Mr. Francesco Sorbara (Vaughan—Woodbridge, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise to speak to the second part of the government's budget implementation bill, Bill C-29. This second budget bill contains the technical legislative amendments that would make budget 2016 law.
I could get into great detail about these technical amendments. It is an area that has been of particular interest to me as a trained economist, someone who sat on the Canadian Accounting Standards Board's user advisory council for many years and someone who understands the importance of a strong banking system with relevant proper oversight.
Prior to being elected to Parliament, I had more than two decades of experience in the global financial markets, first in New York City working for J.P. Morgan for nearly a decade in corporate finance; then in Canada where I was employed by Dominion Bond Rating Service with the responsibility of coverage of the global auto sector; and then as a corporate debt analyst for Scotiabank, with coverage of over 100 companies and where the market value of the Canadian corporate debt market stands today at $418 billion.
I can speak to specific technical elements of the bill that deal with changes of the Income Tax Act, which exclude derivatives from the application of inventory evaluation rules or ensures that the return on linked notes retains the same character, whether it is earned at maturity or reflected in a secondary market sale. I can also talk at great length about the amendments to the Bank Act to consolidate and streamline provisions that apply to a bank or to an authorized foreign bank in relation to the protection of customers in the public. However, as much as these concerns are of great interest to me and as important as they are, I know I would put many people here potentially to sleep.
While the items contained in the legislation may not be the most exciting things, I cannot stress enough the importance of getting the fundamental economic variables correct. This means ensuring that all the technical elements are there and that all the regulations and legislation are in place to help move the Canadian economy and the country forward. I am very proud of our government's commitment to Canada's economic and fiscal strength, to tax fairness, and a strong financial sector. Perhaps most of all, I am proud of our commitment to helping the middle class and those working hard to join it.
I know that a strong economy starts with a strong middle class. While Canadians have more money to save, invest, and grow the economy, everyone benefits. Strengthening the middle class means that hard-working Canadians can look forward to a good standard of living and better prospects for their kids.
However, for too long, many Canadians have been working harder than ever without getting further ahead. I am proud that our government has recognized this and is taking concrete steps to address this. Certainly the measures contained in budget 2016 were designed to set the stage for future growth.
There is a growing consensus, both in Canada and around the globe, that governments need to invest, not only to boost short-term economic growth but to set the stage for long-term growth as well. We know that when we have historically low interest rates and when the debt to GDP ratio is the lowest of any G7 country, we have the fiscal capacity and it is the perfect time to invest in infrastructure.
When talking about infrastructure, I am not talking simply about roads and bridges, which are very important. I am also talking about our social, health, and education infrastructure. Investing in infrastructure will boost Canada's productivity, strengthening our economic foundation, and put us on a higher growth path trajectory. As commented recently by Bank of Canada governor, Stephen Poloz:
|| In the case of a targeted investment by government which is identified in such a way that it will be growth enabling, it's very likely to pay off very well...That is, it creates more economic growth for all those that use that infrastructure and that, of course, creates tax revenues and the system keeps turning.
Those are not my words. Those are the Bank of Canada governor's words.
In my constituency of Vaughan—Woodbridge, which incidentally the city of Vaughan is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, we have experienced unprecedented levels of growth. Vaughan is the largest employment centre in York region, accounting for 38% of jobs. With over 10,000 businesses employing more than 194,000 people, the city of Vaughan is ranked the second best place in Ontario to do business and among the top 25-best places to live in Canada. While our community has grown, much of the federal infrastructure has not kept pace.
Since our government took over, we have seen real substantial investment in Canada's physical, green, and social infrastructure. We have doubled funding for Canada student jobs, increased funding for new horizons seniors' grants, and boosted FedDev assistance to several businesses in my riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge, including Cutler Forest Products. Just a few weeks ago, in my riding at the Kortright Centre, I, along with my colleague from Hamilton, announced a $4.3 million dollar FedDev grant to Mohawk College for the development of new green energy solutions, a very real and tangible example of our government's commitment to clean innovative technology.
We have a lot of young families in my constituency, which is one of the many realities that attracted my wife and I to Vaughan. We are fortunate to have two wonderful daughters and both successful careers. However, like most parents, I want to ensure that my children have brighter prospects and are afforded even greater opportunities for success than I have had.
I am proud to be part of a government that believes we must do for our kids and grandkids what our parents and grandparents did for us to give us the promise of a better future. Toward that end, budget 2016 has invested in Canadian families through the transformational program like the new Canada child benefit that provides help to those families that need it the most with the high cost of raising children.
The child benefit system we inherited from the previous Conservative government was complicated, consisting of a taxable income-tested Canada child tax benefit with two components: the base benefits and the national child benefit supplement. It was a taxable universal child care benefit received by all families, regardless of income, even millionaires. It was system that was both inadequate in that it did not provide families with the support they needed as well as insufficiently targeted for those who needed it the most.
Under the Conservative government, for example, families with very high incomes were still receiving benefit. That is not a Canadian value. Our government's new CCB is simpler. Families will receive a single payment every month. It is tax free, so families will not have to pay back part of that amount received when they file their tax returns.
As well, the new CCB is better targeted to those who need it the most, specifically low and middle-income Canadian families. In addition, it is a far more generous program than the one it replaces. Nine out of ten Canadians will receive higher monthly benefits, and it is estimated that the new Canada child benefit will lift approximately 300,000 children out of poverty. Further, as contained in Bill C-29, in 2020, the Canada child benefit will be indexed to keep pace with rising costs.
