Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the 2021 budget, which was presented yesterday by my colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
I will begin by informing you, Madam Speaker, that I have been having technical difficulties since this morning. If I lose the connection, I will rejoin quickly.
Budget 2021 is an ambitious and bold budget that focuses on finishing the fight against COVID and laying the groundwork for a strong economic recovery. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the deepest and fastest recession globally since the Great Depression, and Canada has been no exception. Our government has laid out a plan that is committed to creating more jobs and a better quality of life for Canadians in the days and decades to come.
As we continue to push through this third wave, we know that brighter days are ahead and budget 2021 will get us there. From the beginning, we have made it clear that our first priority is to fight the pandemic and save lives. The largest immunization campaign in Canada's history is now well under way and by the end of September, Canada will have received more than enough doses for every adult to be fully vaccinated. The budget includes an additional $1 billion to help speed up immunizations and another $4 billion for our health care systems.
Our second priority is supporting people and businesses through this crisis and building back better. Budget 2021 not only supports Canadians and businesses as they work their way out of the COVID pandemic, it also invests in the future of our country. Budget 2021 proposes to extend the Canada emergency wage subsidy, the Canada emergency rent subsidy and lockdown support to save jobs and ensure businesses are ready when the economy fully reopens.
The third priority is to build back better. On this front, budget 2021 sets us firmly on a path to a brighter tomorrow. The COVID-19 recession has affected everyone, but the impacts have not been equal. In the labour market, women were hit earlier and harder and their jobs continue to recover more slowly. Long-standing gender inequities have only been amplified over the course of the pandemic, which has put decades of hard-fought gains for women in the workplace at risk.
To date, more than 16,000 women have dropped out of the labour force completely while the male labour force has grown by 91,000. This is a “she-cession”. Budget 2021 lays out an expansive jobs and growth plan that seeks to build a recovery that gives all women in Canada the ability to fully participate in our economy. It proposes providing up to $146.9 million over four years to strengthen the women entrepreneurship strategy, which allows women entrepreneurs greater access to financing, mentorship and training. We must build back a better and fairer Canada.
Budget 2021's historic investments in early learning and child care, in youth and innovation and in housing will all contribute to a more inclusive country and a more solid recovery. In particular, we are proposing a truly generational investment in a Canada-wide system of quality, affordable child care. This budget commits up to $30 billion over five years to work with provincial, territorial and indigenous partners to build this system. By 2025-26, these investments will reach a minimum of $8.3 billion per year ongoing, including indigenous early learning and child care. Our vision is to reduce costs for parents to an average of $10 a day by 2026 everywhere outside of Quebec, which already has its own affordable public system. This would start with a 50% reduction in average fees by 2022. This will make a huge difference for Canadian families.
Quebec began putting in place a universal system of child care centres more than 20 years ago, and we must learn from its experience.
Today, the participation rate in the economy for women with young children is higher in Quebec than in the rest of Canada. In fact, Quebec's rate is among the highest in the world.
The Canada-wide early learning and child care system will help more women participate in the workforce. It will also help more children get a good start in life, and it will support Canadians who need it the most. It will stimulate our economy.
We know that our economy needs a boost. Today, approximately 296,000 people are still out of work because of the pandemic, and another 247,000 are facing sharply reduced work hours, which could mean sharply reduced wages as well.
Job creation is a very important aspect of the budget. I would even say that it is a priority. The measures we are proposing will create half a million job and training opportunities for workers over coming years. There will be 500,000 jobs, including 215,000 for youth.
Young Canadians have been hit hard by the pandemic and job losses. However, the impact goes even deeper. The pandemic has had the greatest impact on youth mental health.
We cannot sacrifice Canadian youth because of the pandemic. The budget therefore includes assistance for young Canadians, including those from low-income households, who wish to pursue and complete their education, and provides additional relief from student loan debt.
