Mr. Andrew Saxton (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity today to highlight some of the key initiatives in economic action plan 2013 act no. 2.
I would like to begin by saying that our government is very proud of the steps we are taking to support the economy through today's legislation. As always, we want an open, public, and timely debate on these measures; we also look forward to a detailed committee study in the House and in the Senate.
In keeping with previous budget legislation under our government, in addition to having the bill studied by the finance committee, we will recommend even further study to the provisions in today's legislation. It is for that reason that we will be asking the following committees to look at certain portions of the bill: citizenship and immigration; human resources, skills and social development and the status of persons with disabilities; and justice and human rights. Indeed, I will move a motion at the finance committee to this effect once second reading is completed by the House.
I hope opposition members will give their support at second reading as an indication that they genuinely want these committees to study the legislation instead of just playing political games.
On that note, let me outline why the opposition should support this legislation.
Economic action plan 2013 builds on the strong foundation that was laid last year. In addition to the portfolio of initiatives we have introduced since 2006 with affordable measures to create jobs, promote growth, and generate long-term prosperity, it will help to further unleash potential for Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate and thrive in the modern economy.
Let us revisit the facts.
Today Canada has the strongest job growth among G7 countries since the recession. Our unemployment rate is at its lowest level in four years. It is significantly lower than that of the U.S., which is a phenomenon that has not been seen in nearly three decades. Meanwhile, we have created over one million net new jobs, nearly 80% of which are in the private sector, and our government continues to make new opportunities for Canadians to find employment. Today's legislation does little to detract from this goal.
Both the independent International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, are projecting that Canada's growth will be among the strongest performances in the G7 in the years ahead. Real GDP is significantly above pre-recession levels and is the best performance in the G7.
While other countries continue to struggle with debt that is spiralling out of control, Canada is in the best fiscal position in the G7. Canada still remains on track to return to balanced budgets n 2015.
However, our government has been very clear that we will not raise taxes on Canadians to balance the budget. Unlike the NDP, which continues to push high-tax schemes, our government believes that keeping taxes low means more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians, and that in turn helps keep our economy strong.
A recent study by KPMG concluded that Canada's total business tax cost, which includes corporate income tax, capital taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, and wage-based taxes is more than 40% lower than it is in the United States. In short, our government has created an environment that encourages new investment, growth, and job creation, and one that ensures Canada has the strongest fiscal position and the lowest business tax costs in the G7.
Having the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7 translates into Canada having a competitive business tax system, one that plays a key role in supporting businesses in all sectors of the Canadian economy to invest, grow, and thrive.
Let me share some highlights of our tax relief initiatives.
Our government has implemented broad-based tax reductions that support investment and growth and is delivering more than $60 billion of tax relief to job-creating businesses over 2008-09 and the following five fiscal years.
For example, in order to boost investments and productivity, we reduced the federal corporate income tax to 15% from its 2007 rate of 21%.
In addition, the federal capital tax was eliminated in 2006, and the only corporate tax was eliminated for all businesses in 2008.
Furthermore, we reduced the small business tax rate to 11% in 2008 from 12% in 2007, and subsequently the amount of income eligible for this lower rate was increased to $500,000 in 2009.
Canada's system of international taxation was strengthened in order to better support cross-border trade and investment and to improve fairness.
These measures are part of a policy framework designed to increase our economy's production capacity and improve Canadians' quality of life.
Cutting federal corporate income tax and making other tax adjustments boost the assumed rate of return on investment and reduce capital costs. These measures encourage businesses to invest in Canada and hire Canadians.
That approach increases Canada's production capacity and improves Canadians' quality of life.
Economic action plan 2013 focused on positive initiatives to support job creation and economic growth while returning to balanced budgets, ensuring Canada's economic advantage remains strong today and into the future.
However, the job does not end there. Bill C-4 would implement key measures from economic action plan 2013 as well as certain previously announced tax measures to help create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and secure Canada's long-term prosperity.
Our government's low-tax plan is helping to guide the Canadian economy along the path of sustainable economic growth. Bill C-4 builds on our successes and maintains our government's focus on the economy.
I would like to discuss three key aspects of the bill today: a continued focus on job creation and support for job creators, a firm response to tax loopholes and tax evasion, and an overall respect for taxpayers' dollars.