Let me emphasize this point on how transformational Canada child benefit is in reducing income inequality. It is estimated that the CCB will allow for a reduction in the poverty rate for children in Canada from approximately 11.2% to 6.7%, or the Canada child benefit will lift approximately 40% of those children who currently find themselves living in the very tragic situation of poverty.
I was very fortunate to go to university, something that was not a possibility for my parents who immigrated to Canada through Pier 21 from Italy in the 1950s. My parents are ingenuous and hard-working people who benefited from having union jobs with decent pay and benefits. My parents helped as much as they could. Personally, I worked summers to pay for university at a pulp mill, a grain elevator and a fish cannery, and after school, including part-time jobs at McDonald's and Zellers, to help save and ultimately pay my way through two university degrees.
The costs for post-secondary education were significantly less than they are today. Now more than ever, in this highly-skilled global economy, it is of paramount importance that post-secondary education remains affordable and accessible to Canadians. To compete in today's knowledge economy requires an educated and highly-skilled workforce and more years of training. The cost of education, particularly professional training, has been increasing exponentially and a greater financial worry has been placed on the shoulders of students and their families.
We, as legislators, need to work to ensure that young Canadians have access to meaningful work at the beginning of their careers, which means paying for more education and training so as not to be burdened by an enormous debt load. That is why our government has put measures in budget 2016 that make post-secondary education more affordable for students from low and middle-income families, and provides provisions that make it easier for students to repay student loans once they enter the workforce. Budget 2016 also includes measures to help young Canadians gain experience, earn extra income and find good jobs after graduation.
This government knows that the road map to a better future lies in recognizing the needs of all Canadians, to our children, families, workers and our most vulnerable populations, including our seniors.
Our seniors built our country. I believe very strongly that we have a responsibility to assist those in their golden years live with dignity and a secure retirement, and treat them as valued members of our national community. It is another reason I am proud of our government's initiatives in budget 2016. By rolling back the retirement age from 67 to 65, which placed $13,000 into the hands of new retirees over that two-year period, increasing benefits to the guaranteed income supplement by nearly $1 billion, which will help nearly one million seniors, including three-quarters of whom are women, improving in the GIS for single seniors, and making significant new investments to support seniors, budget 2016 is helping to ensure our seniors have a dignified, comfortable, and secure retirement.
Bill C-29 proposes to amend the Old Age Security Act to provide that in the case of low-income couples that have to live apart for reasons not attributable to either of them, such as illness, and, for example, one spouse being in a nursing home and the other staying at their primary residence, the amount of the allowance is to be based on the income of the allowance recipient only. This proposed amendment ensures seniors are not unfairly penalized due to a situation they have no control over.
Making our most vulnerable populations a priority shows this government's vision in working toward a smart, ethically responsible, and fair society.
However, fair-mindedness has always guided our government. As a matter of fairness, our government is looking to crack down on tax evasion and underground economic activity, aiming to close corporate loopholes which threaten hard-working Canadians. I am proud to say that budget 2016 has invested approximately $444 million over five years for the CRA to enhance its efforts to crack down on tax evasion and combat tax avoidance.
In fact, I am proud to state that I introduced the motion to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, calling for an investigation into offshore tax havens. I am very pleased with timely and decisive actions taken by our government to present tax evasions and aggressive tax avoidance, both at home and abroad.
The Government of Canada will continue to address unintended tax advantages, including limiting the ability of wealthy individuals to use private corporations to inappropriately reduce or defer tax.
Bill C-29 would amend the anti-avoidance rules in the Income Tax Act that prevents a multiplication of access to the small business deduction and the avoidance of the business limit and the taxable capital limit. In addition, through Bill C-29, to improve transparency and adhere to international standards, we will implement the country-by-country reporting standards, as recommended by the OECD, for corporations with operations in various geographies. In addition, we will introduce rules to prevent the avoidance of withholding tax or rents, royalties, and similar payments, using back-to-back arrangements.
There is still work to be done, but our initial efforts have improved the fairness and integrity of Canada's tax system, as well will contribute to fiscal sustainability.
We continue to work in the best interests of all Canadians to ensure they have confidence in our tax system, that no one unfairly subsidizes our tax system.
Having worked on Wall Street and in the Canadian banking sector, I can say first-hand that Canada has world-renowned and one of the most stable financial banking sectors. We were one of the only nations whose banks were left intact and came out unscathed from the 2008 global financial crisis.
However, our financial sector did not become world-renowned by accident, and it will not stay that way without continued maintenance and oversight by Canada's regulatory institutions, primarily, through the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.
I had a first-hand view of the global financial crisis. The regulations that govern our financial institutions, including strong lending practices and solid levels of tier 1 capital held by the banks, along with the role of CMHC and OSFI, allowed Canada to exit the global financial crisis in a stellar manner. Part 4 of Bill C-29 would strengthen the framework regulating financial institutions, while balancing the need for stability and competition with the needs of consumers and businesses.
Our government makes it clear that the shareholders and creditors of Canada's largest banks are responsible for their bank's risk, not taxpayers, not depositors. Canadians will not be stuck with the tab in the event of an economic shock. The changes proposed in the Bank Act reflect enhancements in the areas of corporate governance, access to basic banking services, disclosure of information, business practices, and public reporting.
The same section would amend the Financial Administration Act, the Bank of Canada Act, and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act to clarify certain powers of the Minister of Finance in relation to sound and efficient management of federal funds in the operational crown corporations.
It would amend the Financial Administration Act to allow the minister to lend, by way of auction, excess funds out of the consolidated revenue fund and, with the authorization of the Governor in Council, may enter into contracts and agreements of a financial nature for the purposes of managing risks relating to the financial position of the Government of Canada.