In the 2021 budget, we are also continuing to help Canadian businesses, particularly small and medium-size businesses, adopt new technologies. The pandemic has hastened the economy's digital transformation. Businesses, workers and consumers are doing more and more business online. By helping businesses shift to digital, we are helping them become more productive and create good jobs, including for young people.
The budget measures also consolidate Canada's position as a world leader in research, innovation and the economy of tomorrow. That is what building back better means.
We know that the COVID-19 recession has also widened the gaps in access to housing for Canadians. These gaps must be closed if we want to build back better. The investments included in budget 2021 would provide thousands of families with safe and affordable places to call home. In real numbers, $1.5 billion in additional funding for the rapid housing initiative will add 4,500 new affordable housing units, on top of the 4,700 units that were already funded through the program in the fall 2020 economic statement.
The budget provides an additional $567 million over two years for the reaching home program: Canada's strategy to end chronic homelessness. Let me tell colleagues that this investment in affordable housing will make a real difference in Ottawa—Vanier, the riding I have the honour to represent. Just yesterday evening, I had the opportunity to speak with local stakeholders at the Shepherds of Good Hope, who told me how critical it is that we do whatever it takes to end chronic homelessness.
We are also proposing to enhance the affordable housing innovation fund. This would create up to 12,700 units in addition to the 17,600 units supported by the program to date.
These investments would not only make sure that tens of thousands of families have safe places to call home, they would create good, middle-class jobs and prosperity.
We know that the COVID-19 recession has also widened the gaps in access to housing for Canadians. These gaps must be closed if we want to build back better. The investments included in budget 2021 would provide thousands of families with safe and affordable places to call home.
In real numbers, $1.5 billion in additional funding for the rapid housing initiative will add 4,500 new affordable housing units, on top of the 4,700 units that were already funded through the program in the fall 2020 economic statement.
The budget provides an additional $567 million over two years for the reaching home program: Canada's strategy to end chronic homelessness. This investment in affordable housing will make a real difference in Ottawa—Vanier, the riding I have the honour to represent. Just yesterday evening, I had the opportunity to speak with local stakeholders, including the Shepherds of Good Hope, who told me how critical it is that we do whatever it takes to end chronic homelessness.
We are also proposing to enhance the affordable housing innovation fund. This would create up to 12,700 units in addition to the 17,600 units supported by the program to date. These investments would not only make sure that tens of thousands of families have safe places to call home, they would create good, middle-class jobs and prosperity.
Increasing the amount of affordable housing is one of the many things this budget does to support and strengthen the middle class. This is a priority, and it should come as a surprise to no one. Since day one, this government has made consistent efforts to support the middle class.
Early in both of our mandates, we cut taxes for middle-class Canadians. Millions of Canadians are benefiting from these measures and the reason for them is quite simple. We cannot have a strong economy without a strong middle class. It is a matter of fairness. Fairness is also why we have raised the taxes on the wealthiest 1% while lowering taxes for the middle class.
We also know that we have to work hard for all Canadians who want to join the middle class. The 2021 budget enhances the Canada workers benefit, which, over six years, will put almost $9 billion into the pockets of Canadian workers in low-paying jobs. This is an important investment because, in all of our ridings, low-paid workers are often the front-line workers in our local grocery and hardware stores.
These workers need more help to pay their bills. The proposed changes mean that, for the first time, single parents working full-time will be eligible for up to $2,403 in non-taxable financial assistance. To allow more Canadians to join the middle class, our government intends to introduce a $15 minimum wage, keeping its promise to Canadians.
Building back better means helping those most in need and supporting businesses wisely. The 2021 budget will allow businesses to immediately expense a large portion of their investments. This will be particularly useful for small and medium-size businesses, because it will make growth-stimulating investments more attractive. It will also free up capital that can be used to create more good jobs.
To create more jobs and support green growth, the budget will also reduce the tax rates of businesses that manufacture zero-emission technologies. All of these measures will improve Canada's competitiveness, attract investment to the country and create good, well-paid jobs.
Strong small businesses and resilient communities are the backbone of a strong economy and a growing middle class.