While we believe in the benefits of lower taxes, our government fully understands that sustaining an effective tax system also rests on the foundation of tax fairness. That is why economic action plan 2013 is committed to closing tax loopholes that allow a select few businesses and individuals to avoid paying their fair share. Broadening and protecting the tax base supports our government's effort to return to balanced budgets, responds to provincial governments' concerns about protecting provincial revenues on our shared tax bases, and helps give Canadians confidence that the tax system is indeed fair.
The efforts made to ensure that everyone pays their fair share also help keep taxes low for Canadian families and businesses. In so doing, there is more motivation to work, save and invest in Canada.
Since 2006, and including measures proposed in economic action plan 2013, the government has introduced over 75 measures to improve the integrity of the tax system. Today's legislation takes additional steps in support of this objective.
Two examples include further extending the application of Canada's thin capitalization rules—which limit the amount of Canadian profits that can be distributed to certain non-resident shareholders as deductible interest payments—to Canadian resident trusts and non-resident entities, and introducing stiff administrative monetary penalties and criminal offences to deter the use, possession, sale, and development of electronic suppression-of-sales software designed to falsify records for the purpose of tax evasion.
We are also providing the Canada Revenue Agency, the CRA, with new tools to enforce the tax rules to combat international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance, all while we are taking immediate action to improve the integrity and neutrality of the tax system. Specifically, economic action plan 2013 does this by streamlining the process for the CRA to obtain information concerning unnamed persons from third parties, such as banks; requiring certain financial intermediaries, including banks, to report to the CRA clients' international electronic fund transfers of $10,000 or more; and introducing a new program to stop international tax evasion that would pay rewards to individuals who report major international tax non-compliance.
As the opposition can see, tax fairness is a basic principle that our government is committed to upholding. We make no apologies for doing so. In fact, we are proud of our record and we are building on it.
A level playing field is what Canadian businesses deserve and require, and we are delivering. For example, the Income Tax Act contains a number of provisions intended to constrain the trading of corporate tax attributes among arm's-length persons. Unfortunately, despite the various provisions intended to curtail the inappropriate trading of loss pools, transactions to circumvent these provisions continue to be undertaken.
Our government understands the need to introduce practical legislative measures to ensure that there are appropriate tax implications attached to these transactions. This bill does just that. It introduces an anti-avoidance rule to support the existing loss restriction rules that apply on the acquisition of control of a corporation.
As everyone can see clearly, our government is committed to putting in place the right framework to ensure tax compliance. The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants had this to say about economic action plan 2013:
|| The budget looks to close tax loopholes, address aggressive tax planning, clarify tax rules, reduce international tax avoidance and tax evasion and improve tax fairness. It also provides the Canada Revenue Agency with new tools to enforce the tax rules.
The statement continued with a strong backing of our initiatives and stated:
|| We support efforts to maintain the integrity of the tax base....
The bottom line is this: our government is committed to fighting tax evasion and giving Canadians a tax system they can have confidence in. There are those who would rather take advantage of the system to skip their fair contribution; Bill C-4 introduces strong new measures to combat this and would ensure that any previously mentioned measures from economic action plan 2013 come to fruition.
Lowering taxes is not the only way our government is furthering taxpayers' dollars. Canadians deserve streamlined services and efficient programs.
Today's legislation contains several measures fully in line with our government's respect for taxpayers' dollars. A few examples include modernizing the Canada student loans program by moving to electronic service delivery, improving the efficiency of the temporary foreign worker program by expanding electronic service delivery, phasing out the labour-sponsored venture capital corporations tax credit, and modernizing service delivery for Canadians by accelerating the move from paper-based to automated passport application e-services.
These are all changes that I am extremely proud to speak to. It is measures like these that demonstrate our government's commitment to making it easier for Canadians to access services that are cost-effective and efficient. While many of the changes in Bill C-4 are technical in nature, many provide clear benefits for Canadians.
I know that my constituents back home expect a fiscally responsible government. Let us take the modernization of the Canada student loans program as an example. Students in my riding of North Vancouver rely on this important program to help achieve their goals and make their educational aspirations a reality. This change in Bill C-4 would not only eliminate a cumbersome and often long process of paper agreements and identification but would also provide the government with approximately $10 million in cost savings per year. It is just common sense to provide a better service to Canadians and while saving taxpayers' dollars at the same time. It is initiatives like this that make bills like today's all the more important to pass.