Also contained in part 4 are amendments to the Bank of Canada Act that would allow the Minister of Finance to delegate to the bank the management of the lending of money to agent corporations. Again, Bill C-29, the second part of the budget implementation bill, puts in place measures that would safeguard and strengthen Canada's world renowned financial institutions. The Government of Canada will balance the need for stability and competition with the needs of consumers and businesses.
Budget 2016 would not only strengthen the financial institutions, it would strengthen our social institutions and our country's social safety net. Canada's employment insurance program provides economic security to Canadians when they need it most. That is why Bill C-29 contains several changes to the current employment insurance system. These changes to the eligibility rules would make it easier for new workers and those re-entering the workforce to claim benefits.
In addition to the changes in eligibility rules, the waiting period to receive unemployment insurance would also be reduced from two weeks to one week. These measures would provide unemployed workers with hundreds of dollars more, when they need it most.
I am proud of our government's efforts to extend employment insurance benefits in regions that have been severely impacted by the collapse in the price of oil and other commodities. In budget 2016, we promised those impacted by the cyclical downturn in commodity prices assistance. We will deliver with approximately $2.5 billion investment in employment insurance over the next two fiscal years.
Make no mistake, we all want Canadians working. We all want Canadians earning a good living, with decent wages and good benefits, but in those times when Canadians are laid off, the Government of Canada will be standing there with them to make sure that they are able to stand on their own two feet and get back to work as soon as possible.
Division 6 of part 4 of the act, which amends the Royal Canadian Mint Act, would remove the requirement that the directors of the mint have experience in respect of metal fabrication or production, industrial relations, or a related field. This amendment to the Royal Canadian Mint Act would allow the government to draw on a greater pool of candidates with diverse experiences.
As I wind down my comments I would like to say a few words about a very important group of our society, our veterans. In November, we wear poppies as a symbol to remember the sacrifices made by Canadian veterans. The Government of Canada has a social covenant with all veterans and their families, a sacred obligation we must meet with respect and gratitude. In the past, all too often that covenant has unfortunately been breached.
Canada's veterans have dedicated their lives to the defence of this nation and they deserve our unwavering support. Bill C-29 would give back to veterans who have given so much in the service to all Canadians, by restoring critical access to services and ensuring the long-term financial security that disabled veterans so deserve. Provisions in this bill would mean that Canada's veterans would receive more local, in-person government services, as well as better access to case managers.
In closing, I would like to say how privileged I am, and what an honour it is to represent and serve the residents of the riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge, and how happy I am to have been able to speak on second reading on Bill C-29, the budget implementation act.
Mr. Dan Albas (Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, CPC):
Madam Speaker, it is always an honour to stand in this place and contribute to the debate on the budget implementation act. In this case, however, there are going to be some measures I will not be criticizing, such as the Liberals' favourite talking point, the middle-class tax cut.
Obviously, I would not be alone in pointing out that it seems almost unfathomable to give a tax cut to people who earn between $100,000 and $199,000, as the Liberals are doing, and to give absolutely no tax relief to those who are most in need, those earning under $45,000 per year. As much as this seems incredible, I will not criticize this measure, as it was a promise clearly outlined in the Liberals' election platform, and thus my view is that they have a mandate to make these changes.
The same applies to the Liberal child care benefit changes, as much as once upon a time the Liberals mocked our Conservative government for introducing direct-to-parent support for families, suggesting that it would be for a beer and popcorn fund. Today we know that the Liberals fundamentally supported this Conservative program, with the exception of adding a fiscal means limit for the benefits. Once again, these changes were part of an election platform, and in my view, there is a mandate from the public to carry them out.
However, beyond that, I have some serious concerns about the implementation act. For example, the Prime Minister promised modest deficits of $10 billion a year. I will not use unparliamentary language, as that is not my style. However, we all know that the Liberals have broken their promise. The only thing we do not know yet is by how much. The debt and deficit numbers seem to be growing by the fiscal quarter.
I suppose that if Canada was witnessing upgraded economic growth and increased employment, one could be more tolerant and supportive of deficit spending. After all, the former Conservative government took a similar approach. However, that approach was different in three substantial ways.
First, the spending was targeted specifically to real infrastructure and was basically targeted to shovel-ready projects. In this case, many regions of Canada are still wondering when they will see the promised Liberal infrastructure spending.
The second difference is that because the former Conservative government spent the money in the right places, we got results. Canada came out of the financial crisis atop all the G7 countries.
Finally, the Conservative economic action plan always involved a sincere commitment to return to a balanced budget, something the parliamentary budget office just confirmed would have happened for the past fiscal year had the Liberals not booked extra spending.
The Liberals promised Canadians a return to balanced budgets by the 2019-20 fiscal year, but I doubt that even Liberal MPs seriously believe that this will happen. That is my first major objection to the budget implementation bill, as it breaks the promise the Prime Minister made to get elected, and that should trouble all of us.
Another major concern I am hearing about is the proposed changes to the common reporting standard. I was fortunate to hear from a member of the finance committee earlier, the member for Vaughan—Woodbridge. Both at home in my riding and on the finance committee, credit union after credit union has warned of the very serious impact this one-size-fits-all, Liberal-imposed red tape will have on their ability to help generate economic growth and to focus on those things. To be clear, credit unions are absolutely non-partisan. The concerns we are hearing from them are very real.
I would add that credit unions in many parts of my riding, especially in smaller, rural areas, are critically important for the fiscal well-being of the community. Frankly, I am surprised that a Liberal government as obsessed with consultations and reviews to the extent this one is turning a blind eye to this and ignoring what every single credit union, large or small, has been telling us. That is concerning and raises another interesting part in the debate.
