workers who already have RRSP savings, but they do little for workers without the means to save through RRSPs. This is significant because only a third of Canadians today contribute to RRSPs, and the unused RRSP contribution room reached $790 billion in 2013. Eleven million workers in Canada have no pension plan other than the CPP. At the same time, the annual contribution limit for the tax-free savings account would increase to $10,000, as has already been discussed, and this measure would have an estimated cost to federal revenues of $1.1 billion by 2019.
Even at the maximum annual contribution of $5,500, the TFSA is projected to cost the federal government up to $15 billion annually, and cost the provinces another $8 billion when the program is fully mature. Doubling would further increase this cost almost exclusively to the benefit of higher income earners. In contrast, expanding the CPP would benefit all workers, follow workers who change employers or who have multiple employers, and be simple for employers to administer.
In terms of supporting manufacturing, we recognize that as a result of globalization, unfavourable trade deals, a high dollar, and the most recent recession, manufacturing in Ontario and across Canada has experienced devastating losses over the past decade. In recognition of this reality, we have long supported renewing the accelerated capital cost allowance for investment in machinery and equipment. This measure was first introduced in 2007, renewed in 2011 and 2013, and would now be renewed until 2026. While we support this measure, we want to note that corporate tax cuts have failed to spur business investment. In the same vein, we feel that continuing this accelerated capital cost allowance would be insufficient to support a struggling manufacturing sector in Canada.
Coming out of the recession, business investments in manufacturing have been very slow to rebound, despite the continuation of the accelerated capital cost allowance. In October 2014, the monetary policy report released by the Bank of Canada suggested that this is in part because of a semi-permanent loss of capacity in several manufacturing export sectors. Low interest rates and low taxes have not been sufficient drivers of growth. Weak and uncertain demand have played a significant role in subdued investment. All signs point to the need for the federal government investment in infrastructure to spur growth and therefore boost business confidence and private investment.
A singular focus on tax cuts has significant drawbacks. We note that while the budget 2015 documentation mentions the importance of investment in skilled labour in the same sentence as it mentions investment in machinery, government action on this front has been noticeably absent.
Let me remind the committee of some of the recommendations the Canadian Labour Congress has made in the past that would make a difference to investment in skilled workers.
One, establish a national skills council that brings key stakeholders together to identify skills gaps and develop strategies, policies, and programs to address them.
Two, establish a mandatory national workplace training fund. Employers with a payroll of more than $1 million who fail to invest 1% of their payroll in training should pay the shortfall into a public fund that is used to finance work-related training initiatives.
Three, increase funding for the labour market agreements, the LMAs, with the provinces and territories to help vulnerable unemployed workers, including immigrants, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, women, older workers, younger workers, and less skilled individuals.
Four, mandate employers to hire and train apprentices. The federal budget should ensure that those projects receiving federal dollars through the new building Canada fund and the investment in affordable housing program mandate employers to hire and train apprentices.
This budget further erodes the fiscal capacity of the Canadian state and rejects the opportunity to take advantage of exceptionally low borrowing costs and invest in the current and future needs of working people in Canada.