I have talked about how we are working hard to make our tax system fair and how we are doing everything possible to maximize taxpayer money, but I have not forgotten about an area that Canadians have on their minds: jobs.
Quite simply, our government values job creators and we have been working hard with them in recent years to ensure that they are in the best position possible to provide jobs for Canadians.
The legislation I have the privilege of speaking about today introduces some new ways our government can support job creation in this country. Examples include extending and expanding the hiring credit for small business, which would benefit an estimated 560,000 employers; increasing and indexing the lifetime capital gains exemption to make investing in small business more rewarding; expanding the accelerated capital cost allowance to further encourage investments in clean energy generation; freezing employment insurance premium rates for three years, leaving $660 million in the pockets of job creators and workers in 2014 alone.
Let me elaborate on one of these measures that I think will have a big impact for small businesses.
Among the many ways that Canada's income tax system supports small business owners, farmers and fishermen is the lifetime capital gains tax exemption, the LCGE. In order to increase the potential rewards of investing in small business, farming and fishing, economic action plan 2013 proposes to increase the LCGE from $750,000 to $800,000 in 2014. The exemption helps these entrepreneurs better ensure their financial security for retirement and facilitates the intergenerational transfer of their businesses. In 2007 our government increased the LCGE to $750,000 from $500,000, the first increase in the exemption since 1988.
In addition, to ensure the real value of the LCGE is not eroded over time, economic action plan 2013 proposes to index the $800,000 LCGE limit to inflation for the first time ever. The first indexation adjustment will occur for the 2015 taxation year. This is added security for the small business owner and provides financial freedom to create new jobs.
The initiatives set out in economic action plan 2013 are based on domestic government measures to improve the overall strength of Canada's tax system and to once again demonstrate our government's commitment to using taxpayers' money responsibly.
With a comprehensive and forward-looking agenda, these initiatives will deliver high quality jobs, economic growth and sound public finances.
Economic action plan 2013 would allow Canada to meet these challenges and emerge from them stronger than ever today and in the future.
While the opposition continues to focus on issues that do not matter to Canadians, our government remains focused on the task at hand. Economic growth did not stop at the last budget, or the last budget implementation act, for that matter. We continue to look for ways to maximize taxpayer dollars, increase the efficiency of the inner workings of government and make certain that job creation and economic prosperity are at the forefront of any new legislation. In this respect, the bill would make significant improvements that would benefit Canadians. I urge members of the House to pass it.
Ms. Peggy Nash (Parkdale—High Park, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-4, the second federal budget implementation bill in 2013, and the fourth omnibus bill introduced in the House in the past two years. This time, the Conservatives have pushed the urgency to new levels to get their files through the House.
Bill C-4 was introduced yesterday morning and we have already started debate on a bill that is over 300 pages and that amends or repeals 70 legislative measures. This is yet more proof of the Conservatives' absolute contempt for the democratic process.
Once again, the NDP must express its opposition to these heavy-handed tactics. Canadians deserve better.
Canadians were asked to wait for an extra month for their MPs to come back to work here in Ottawa. The Conservatives said the prorogation was necessary and that it was time to reset the government's policy agenda. I certainly agree that the government's policy needs a serious redo, but that is not what Canadians heard last week in the Speech from the Throne.
Instead, despite soaring youth unemployment and nearly 300,000 more people unemployed today than before the recession, the Conservatives failed to lay out a jobs plan or take concrete action that would create good middle-class jobs.
Just today, the Bank of Canada issued a report. It said that it had significantly overestimated growth in its last report and has now lowered GDP growth projections for 2013, 2014 and 2015. That is the kind of job the government is doing. The Bank of Canada is now predicting that in 2013, GDP growth will be a meagre 1.6%. Clearly, the government's economic agenda is failing. The Prime Minister has failed miserably. I will say it again. The Prime Minister's economic agenda has failed miserably.
In fact, the government is pushing ahead with its plan to claw back $300 million from skills funding for the most vulnerable workers, even in the face of united opposition from the premiers. Bill C-4 focuses more on gutting Canadians' right to a safe and healthy workplace and prompting conflict with civil servants than it does on job creation.