By including measures such as the common reporting standard in the budget implementation act, ultimately the BIA becomes omnibus legislation. I am not necessarily opposed to omnibus bills. However, I would point out that this is yet another broken promise from the Prime Minister, who promised not to use omnibus bills when he was in opposition.
On the same topic of broken promises, and one could say hypocrisy, I find it curious that when in opposition and when running for election, the Liberals told us that what they view as boutique tax credits were bad, and that is why they were eliminating the fitness tax credit for kids as well as eliminating the children's arts and cultural tax credit and the textbook credit for students. Parents of students lost what the Liberals called boutique tax credits for their children, then the Liberals introduced their own boutique tax credit for teachers who buy schools supplies.
I mention this because in effect, what the Prime Minister is really saying is that Conservative tax credits that helped children and their parents pay for those activities were bad but that Liberal tax credits that help teachers are good.
On the same theme, we now know that the Liberals will force a national carbon tax on Canadians that will also increase costs for families. It is not directly related to this BIA. However, it is curious that the Prime Minister promised a new relationship with the provinces only to turn around and force unwanted Ottawa-imposed taxation on them once elected.
That brings me to another subject that is provincially related. The budget implementation bill calls for additional money to subsidize ferry services in Atlantic Canada. Over $50 million is quoted. While it is not my intent to pit different regions of the country against each other, there is a question of fairness, and I question why B.C. Liberal MPs are silent that no additional funding has been promised to help B.C.'s ferries in this budget.
One other troubling action in this budget implementation bill is the Liberal proposal to dramatically increase costs for small business. The section I am referring to is big CPP. The Liberal government believes that increasing the cost of creating new jobs is somehow a good idea. To be clear, the Liberal government proposal will also increase payroll costs for employers not just for any new jobs but also for existing employees.
What is extremely alarming is that in the last week, the CBC revealed that even internal documents, obtained from the finance minister's own department, have revealed that an expanded, big CPP, whatever we want to call it, will actually be a drag on the Canadian economy at least until 2030. Even worse, this misguided policy will actually suppress jobs until 2035.
Let us all think about that for a moment. At a time when everyone in this room knows that our economic forecasts are being downgraded, at a time when everyone knows that our job numbers are a serious concern, the Liberal government is forcing a policy on Canadians that they know will harm the economy and hurt jobs for the next 15 to 20 years. That is completely unacceptable.
Worse is that this open and transparent government is hiding these internal documents. Is it any wonder that the CFIB is strongly opposed to this policy? The Liberals clearly do not care. They are forcing these increased payroll costs on Canadians anyway. That should concern all of us.
I could continue to criticize other aspects of this budget implementation bill, and there are many. However, I believe that it is important to also point out a few points that I support. One of those is the continued support for mineral exploration tax credits. Mining is an important industry in several areas in my riding and for that matter in areas nearby in my former riding.
I also recognize the government for continuing to support the CETA deal, the comprehensive economic trade agreement with the European Union. The former government spent considerable energy and effort getting to where we are now. Trade is not only important to many employers in my riding but provides expanded opportunities for farmers and other producers. As much as a former Liberal government used NAFTA as a political chip, it is refreshing that it is not the case with CETA. Now if only we could get such a clear position from the Liberal government regarding the trans-Pacific partnership.
While there are certainly some measures in the bill I support, which I have briefly touched on, there are of course some omissions, and frankly, I remain stunned that the Liberal government continues to do nothing to better promote internal trade.
I may no longer be the critic for internal trade, but I will point out that the government is willing to impose a national carbon tax on the provinces. How could it be afraid to elevate the Comeau decision of the Supreme Court and seek clarification that internal trade is the right of all Canadians?
Not everyone supports international trade, but I have yet to meet someone, aside from, apparently, the Liberals, who does not support the principle of buying Canadian, and that means all Canadians in all jurisdictions.
When people from Europe or the U.S.A. visit Canada and hear that it is still illegal for a winery in British Columbia to directly sell to a customer in Ontario, they shake their heads in disbelief. There are a few people shaking their heads in disbelief over in the corner, and that is a good thing. I am glad to see that we all find that component contemptible.
This budget implementation act could have attempted to fix it. In fact, in the budget document, there is one word on internal trade, and that is the word “internal”. It is no secret that the former Conservative government made strides to eliminate federal barriers against internal trade, and I will continue to encourage the Liberal government to do the same.
One other measure missing from this budget, which I am sure will raise some eyebrows, is the restoration of a $10,000 tax-free savings account contribution. I mention this because it is not a secret that investment in Canada is currently on the decline. We need investment. Investment is what helps create jobs and often produces the shiny new green technologies that Liberals are often very keen to subsidize. For many Canadians, their TFSAs are invested, more often than not, in Canadian companies. Even if they are invested in savings, those savings are then loaned out to Canadian companies.
Expanding the TFSA contribution is a great way to encourage not just savings but investment. Let us not forget that all deposits going into tax-free savings accounts are net after-tax dollars. While the returns people make in tax-free savings accounts may be tax free, rest assured that when they withdraw that money, often to complete a major purchase, they typically pay sales tax or excise tax on that purchase. Expanded tax-free savings account contributions would be a great way to encourage investment in our economy.
Also missing, in my view, is any incentive to increase the supply of new housing. If we can increase the supply of new housing, we could help combat higher prices and significantly support local economies and create jobs. More importantly, if we could increase home ownership down the road, we would increase home equity, not to mention that if we could get more people out of rentals and into home ownership, thanks to new supply, that would open up the rental market and increase affordability.
