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Results: 1 - 15 of 307
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
We shall call the meeting to order.
We have the Minister of Finance, Mr. Morneau, here. We're still doing our study of pre-budget consultations for 2020, under Standing Order 108(2).
Minister, we have a request. Because of the makeup of the committee now, the official opposition has four members. They'd all like to get on. Is it possible to stay 10 minutes longer?
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
As you can see, I have some colleagues from the finance department here with me. If there are questions that any of you would prefer to send their way, I'm obviously happy to acquiesce.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of this committee.
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. You have my congratulations and thanks for the work that you have done in your own pre-budget consultations.
As we look ahead to our next budget, I think the first thing that we need to think about is where we are right now, and how we got there.
As shown in our latest economic and fiscal update, in December, our economy is doing well and continues to grow at a good pace. In fact, we are on track to have the second-fastest growing economy in the G7 this year.
Since 2015, the dedicated work of Canadians, supported by our investments, has created more than a million jobs, most of which are full-time. The unemployment rate is at a historic low, companies are making substantial profits, and salaries are on the rise.
But there will always be potential challenges ahead, from continuing protectionism around the world to the near-term challenges raised by the coronavirus.
Overall, Canada's net debt-to-GDP ratio remains the lowest among G7 countries, keeping our country in an enviable position among our peers. A relatively low level of debt is a major competitive advantage, and we as a government remain fully committed to maintaining it in an unpredictable world. Around the world, we've also seen the easing of trade tensions between the U.S. and China.
At home, we are calling for all parliamentarians to support swift passage of the new NAFTA, CUSMA. It's a good deal for Canadians, and it will bring us more certainty in our trade with our most important partner. We want to build on the progress of the last four years in a way that's responsible, makes a real difference in the lives of Canadians and sets us up for the future.
We must continue to invest in Canadians and to encourage economic growth, while remaining financially responsible.
As we look to budget 2020, we'll continue moving forward with our plan to strengthen and grow the middle class, make life more affordable and prepare Canada for the future.
Our parliamentary priority when the 43rd Parliament opened was to introduce a proposal to lower taxes. This proposal would raise the basic personal amount to $15,000 by 2023 and lower taxes for close to 20 million Canadians. By 2023, single individuals could save close to $300 in taxes each year, while families, including those led by a single parent, could save nearly $600 per year in taxes. About a million more Canadians will no longer pay federal income taxes in 2023 on this basis. To ensure that this tax relief goes to the people who need it most, we are also planning on phasing out the benefits of the increased basic personal amount for wealthy individuals.
This proposal, combined with measures like the Canada child benefit and the middle-class tax cut introduced by our government, would see a typical family of four be better off by more than $2,300 this year compared to 2015. Once the proposed increase in the basic personal amount is fully phased in, in 2023, this family would be better off by more than $2,800 every year.
We know that this year's federal budget will be an opportunity for us to introduce other measures that will improve the lives of people all across the country. To do this, we are inviting all Canadians to express their ideas on the ways in which we can continue to ensure the growth of the middle class and of the economy.
As you know, the Department of Finance Canada holds pre-budget consultations each year, in parallel to the important work of your committee. The consultations enable us to interact directly and openly with as many Canadians as possible, including community workers and leaders, so that their views may be considered in the process of developing the budget for 2020.
My colleagues, Minister Fortier, Parliamentary Secretary Fraser and myself began our pre-budget consultations on January 13. Since then, we have organized round tables and townhall meetings across the country. During those consultations, we hear directly what Canadians have to tell us about the subjects that concern them most.
I organized a townhall meeting in my constituency and two round tables in Western Canada, in Vancouver and Calgary, where I had the opportunity to hear comments from young people and from business and community leaders on their priorities for the 2020 federal budget.
Canadians have also told us about their 2020 budget priorities by email, through online surveys, and at round tables. This year, the pre-budget consultations are focusing on the points that we know are important to Canadians: strengthening the middle class, protecting the environment, keeping Canadians healthy and safe, and working towards reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
Through those consultations, Canadians can express their views on subjects such as those. What, in their opinion, is working and what do they see as concerns? What can we do to continue to make the cost of living more affordable? How can we create more good, well-paying jobs? How can we strengthen the middle class? What can the government do to fight climate change? What can we do to ensure that our communities are safe? What steps can we take towards reconciliation? How can we build a more sustainable future for all?
As of Monday, we have read comments from more than 18,000 Canadians through our online survey. This number is greater than last year. The survey questions focus on the four themes I mentioned earlier. Canadians have until February 21, when the consultation period ends, to tell us about their ideas.
I know this committee's pre-budget consultation work has been focused on the theme of our transition to a low-carbon economy, and I want to take a moment to outline the work that our government is doing.
Our government introduced Canada's very first national plan for climate change. Since then, we have made targeted investments to build a low-carbon economy. They include investments in energy efficiency for homes, schools, hospitals, universities, municipalities, indigenous communities, businesses, and much more. These projects help to reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and the energy bills of Canadians.
Across Canada, we are helping communities build public transit, helping reduce pollution and congestion. We are also investing in renewables and in clean tech, and we are giving businesses incentives to find innovative ways to reduce their emissions. As the low-carbon economy grows, we're making sure to attract and create the jobs of the future here in Canada. We'll keep working to reduce emissions and to grow the economy.