Despite all the Conservative spin, Canadians know that only New Democrats can be trusted to put their needs first and to give middle-class Canadians a fair break. Canadians need a government committed to genuine consultation to get to the bottom of this. Only by working together and pulling in the same direction can we have an economy performing to meet the needs of all Canadians and Canadian businesses.
The NDP vision for the economy is one where we maximize the opportunities we have, based on our enormous advantages as a country, to deliver the best we can for Canadians.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, the economy has been at the heart of Canadians' concerns. We have faced an endless number of foreign economic threats. Our recovery was marked by fear of a debt spiral in Europe and political impasses in the United States.
Today, the Canadian economy is facing new challenges. We still face threats abroad, but we are also facing threats that originate much closer to home.
Canadian families are struggling like never before. They are caught between a rising cost of living on the one hand and disappearing middle-class jobs on the other. Over the last 35 years, income is up for the top 20% of wage earners, but down for the bottom 80%. Our economy has grown nearly 150% over that 35-year period of time and yet median household income has declined by 7%.
Professor Miles Corak at the University of Ottawa said:
|| Over the last couple of decades or more the median wage rate has hardly changed, and wage rates below the halfway point have fallen by five to as much as 10 percentage points....
|| This means that many families who face lower wage rates have to run harder just to stand still....
In my own city of Toronto, a recent report by the Daily Bread Food Bank found that almost one-quarter of the people accessing food banks have someone in their households who is working. In the 905 region, that number is almost 40%. Therefore, paid employment, even a full-time job, is clearly not always a ticket out of hunger and poverty. That is shocking. That is simply unacceptable.
In September, Statistics Canada announced that household debt had reached a whopping 166% of disposable income. More than one in eight households has a debt-to-income ratio higher than 250%; that is one in eight. Mortgage debt alone now stands at roughly one trillion dollars. In many communities the cost of housing is squeezing household budgets.
A report by the Toronto Community Foundation found that according to 2001 figures, almost one-third of Toronto region households are spending 30% or more of their total income just on housing. Among the city's renters, the number was even higher, at over 43%. According to the OECD, the Canadian housing market is now among the most overvalued in the world. Taken as a whole, Canadian household debt is now dangerously close to American debt levels just prior to the financial crisis of 2008.
Before leaving his post as governor, Mark Carney warned that mounting household debt may force the Bank of Canada to pull back on economic stimulus. While the rate of growth of household debt has slowed somewhat since Mr. Carney's departure, the Bank of Canada says that household debt is still the “biggest domestic risk” facing our economy.
All of this, the rising cost of living, coupled with stagnating wages, has major implications for domestic demands. After all, if a consumer-driven economy is to succeed, consumers need money in their pockets to spend. This is, of course, what every business knows, especially small businesses.
Earlier this year, The Economist magazine remarked on Canada's economy:
||...five years on, consumers are showing signs of flagging. ...So the authorities are casting around for another source of growth. The trouble is they cannot seem to find one.
The Conservatives promised to focus on affordability in their throne speech with a so-called “consumer first” agenda for the new session of Parliament, but Bill C-4 makes no progress for Canadian consumers. The Conservatives have made big promises about protecting consumers for seven years, but have failed time and time again to help consumers in need and consistently vote against consumer-friendly provisions put forward by the opposition.
Consumers are failed by the government. The Conservatives have been big on talk and very small on follow-through. By contrast, New Democrats have led the way on consumer protection and will be looking to hold the government members to account to ensure their actions match their words. We know that any serious attempt to tackle this complex issue has to start with an honest look at the economic conditions facing business and labour markets as well as families.
The Canadian labour market is facing significant challenges, in both the short and medium terms. Today, our unemployment rate remains stubbornly high. There is only one position available for every 6.5 Canadians looking for a job.
Even worse, youth unemployment is now over 14%, which means that the next generation of workers cannot gain the experience they will need to replace the older generation.
In my city of Toronto, one in five youth is unemployed. With households and workers facing such challenges, it is no wonder our business sector is struggling as well. We have heard the statistics, $600 billion in private money sitting on the sidelines. The former governor of the Bank of Canada has spoken about this.