There are changes in this budget implementation act that focus specifically on the Excise Act. Offering a change in the amount that is rebated, the threshold amount, would help with affordability and would have the benefit of stimulating growth, particularly in markets where growth is desperately needed.
In fact, this budget implementation act is totally silent on these points. Based on the changes the Liberals made to the mortgage rules, it is obvious that the Liberals' answer to unaffordable housing is to ensure that fewer Canadians will qualify to buy homes. Frankly, that is unacceptable. Even documents from the finance minister suggest that these one-size-fits-all Liberal-imposed mortgage changes could lower the housing market by almost 10% in the first year.
Let us not forget what that really means. It means that 10% of Canadian families who have been scrimping and saving to buy homes will be told, sorry, it is not that they cannot afford their own homes, it is that they just do not qualify under the new rules that have been put in place. This is from the government that is all about the middle class, as long as they are not middle-class prospective home owners.
Yes, Toronto and Vancouver have troubles, but these Liberal government-imposed mortgage restrictions adversely impact all Canadians. Yet Vancouver area Liberal MPs say that they were not even consulted on the changes, nor for that matter were mortgage brokers, realtors, or anyone else who makes a living in the real estate industry. I suppose the message to them is that it would be better to attend a $1,500-a-plate fundraiser with the minister next time around.
Before I close, I am going to make a few predictions. The first is that this budget implementation act, which already breaks the Prime Minister's promise of a modest $10-billion-a-year deficit, will only be the tip of the iceberg for massive amounts of more Liberal debt. I will also predict that economic growth will continue to be downgraded over the next few years. That is something we have heard at the finance committee. That is something we have heard from the Governor of the Bank of Canada. It is something we have heard from the parliamentary budget office.
I also think that job numbers will not significantly rebound, nor investment dramatically increase, yet taxes will continue to rise. Eventually, at some point down the road, some very difficult decisions will need to be made. This is where the budget implementation act is taking us, which is why I am opposing it.
I would like to thank the members of this place for taking the time to hear my comments today. We often have our disagreements. However, I know that those who come here all care considerably for their constituents, for the success of our country, and for the opportunities we can grow for our people in the short term and the long term. That is something we all take very seriously.
Mr. Randy Boissonnault (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, I am honoured to share my time with the member for Gatineau.
It is with immense pleasure and pride that I rise to speak in favour of Bill C-29, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2016 and other measures.
Our government knows that many Canadians are struggling to get ahead. These struggles are very real in my home province of Alberta, where people are continuing to face an economic downturn brought on by the extended low price of natural resource products.
The people of Edmonton Centre, and Albertans at large, asked for a partner in the federal government, and our government has responded with historic investments. It did so and will continue to do so because it knows that Alberta helped the Canadian economy for years. It is committed to helping Alberta in its time of need. It also did so and will continue to do so because it makes good economic sense at this time.
What exactly has the federal government done? It has provided $250 million to the Government of Alberta as a fiscal stabilization fund; $750 million to the EDC to assist with companies that are looking to export and provide financial services to SMEs in the oil and gas sector; $500 million from the Business Development Corporation for loan guarantees and services to SMEs directly in the oil and gas sector; and recently, another $0.5 billion from the BDC, matched by the Alberta Treasury Branch Financial corporation, to help with stressed businesses.
In addition to that, there was $307 million through the disaster financial assistance arrangement, through the Government of Canada to the Province of Alberta, to help Fort McMurray recover. That was the first time in history that the Government of Canada has moved so quickly to respond to a natural disaster in partnership with a provincial government.
There is a growing consensus in Canada and around the world that governments need to invest, not only to boost short-term economic growth, but to set the stage for long-term and sustainable growth as well. In fact, Christine Lagarde, president and CEO of the International Monetary Fund, has said that Canada's investment strategy needs to let loose, needs to go viral around the world, because our policies are smart economic policies for the long term.
Canada has the lowest debt to GDP ratio of any G7 country, and interest rates are at historic lows. Now is the ideal time for Canada to invest in its future success. That is why Canadians elected us on a platform to make historic investments in public transit, green infrastructure, and social infrastructure.
These investments mean good, well-paying jobs for tradespeople, engineers, architects, labourers, and suppliers. Each of these jobs has a family behind it, and each of these jobs mean that those families have income to support other businesses. Such investments are not only important, they are vital for Canadians and Albertans during these tough times.
That is why our government, working with the Government of Alberta, is investing $1.08 billion in public transit, water maintenance, in Alberta. That multiplier effect will mean over $3 billion in real projects taking place on the ground in Alberta. It is why we have worked with the Government of Alberta to invest $130 million more into affordable housing. It is why we have made the historic down payment on the Fort McMurray rebuilding program.
This is only phase one. This government is there for Alberta now, and will continue to be a partner in growth for all Albertans. We understand, as well, that a strong economy starts with a strong middle class. When middle-class Canadians have more money to save, invest, and grow the economy, everyone benefits. A strengthened middle class means that hard-working Canadians can look forward to a good standard of living and better prospects for their children.
Too many middle-class families are having trouble making ends meet with the tough times in Alberta. Our government stepped up to the plate and implemented the Canada child benefit, a coherent, common sense policy that will help nearly nine million Canadians every year. The time has come for the Government of Canada to help the families who need it most and give them the money they need to be able to afford to raise their children.
