Mr. Speaker, our government not only delivered a prudent, balanced budget, but one that also contains important measures to address the priorities of Canadians. I am pleased to take the opportunity to discuss a few highlights today, and I will be sharing my time with the member for Burlington.
Just as our government has worked hard to bring forward a balanced budget, every day Canadian families are also working hard to balance their budgets, and that is one of the reasons I am particularly happy about budget 2015: because it supports Canadian families in meaningful ways.
We have recognized that each family is unique. We are not attempting a one-size-fits-all solution, as some of the opposition members are proposing. One such example is the universal child care benefit, which would give families $1,920 per year for each child under six and $720 per year for children six through 17. This money could be used for the needs of children in whatever way parents choose.
As promised, our government implemented income splitting for families with minor children. This allows many families to be in a lower tax bracket, keeping more money in moms' and dads' pockets.
We have also increased the children's fitness tax credit to $1,000, helping to provide children with the opportunity to participate in the sports they love and build the habit of a healthy, active lifestyle. These tax measures and benefits provide relief for 100% of families, primarily hard-working middle-class families.
Our government's measures provide tax relief and benefits of up to $6,600 for an average family of four. That is almost $7,000 per family each year. I know from experience that raising a family is not inexpensive, and although my children are now grown, I can appreciate what these measures would mean to Canadian families with young children.
Statistics show that 11 million Canadians have eagerly made use of the tax-free savings account. Budget 2015 increased the annual contribution limit to $10,000 each year. I have had numerous constituents in my riding who are quite excited about this new saving opportunity.
I have just highlighted measures that benefit families raising the next generation of Canadians, but I would also like to talk about how budget 2015 benefits our seniors, those who have spent their lives building Canada into the proud nation that it is today.
The financial state of our seniors has seen great improvement. Canada's low-income rate for seniors has fallen from 21.4% in 1980 to 5.2% in 2011. That is one of the lowest rates in the industrial world.
Budget 2011 introduced the largest GIS increase in over 25 years, investing more than $300 million per year to further improve the financial security and well-being of more than 680,000 seniors across Canada.
Our government has also implemented pension income splitting for pensioners. In 2014, a single senior can earn at least $20,054 and a couple at least $40,108 before paying federal income tax. As a result of the actions our government has taken since 2006, approximately 380,000 seniors have been removed from federal tax rolls completely.
Over the last few years, many of the seniors in my riding have written to me about the need to adjust RRIF rules to bring them into alignment with the increased lifespan of seniors. In response to their letters and calls, I addressed this issue with the Minister of Finance. Budget 2015 significantly reduces the minimum withdrawal factors for RRIF, allowing seniors to preserve more of their retirement savings.
As well, budget 2015 introduces the home accessibility tax credit for seniors and persons with disabilities so that they can continue to live independently in their own homes.
Speaking of those who have contributed to building our nation, there are those who have put their very lives on the line to defend our nation's freedom and security: our veterans. In Don Valley West, we are proud to be the home of Sunnybrook, the largest veterans centre in Canada. I enjoy serving the veterans in my riding and I am thankful that our government continues to place their care as a priority.
The government has continually made important improvements to the new veterans charter to meet the needs of veterans.
Economic action plan 2015 further demonstrated this growing commitment. This includes implementing the new retirement income security benefit for moderately to severely injured veterans, expanding access to the permanent impairment allowance to help compensate disabled veterans for the loss of career opportunities, modifying the earning loss benefit to ensure that part-time reserve force veterans have access to the same level of income support as regular full-time reserve force veterans, and increasing the level of individualized care to veterans requiring regular support by improving the ratio of veterans to case managers.
In addition to the measures in the 2015 budget, we have also opened new front-line mental health clinics across the country. The new family caregiver relief benefit will provide veterans who have a service-related injury with an annual tax-free grant of over $7,000 to provide caregivers in the home with flexibility or relief while ensuring that the needs of the seriously injured veterans are met.
All these benefits build on our record of keeping our economy strong by defending Canada at home and abroad, enhancing national security, and standing up for our veterans.
I have spoken about various groups of people and what the budget means for them. Now I would like to take the opportunity to highlight what budget 2015 holds for an issue that I hear about from every age group and from many walks of life in my riding of Don Valley West: the issue of transit.
One of the most common complaints I hear from Toronto constituents has to do with congested traffic and gridlock. This year's budget held particularly good news for Toronto: the new innovative public transit fund will invest an additional $750 million over two years starting in 2017-18, and $1 billion per year ongoing thereafter.
Our mayor said of the new innovative public transit fund, “This is a major step forward for Toronto and for the country” and said, “The federal government committed to establishing a dedicated, national fund to invest in public transportation. This is good news for Toronto and for cities across Canada.”
This new transit fund is in addition to the ongoing funding already in place through the new Building Canada plan, which continues to provide $5.35 billion per year on average for infrastructure, and in addition to the gas tax fund.
I feel very few people know about the Building Canada plan and the gas tax fund, and even fewer understand how these programs have already impacted their cities and municipalities, and specifically, in my case, the city of Toronto. For example, since 2006, through the gas tax fund, the Government of Canada has invested more than $2.2 billion to support municipal infrastructure projects across the GTA. Our government doubled and extended the federal gas tax fund and made it permanent. This is a dedicated, predictable, and flexible source of infrastructure funding for municipalities.
Despite all contrary claims, since 2006 our investment in infrastructure has been at the highest level and length ever seen in Canadian history. Being a businessman, I like solid numbers without the spin. The facts cannot be clearer. I am proud of our government's record investment in infrastructure.
Another issue that I often hear addressed by all age groups is health care funding. The administration of health care is carried out by the province, but the federal government contributes to the funding. This year the Province of Ontario will receive record high transfer payments from our government to support health care, education, and social programs. Ontario will receive $20.4 billion in federal transfers this year alone. This is an increase of 88% from under the old federal Liberal government, which radically slashed transfer payments to the provinces. We will never do that, nor will we allow it.
Our government's balanced budget and our low-tax plan for jobs, growth, and security are just further demonstrations of our strong leadership for Canada, leadership that has been consistently demonstrated and carried out through action. This year's economic action plan 2015 is no exception.
I look forward to seeing the bright future of our growing, beautiful country, one that we are all proud to call home.