While the Minister of Finance admonishes business to just step up and invest, New Democrats are more interested in working with business leaders, listening to them and finding out what the barriers are to them investing in the current climate. While Liberal and Conservative governments sat back and watched a generation of middle-class jobs disappear in Canada, pausing occasionally to wag their fingers at business for not doing better, we are more interested in working together, pulling together to create the next generation of middle-class jobs here in Canada.
Let us talk about those jobs, an area that the Conservatives have continually failed to take any action on, even in four omnibus budget bills. The real question is this. What kind of jobs are we creating?
Simply put, we want Canada to own the most profitable and productive slice of the global supply chain, 21st century knowledge economy jobs, in the most modern, innovative and energy-efficient industries, instead of falling further behind under the current government. I know that is easier said than done. However, the fact is that with as many challenges as we have ahead of us we have opportunities too. Canada has many advantages. Canada is among the most entrepreneurial countries in the world. Even through the worst of the recession, Canadian small businesses continued to thrive and multiply.
Yet one of the most disturbing trends in Canadian business development is that alarmingly few of those small businesses are growing into medium businesses and beyond. From 2006 to 2010, Canada lost more than 1,500 medium-size businesses, even as the number of small and large businesses grew. During that period, mid-size businesses were 10 times as likely to shrink or shut down as they were to grow.
Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz told the Vancouver Board of Trade:
|| A characteristic of a naturally growing economy is a steady increase in the population of companies. However, for five years after the start of the crisis, we saw virtually no increase in the population of Canadian companies.
To maximize our potential we need effective education and skills training programs so that we have innovative companies ready to adapt to a changing global economy. This means doing the best job possible to tap into first nation communities so that they can develop to their full potential, while providing a badly needed skilled workforce, especially in remote areas.
Under the current government, a generation of young Canadians is facing double-digit unemployment; precarious, uncertain, low-paid jobs; and an equally uncertain future. The unemployment rate fell in September, but only because 20,000 young Canadians gave up searching for work. Yet Bill C-4 has only deafening silence to offer on youth employment. Instead, the Conservatives are focused on ensuring that Canadian workplaces will be less healthy, less safe and less secure for workers in the future. It makes no sense.
Canadians know that the NDP is the party most focused on the next generation. New Democrats have proposed a job creation tax credit for small and medium-sized businesses as well as large corporations. Therefore, the NDP is targeting businesses that create new jobs and contribute to economic growth.
Under the NDP proposal, companies could receive up to $1,000 for hiring a young employee and an additional $1,000 in compensation for the training of that employee. The tax credit would be doubled in the regions with particularly high youth unemployment rates.
The NDP tax credit for hiring young people would benefit both young workers and the companies that hire them. Canadians do not want to be left behind or told that they have to settle for less.
We want to do better, improve the situation and show leadership. These are our objectives.
In the 21st-century global economy, Canadian cities will be the engines of economic growth. Cities are the economic hub that brings together the mix of investment, technology and talent that allows our economy to thrive. There is a growing body of research that highlights the key cluster effect that cities play in our larger, macroeconomic picture, and the role that government can play in bringing these elements together. In my own city of Toronto, we have a film and television industry that is growing at the rate of 25%, more than double the economic growth rate of China, vastly outpacing the industry as a whole because of a partnership between industry, labour and government that has delivered these results. We need more models like that. Unfortunately, we are faced with a government that does not focus on the vital role that cities play as engines of economic growth.
Bill C-4 offers nothing for cities to address the massive infrastructure deficit that is a drag on our economy. In fact the PBO revealed that under the guise of a long-term infrastructure funding plan of $50 billion over 10 years, the Conservatives had actually cut infrastructure funding in budget 2013 by $5.8 billion. This is over the next few years. It is easy to make promises for years when they will not even be in government, I suppose.
What is needed is a serious commitment to sustainable and predictable funding in our urban centres. There are some things we can just do better when we work together. Investing in our future is one of them.
We should be asking ourselves what we can do better as a nation, what we can do together in addition to our efforts as families and communities. The Conservative government keeps telling Canadians, “We'll cut your taxes, but you're on your own. Don't count on us”. Services are being cut back. Programs are being cut back. Conservatives, again in this bill, are telling Canadians that they are on their own to ensure safe and healthy workplaces. When it comes to the needs of the country's veterans, when it comes to EI financing and taking real action for a more prosperous Canada for all Canadians, they say, “you are on your own”.