It is why our government created the new Canada child benefit, or CCB, which will directly help middle-class families with the costs of raising their children. I have heard it in my own riding. Time and time again, people have come up to me and said, “Thank you. I am receiving the monthly cheques. I no longer have to make the choice between food for my children or clothes on their backs. I no longer have to make the decision between school fees or paying my rent.”
Edmonton families are using the support from the CCB to invest directly in our community in a variety of ways, from enrolling their children in after school care, sports programs, music lessons, leadership activities, and even saving for their own post-secondary education. It is startling to think that some of the most vulnerable families in our community have trouble even putting food on the table.
In this country, too many children are still living in poverty.
As members already know, on July 20, eligible Canadian families started receiving their CCB payments. These replace previous benefits and provide more support to nine out 10 families in this country.
We ended the damaging legacy of the previous government's poorly thought out taxable benefit that left thousands of families with a surprise tax bill at the end of the year. I heard this at the door, that people were surprised and not happy. They were disappointed by that mis-thought-out policy.
The Canada child benefit is simple. It is tax free, and it targets the families who need it most.
Our Canada child benefit is improving the well-being of families across the country, and we are giving them an opportunity to succeed. In Alberta alone, it is raising 46,000 children out of poverty and giving each one of them the opportunity for a better life.
Now more than ever, it is important that post-secondary education remains affordable and accessible. I have four remarkable post-secondary institutions in my riding: NorQuest College; the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, otherwise known as NAIT; the MacEwan University; and the Enterprise Square campus of my alma mater, the University of Alberta. I am so proud to represent these campuses and the tens of thousands of students who attend them.
Students must have access to meaningful work at the beginning of their careers and not be burdened by increasing student debt. In this regard, budget 2016 makes post-secondary education more affordable for students from low and middle-income families and will make it easier to repay student debt. This is enabling the economy of tomorrow. I know, because I had the opportunity to access student loans and debt forgiveness. I paid my loans back, but that made all the difference in being able to pursue my own education when my family was not able to support my tuition or living costs. That is exactly what we are doing now to make post-secondary education more affordable for more Canadian students.
We also need to ensure that we are supporting Canadians who need support right now. Therefore, Canada's employment insurance program provides economic security to Canadians when they need it most. Whatever the circumstance, no Canadian should struggle to get the assistance they need.
To make sure these systems are in place, we have proposed several changes to the EI system. Changes to eligibility rules will make it easier for new workers and those re-entering the workforce to claim benefits. To ease the burden, our government has also extended employment insurance benefits in all regions in Alberta. The waiting period will also be reduced from two weeks to one week, which will provide unemployed workers with hundreds of more dollars at the time they need it the most.
Our budget has made significant new investments to support seniors in their retirement years. Increased benefits will ensure that Canadian seniors have a dignified, comfortable, and secure retirement so that my mom and all of our parents and grandparents are supported as they age.
As a matter of fairness for all taxpayers, Bill C-29 will prevent underground economic activity and tax evasion and will combat tax loopholes. We will take action to prevent tax evasion both at home and abroad. The government will invest in effective administration and enforcement of tax laws and will propose actions to improve the integrity of Canada's system.
Hard-working small business owners who create jobs and benefit the economy are the ones who need, and should be benefiting from, tax measures. Our efforts will improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system and contribute to fiscal sustainability. That is exactly what Albertans expect from us.
Finally, Canada's financial sector is world renowned and remained stable through the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath. We have the last Liberal government to thank for putting the fundamentals in place for the most robust financial system in the G20. To keep Canada's financial sectors strong, the government will strengthen the framework that regulates financial institutions, and we will balance the need for stability and competition with the needs of consumers and businesses.
Bill C-29 also makes it clear that the shareholders and creditors of Canada's largest banks are responsible for their risks, not taxpayers. In this way, Canadians will not be stuck with the tab in the event of an economic shock.
The measures set out in this budget are essential to the proper development and well-being of all Canadians, including those who need it most, and that is why I am asking all of my colleagues in the House to vote in favour of Bill C-29.
Again, our budget is delivering on the needs of Albertans and Canadians. We were elected on a promise to increase prosperity for all Canadians, and that is a promise we are proudly delivering on.
Mr. Steven MacKinnon (Gatineau, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Edmonton-Centre for sharing his time with me.
As always, it is an honour and a privilege to represent the citizens of Gatineau in the House. It is a great honour for any parliamentarian to represent the views and perspectives of their fellow citizens.
It is my great pleasure to add my support to Bill C-29, a second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2016 and other measures.
Last spring, our government tabled its first budget. On the whole, this is a budget that respects and keeps our election commitments. Furthermore, it is based on judicious investments to make our economy grow, to better help our middle class, and to ensure that our communities and our country continue to grow. Bill C-29 is also a follow-up to the plan of my hon. colleague the Minister of Finance, the plan for economic growth and fairness in Canada.
This bill provides measures that will help families, provide seniors with greater flexibility, protect consumers, and improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system.
When working-class and middle-class Canadians have more money to save, invest, and grow the economy, everyone benefits. That is why, in budget 2016, the government decided to invest in the Canadian economy to set the stage for long-term growth. Canada has the lowest debt to GDP ratio of any G7 country and interest rates are at historic lows. Now is the ideal time for Canada to invest in its future success: in our young people, in our communities, and in ourselves. When we have an economy that works for the middle class, we have a country that works for everyone.
My colleagues opposite spoke of the pressure on families. We all have in our ridings families looking for more flexibility, for help making ends meet every moth, and for ways for their children to have an equal opportunity to succeed in life, go to university and take part in sports, art programs, recreational activities and so forth.