We have seen some encouraging signs of recovery. Canada's real gross domestic product rose by almost 10% in the fourth quarter of 2020, building on a record gain of over 40% in the third quarter. This is obviously good news, but we know those numbers do not tell the whole story. A recovery plan that would focus on GDP alone would risk leaving people behind, and we do not do that.
Even before the pandemic, the government was clear: We need to look beyond the gross domestic product, or GDP, if we really want to grow the economy for the welfare of all Canadians. Statistics like the GDP tell us about the growth of economic activity overall, but do not say much about the quality of life of a family with two children that cannot find affordable housing.
An effective recovery plan is one that helps these families find a place to live, helps their children on the path from day care to university, gives parents the training they need to find and keep good jobs, and protects grandparents as well. In short, we need a recovery plan that allows these families and all Canadians to enjoy a good quality of life, as well as growing the GDP.
COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on the quality of life of many Canadians. I am obviously thinking about the impact on health, but many of our fellow Canadians are also at grips with job loss, mental health issues and social isolation.
The pandemic has highlighted inequities in many societies, and Canada is no exception. We can do better, and we must do better. Budget 2021 proposes measures to improve the quality of life of many Canadians. As I have said earlier, it would give every child the best start in life by establishing a Canada-wide early learning child care system. This would also support parents who want to work because, without child care, parents, often mothers, cannot work.
Budget 2021 would also help ensure that seniors and those in care live in safe and dignified conditions by helping provinces and territories strengthen long-term care. It would increase old age security for seniors aged 75 and more. It would help young Canadians complete their education and get a job by making education more accessible and by creating job skills development and work opportunities.
It would help more families find a safe place to call home thanks to new investments in affordable housing. It would lift nearly 100,000 people out of poverty with the proposed changes to the Canada workers benefit by expanding eligibility and, for the first time, providing substantial support for full-time minimum wage workers. As well, this budget proposes to create the new Canada recovery hiring program, which would allow businesses hard hit by the pandemic to hire the workers they need during the economic recovery. It would also accelerate access to high-speed Internet in rural and remote communities, but it would not stop there.
Advancing a national action plan to end gender-based violence would give survivors reliable and timely access to protection and services. Addressing the gap in health outcomes faced by first nations, Inuit and Métis people through a broader approach to health and well-being would lead to healthier, safer and more prosperous indigenous communities.
We have also committed to promoting both our official languages thanks to historic investments aimed at supporting the vitality of official language minority communities and fostering bilingualism in Canada.
Budget 2021 earmarks more than $390 million for this initiative, including $8.7 million for the modernization of the Official Languages Act. Moreover, our enhancement of the women entrepreneurship strategy will give businesswomen greater access to financing, mentoring and training activities.
The budget will also enhance diversity in business governance. In short, economic growth is important, but we also need to measure our qualitative progress to be able to develop the appropriate policies. In this regard, I would like to point out that quality of life is already a criterion for government decision-making, and it will continue to guide our efforts to improve Canadians’ quality of life.
Budget 2021 is truly a recovery plan for jobs, growth and resilience. For jobs, this budget would create half a million new training and work experience opportunities for Canadians. For growth, the investments in early learning and child care, small businesses, students, innovation, housing and the green economy would lead to a growth that benefits everyone. As for resilience, after more than a year of battling COVID-19 day in and day out, I think we can all say that Canadians are resilient.
Budget 2021 would strengthen that resilience by supporting those who are under-represented in the economy, fighting climate change, building on innovation and moving forward with reconciliation with indigenous peoples. It is time to finish the fight against COVID and to invest in a better, fairer, greener, more prosperous and more innovative Canada.
Canadians have been battered by COVID-19, but we will overcome the pandemic. In fact, not only will we overcome the pandemic, we will rebuild a more prosperous country and economy for all Canadians.
The 2021 budget contains measures to heal the wounds left by the pandemic and to help Canada bounce back and become even more prosperous, both for us and for the generations to come.