Speaking to Canadians across this country, I know that people still believe we need to work together to build for a better tomorrow.
Canadians understand governments have a role to play in supporting the economic conditions that improve their lives. In dealing with broad economic problems, we need solutions that address all sides of the ledger: creating good, high-quality jobs; making life more affordable for families; encouraging Canadians to save and invest for retirement; fostering the conditions for businesses and communities to succeed; ensuring all Canadians have a place to live; investing in needed infrastructure such as transit; taking a co-operative approach with the provinces on education and training; building a future full of opportunities for Canada's youth.
We need a balanced approach that will help us succeed. New Democrats can do better. We know that Canadians deserve better and New Democrats will stand up for Canadians every day until they get better.
In my time remaining, I move:
|| That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
||this House decline to give second reading to Bill C-4, A second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures, because it:
||(a) decreases transparency and erodes democratic process by amending 70 different pieces of legislation, many of which are not related to budgetary measures;
||(b) dismantles health and safety protections for Canadian workers, affecting their right to refuse unsafe work;
||(c) increases the likelihood of strikes by eliminating binding arbitration as an option for public sector workers; and
||(d) eliminates the independent Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board, allowing the government to continue playing politics with employment insurance rate setting.
Hon. Scott Brison:
Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak about this latest budget bill.
It is another omnibus budget bill. It is 308 pages in length, and there are 472 separate clauses, including amendments to the Supreme Court Act to ensure that Justice Nadon qualifies for the Supreme Court and to correct a mistake that the Conservatives seem to have made during the nomination process.
There is much in this bill that has absolutely nothing to do with the budget. The government is, in fact, proposing to overhaul labour relations with the public service, which is one of the reasons my friend and colleague, the member for Cape Breton—Canso, will be speaking to that issue today as the critic in areas of labour for the Liberal Party and its caucus.
Last night I saw a spectacle that I have not seen in almost 17 years in this place, which was that of a government that was incapable of organizing a budget briefing for members of Parliament. The budget briefing had to be called off because the government did not have its act together: it forgot to order translations for the meeting.
Sadly, it is part of a growing pattern of incompetence from the Conservative government and its finance minister. This is the finance minister who has added over $150 billion to our national debt with his reckless spending and his bad fiscal management.
Yesterday the finance minister was asked a very simple question. The throne speech told us recently that there would be balanced budget legislation forthcoming; the question to the minister yesterday was to help clarify what that balanced budget legislation would mean. The throne speech told us that the balanced budget legislation would “require balanced budgets during normal economic times”, and yesterday the minister was asked to define “normal economic times”. He responded that normal economic times are times when the government is not in deficit.
Today the minister seemed to confirm that his balanced budget legislation would only require balanced budgets when the budget is already balanced. It is no wonder that so many Canadians are losing faith both in this minister and in the Conservative government's management of the Canadian economy.
Now we have this budget bill, a bill that utterly fails to address the real concerns facing middle-class Canadian families. Either these failures are part of a systemic problem or else they speak to an effort of the government to distract Canadians from some of its recent scandals.
For instance, the government is picking a fight with the public service, a gratuitous fight at a time when we need to work with the public service to deliver better services for Canadians and better results for taxpayers. The Conservatives are picking this fight, and I believe that it is in fact to distract Canadians. This big fight with the public service is to distract Canadians from the government's growing list of scandals, the most recent of which is the Duffy-Wright-Prime Minister's Office scandal.
We all know that on June 5, the Prime Minister said in the House that Mr. Wright acted alone and that they were not only his decisions but that they were not communicated to the Prime Minister or to any members of his office. It has become very clear in recent days and weeks that this is not true.
On February 13, the Prime Minister defended Senator Pamela Wallin and said that her expenses were fine. He stood by her and her expenses. Now the government realizes it is mired in scandal and is trying to change the channel. That is why it is picking the fight with the public service union at this time.
In this budget bill, over 80 pages of the roughly 300 pages are devoted to overhauling relations with the public service. This is something that ought to have been achieved, if in fact there was a legitimate public policy issue, in a separate piece of legislation dealt with by the government operations committee, rather than by lumping it into a large omnibus budget bill to be dealt with by the finance committee.