Speaking of investments, we on this side of the House put in place what is probably the most important social innovation of the past 10 or 20 years in Canada: the Canada child benefit. On July 20, families in Gatineau received their first Canada child benefit cheque, as announced in budget 2016. In the riding of Gatineau alone, the Canada child benefit is helping 10,600 families and 18,480 children.
The average monthly payment in Gatineau is around $520. That is $520 every month, tax-free, that can be used for food, skates, clothes, child care expenses, school supplies and more. That is $520 every month that goes back into the local and national economies.
On this side of the House, we are extremely proud of this social innovation, this benefit for the middle class, the parents in my community and all across Canada. It is the most important public policy in decades.
Moreover, under Bill C-29, the Canada child benefit will be fully indexed to inflation starting in 2020. This will ensure not only that this important measure will be sustainable, but also that benefits will rise every year starting in 2020.
The budget implementation act also supports our seniors by helping them to retire in more comfort and with dignity. In budget 2016, we repealed the provision in the Old Age Security Act that increased the age of eligibility for old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits from 65 to 67, and allowance benefits from 60 to 62, over the 2023 to 2029 period. Budget 2016, also increased the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit by up to $947 annually for the most vulnerable single seniors, starting in July 2016.
I do not know if it is the same for my colleagues, but I get asked by seniors what it means to have $80 more than expected at the end of the month. They ask me what that means for seniors on a fixed income and for their quality of life. Well, it helps them pay the rent and buy groceries, and it may even give them the means to take part in sports and other recreational activities, for example. That is very important at their age. I get comments like this a lot, as do all my colleagues in the House, I am sure.
This measure represents an investment of over $670 million per year, and will improve the financial security of about 900,000 single seniors across Canada.
That is not all. In this second budget implementation bill, we are delivering on the solemn promise we made in budget 2016 to support senior couples who face higher costs of living and are at an increased risk of poverty because they must live apart. We are all aware of cases where, unfortunately, because of health concerns or for other reasons, spouses are separated from one another because one of them has to be institutionalized.
When couples who are receiving the guaranteed income supplement and the spouse's allowance have to live apart for reasons beyond their control, each of them will receive benefits based on their individual income.
For seniors in such a situation, it will mean an average increase to household income of $3,500 per year. That is very important for our most vulnerable seniors, who will be treated more fairly and receive more help from the government through the guaranteed income supplement. These new measures enable the government to treat seniors with greater fairness and allow them to live with dignity in retirement.
Canadians deserve financial consumer protection that keeps pace with their needs. We have seen this debate all over the world in the wake of the financial crisis. Bill C-29 would amend the Bank Act in order to strengthen and modernize the financial consumer protection framework. The financial sector plays an important role in supporting economic growth. Canada's financial sector weathered the 2008 financial crisis well because it was built on solid foundations. The government is seeking to build on this strength.
Bill C-29 amends the Bank Act to consolidate and streamline provisions that apply to a bank or an authorized foreign bank in relation to the protection of customers and the public. This was another consumer protection commitment our government made in budget 2016 that will contribute to the financial security of Canadians.
The federal government is showing leadership by adopting targeted measures to better protect consumers of financial products. Regarding the tax system, our government committed to implementing an action plan to combat international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.
All these measures contained in Bill C-29 or in the budget deliver on our commitment to get Canada's middle class back on its feet and make it once again a priority for the Government of Canada.
Mr. Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood, CPC):
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to share my time this afternoon with the member for Richmond—Arthabaska.
It gives me great pleasure to speak to bill C-29, the budget implementation act. Seven months after tabling the budget, Canadians are beginning to recognize the consequences, and the picture is not pretty. Being as it is Halloween, it is appropriate that we refer to the budget as downright scary. It is like a vampire sucking the blood out of most Canadians. The Liberals love spinning the budget into a huge spiderweb to catch people. Small businesses are upset, thinking it is Frankenstein who has come back from the dead.
Even with the low Canadian dollar, the Liberals have generated 20,000 fewer manufacturing jobs in our country. I thought for a moment it was Houdini, because these jobs just vanished. My province of Saskatchewan has lost 4,000 jobs in August over the same period from last year. The trend continued in September with 6,000 fewer people working during the same period as the year before. We have 42,000 unemployed in Saskatchewan currently.
Doug Elliott, the publisher of Sask Trends Monitor, says that going back to 1986 this is the highest number of unemployment in the month of August. Saskatchewan could very well see its first year of negative job growth since the year 2001, and that is scary. We have not seen unemployment levels like this in over two decades. Small business owners do not want the trick or treat, they want an opportunity. They know how best to grow the economy. The Liberals promised a reduction in their tax from 11% to 9%, and we have yet to see that.
Then we have Dracula with his fangs out ready to suck more out of the economy with the proposed carbon tax. This dark cloud hanging over this haunted house will not help with job creation in our country. It is hard to suck blood out of a stone, but the Liberal government seems determined to try. The carbon tax was never mentioned a year ago during the election, and now we know it always was behind one of its trap doors.
To quote Marilyn Braun-Pollon of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the state of business health in our country has deteriorated. Hiring plans remain very weak, with only 10% of business owners looking to hire full time, while at the same time 17% are foreseeing layoffs. This is deeply concerning as we head into the holiday season where generally more opportunity exists, mainly though for part-time employment. Retail spending is effectively flat in our province this year, a broad category that includes everything from automobiles, to clothing, to furniture and food. When we adjust for inflation, that means the total sales volumes in the province have declined by more than 2% over last year at this time.