As we prepare budget 2020, we'll take the ideas of Canadians and put them toward our work to build an economy that works for everyone, that keeps Canadians safe and healthy, that protects our environment and that moves Canada forward on the path to reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
Thank you.
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
This is obviously a question that is very important, not only for this committee but for Canadians. We are paying very close consideration to the economic impacts of the situation we're in, as we work to negotiate toward a peaceful conclusion.
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
As you can appreciate, this is a fluid situation, and we are working together with industry and with Canadians to get ourselves to, as I've said, a negotiated situation. We're watching those impacts and trying to reduce them through discussions and ways that we can actually relieve the situation as we work through this negotiation.
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
As I think you might know, the impacts are significant on multiple fronts. They're impacting people individually, as well as individual businesses. As the situation is very fluid, it's something we're staying on top of, but we're unable to come to conclusions without—
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
I appreciate the question.
The Teck Frontier decision is an important decision. It's obviously gone through a rigorous process, a process that's coming before cabinet in the near term. One of the things that we'll be considering is all of the information that's brought forward as we determine the right step forward for—
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
As I said, what we know to be important is that we consider the rigorous process, the information that comes to cabinet, so we can look at the right decision on this going forward, and we will do that. It's coming soon.
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
The situation we find ourselves in is obviously one that's extremely challenging. We know that the path forward has to consider our objective, which is to get to a peaceful conclusion that allows our economy to function and respects all parties to the situation. So, we—
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
With respect, I wouldn't agree with that characterization. I think it's important for us to consider all the parties to this situation. That includes the peoples engaged themselves; that includes their elected representatives; that includes the hereditary chiefs, and of course that includes the businesses that are impacted and the people across Canada who are impacted by the situation.
So—
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'm not quite finished yet.
We are not excluding anyone from those discussions, and we will work as hard as we can and in a co-operative fashion to get to a conclusion that will be positive for the people engaged in this and positive for our economy.
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think it's an absolutely correct point that during the election campaign we talked about investments that we want to make in Canadians—as all the other parties did, by the way. That's an important part of the electoral process. We're working through our budget right now in order to think about how we can demonstrate fiscal responsibility and how we can ensure that Canadians can meet affordability challenges.
We remain committed to reducing our debt-to-GDP ratio. We were left by the previous Stephen Harper government, which you were part of, with a debt-to-GDP ratio and a rate of unemployment that were too high, as well as a challenging growth situation. We've been able to reduce our debt-to-GDP ratio. We've been able to significantly reduce unemployment. Of course, we've been able to increase growth, and we plan on continuing on that path.
View Peter Fragiskatos Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for being here and for the work you're doing.
On the point of deficits, I know my colleagues have raised such matters in previous meetings through consultations. Could you tell us your thoughts on what the effects would be on the average Canadian and indeed the wider Canadian economy if, in the upcoming budget, our government was to immediately move towards balancing the budget in an austerity budget?
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
First of all, it's important for me not to engage in hypotheticals, so I just want to be absolutely clear that we are not thinking about changing our approach. We believe that investing in Canadians is important. We see that the advantage we've created in terms of growth and in terms of unemployment has been very advantageous for people and for our economy more broadly.
Clearly, taking a significant amount out of the economy rapidly would have a negative impact on growth and, as a result, would have a negative impact on things like employment and wage growth. The exact implications can be estimated, but we can't get to absolute certainty; however, we can absolutely see that there would be negative growth. It would be negative on employment, and negative on actual income to people. It's not a path that we intend to go down.
View Peter Fragiskatos Profile
Lib. (ON)
In your comments, you talked about the environmental focus of the government, and this is indeed one of the themes of the budget consultations that have been carried out.
Mark Carney, as you know, is working on such matters, looking at the economy and looking at the environment and the shift towards a green economy. I'm just going to read a quote that he recently put forward and get your thoughts on this. He says as follows:
There will be industries, sectors and firms that do very well during this process because they will be part of the solution. But there will also be ones that lag behind and they will be punished.... Companies that don't adapt will go bankrupt without question.
Can you tell us the work that the government has done and wants to continue doing to help the private sector transition to a green economy in Canada?
View Bill Morneau Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think it's important that we work together as Canadians to ensure that businesses don't face the dire outcome that was predicted. Our goal is to make sure that we have economic growth and that we are able to turn to a cleaner, greener economy that allows our businesses to continue to be successful.
One of the things that I did, together with the Minister of the Environment last year, was start a sustainable finance review that came out with some important recommendations on how we could ensure that companies deal with the ramifications of climate change. This was to make sure that they represent their situation so investors can make appropriate decisions. That will encourage companies, I believe, to take those issues seriously and create a more sustainable path for themselves, and therefore a more sustainable path for our country and for the world. That's an important effort.
We will continue to think about ways we can ensure that companies are moving in the right direction. Certainly putting a price on carbon provides a price method for companies to make the correct decisions. We can also think about not only sticks but carrots, things we can invest in together with other Canadians to get us to a greener future. That's some of the thinking we're doing right now as we look towards budget 2020.
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