The government is having trouble changing the channel away from scandals. It is trying to pick these fights, but the reality is that it cannot change the channel; the Prime Minister cannot even find the remote control. Perhaps Nigel Wright took the remote control with him when he left, along with all those files from the PMO.
Speaking of changing the channel, I have never seen a Speech from the Throne in which one of the principal focuses has been on the unbundling of cable TV channels. I do not think there is any country in the British commonwealth that has devoted so much ink in a throne speech to cable TV regulation. It is not part of any grand vision for the country that addresses the real economic challenges of Canadian families, and the fact is that middle-class families are feeling squeezed. They have record high levels of personal debt, they can barely make ends meet today when we have record low levels of interest rates, and they are petrified as to what will happen in the future as rates inevitably go up.
Middle-class Canadians have seen good-paying jobs replaced by part-time work, and for young Canadians there are still 224,000 fewer jobs today than before the downturn. The gap between Canada's youth unemployment and the so-called adult unemployment rate for people 25 years of age or older hit an all-time high this year. With the economy sputtering forward, our youth are being left behind, and this is not affecting just young Canadians: it is affecting their parents and, in many cases, their grandparents, who are footing the bills. According to TD Bank, more than half of baby-boom parents are providing financial support to adult children who are no longer in school and 43% have allowed their adult children to live at home rent-free for extended periods.
This is also contributing to higher household debt and lower retirement savings for parents.
It is time for the government to get serious about this issue and provide more support for young Canadians in need.
Helping adult children make ends meet is actually leading middle-class Canadian families into taking on a lot of additional debt and dipping into their retirement savings. It is also one of the reasons that Canadian parents 55 years or older are two and a half times more likely to refinance their mortgage if they have children than if they do not, and their average household debt is actually twice that of their childless peers. They are more likely to take on higher non-mortgage debt, such as higher credit card debt and lines of credit, which is one of the reasons non-mortgage debt in Canada continues to climb, with an average Canadian now owing over $27,000 in non-mortgage debt.
The Conservatives refuse to acknowledge these real financial pressures for young Canadians and their families, and instead of helping youth get meaningful work experience, they have actually cut the government's own summer jobs program by half. In their latest throne speech, more time was spent talking about finding the Franklin expedition than in helping Canadian youth find jobs. This is a government that is out of touch. It wants to make cable TV cheaper for Canadian youth, but it is doing nothing to help youth get away from the TV and into meaningful work opportunities.
The throne speech never once acknowledged the record level of high personal debt in Canada, and neither did this budget implementation bill. This bill does nothing to kick-start the Canadian economy for young Canadians and create jobs. It does nothing to help young Canadians and their struggling families and, consistent with the throne speech, it offers no real vision for the future.
Certainly some freezing of EI rates and keeping the small business tax credit in place helps, but it is nothing new and it is not good enough. Right now the economy is not growing. Just this morning the Bank of Canada slashed its growth forecast for the Canadian economy yet again. It says that the Canadian economy will not rebound to capacity until, at the very earliest, the end of 2015. The fact is that Canada has the worst record of economic growth under the current Prime Minister; R.B. Bennett was the second worst.
Right now there are too many young Canadians looking for work and there are too many middle-class Canadians struggling under crushing levels of personal debt, $1.65 for every $1 of annual income being the average. In fact, this bill would actually make things worse, for instance, for the mining sector, and changes to the labour-sponsored venture capital tax credit for investments in innovation in small business will make it harder for small businesses to attract investment and growth.
This budget actually corrects some mistakes made in the last budget implementation act. The last budget implementation act mistakenly doubled taxes on credit unions. Imagine. This budget implementation act corrects mistakes made in the last budget implementation act. One of the laws of unintended consequences of omnibus bills is that we see these mistakes made in the acts in the first place.
This tired, out-of-touch Conservative government, mired in scandal, devoid of vision, is offering nothing to help young Canadians and their struggling middle-class families. Canadians are tired of a government trying to change the channel. What they really want is to change the government. They want hope for a better future, pride in a stronger Canada and some positive vision and ideas for the future. That is what the Liberal Party and a future Liberal government is offering to Canadians.