Even the finance minister was quoted as saying that Canadians should get used to the so-called job churn. No wonder our youth were upset last week at the Prime Minister during a briefing. Our youth right now are experiencing record unemployment, and it is not what was promised to these millennials by the Liberals a year ago. It was all about sunny ways. Now we find out the clouds have rolled in and the government has no answers.
The full moon though has returned. The Liberals have gone back to their old ways of pay to play. Have they not heard from their previous skeletons in the closet? There are more ghosts and goblins as the Bank of Canada has determined more bad news for this economy, downgrading the country's growth outlook yet once again.
Ted Mallett, who is the CFIB's chief economist, says that employment is a big area of concern. While employment plans tend to experience, as we all know, seasonal fluctuation, this October's downward turn was sharper than we have ever seen it in the past. Investment plans have also dropped to a post-recession low.
Nearly 50% of Saskatchewan's small businesses plan to freeze or even cut salaries. We have not factored in the cost of a CPP increase or the much talked about carbon tax. This is more evidence that now is not the time for this carbon tax. I guess it is like CETA. The Liberals played a disappearing act and now they want to be Casper the Friendly Ghost, but I want to remind the House that it was the Conservative government that did all of the heavy lifting for this CETA agreement.
While the Liberals promised a modest deficit of $10 billion to stimulate the economy, it looks like they were dead wrong. They continue to throw more deficit dollars at this problem. Let us remember that a year ago, the Liberals promised they could simply spend their way into prosperity. By most measures, I would say Canadian families are worse off than they were a year ago. Good jobs are in short supply and the vast majority of these new jobs created under the current government are really part time, which explains why weekly earnings for the average worker in this country are lower.
On the weekend, I was home in my riding of Saskatoon—Grasswood and had an opportunity to talk to several young people. Many said they had two and three part-time jobs just to make ends meet. Saskatchewan people, as many know, have always had a work ethic, but there comes a time when they see no light at the end of the tunnel.
Instead of growing the middle class, the government is breaking the middle class. Just last week, the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that our Conservative budget would have resulted in a $2.9 billion surplus for the year 2015-16, but we all know that a surplus is not in the Liberals' vocabulary. They continue to run massive debts. Where it will stop, no one knows. When will this circus stop?
The child care benefit will not be indexed until the year 2020. The PBO has estimated that indexing, in fact enriching, the CCB would cost over $42 million over the next five years. Where, then, will the Liberals get this money? This program would cost more than double the original amount budgeted if indexed over this five-year period.
The current government reminds me of the show a way back called The Munsters. It was televised back then in black and white. I ask the current government to step out of the dark ages and realize you are spending our children's and grandchildren's money, with no hope of ever balancing the budget.
Mr. Alain Rayes (Richmond—Arthabaska, CPC):
Madam Speaker, when my finance critic colleague asked me whether I wanted to speak today to the government's budgetary measures in Bill C-29, I jumped at the opportunity. I would even say that I am pleased to speak to this bill today.
Those familiar with my political career know that before being elected to the House of Commons, this grand institution, I tried my hand at provincial politics and was the mayor of Victoriaville. They know why I am in politics and what my motivations are. Those have not changed since 2003, when I first considered entering politics. They are also shared by many Canadians.
One of the reasons I got into politics was my concern over how the government is managing public finances and the debt burden it is placing on future generations, our children and our grandchildren. I see every level of government taking the easy route and spending money, which always leads to Canadians paying more taxes, even if those taxes are sometimes used to fund investments.
The other very important reason I got into politics is the cynicism that people have about politicians. I will elaborate on that a little later in my speech. When I asked people what they thought about my going into politics, they told me that politicians never keep their promises. That seems to be true of those across the way, the Liberal government having failed to deliver on a number of its promises. I will name a few, but first I want to talk about federal public finances.
How many times have the Minister of Finance and his colleagues refused to accept here in the House a report from the parliamentary budget officer in which he confirms what we in the official opposition have been saying, specifically, that we left the House in order when we were voted out of office in the last election? Canada had sound public finances and was in the black.
Despite all that, at every possible opportunity and in every forum, the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister kept saying that we left the country in disarray and in massive debt. I invite those listening to consult the archives or even simply Google “Minister of Finance” and they will see the minister was in denial.
When he appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance on October 24, 2016, the parliamentary budget officer confirmed that the Conservative government left a surplus of $2.9 billion in the 2014-15 budget. For those who may not know this, the parliamentary budget officer is neutral. He is neither Liberal, Conservative, NDP, nor a member of the Green Party. He works independently to analyze Canada's public finances.
One of the government's first promises, which set it apart from the second official opposition party, was that it would only run up a small deficit of $10 billion. On the contrary. Today, as we can see, the deficit stands at more than $30 billion and it is spiralling out of control. It is not the official opposition pointing this out. The economists at Canada's major financial institutions have been telling the government for weeks to stop spending. TD Bank and the Bank of Montreal have told the government that enough is enough, and that it has lost control of its finances.
We are not against borrowing to stimulate the economy. There are times when we must. Everyone agrees with that. The problem with the Liberal government is that it does not have a repayment plan. I will use an analogy for the people watching at home. If a person wants to buy a house, goes to the bank, and applies for a loan to purchase a house worth about $200,000, what does the banker do? He evaluates the borrower and looks at his income to determine whether he can make the payments. Then with the help of a spreadsheet, the banker calculates the number of monthly payments it will take to pay the mortgage, which is the loan that makes it possible to create wealth, be a homeowner, and have access to a home for his family and children.
The government is borrowing money. The problem is that it does not have a plan to pay that money back. It is like me going to the bank and saying that I need $200,000 to buy a house but that, unfortunately, I do not have enough money to make monthly payments to pay back the loan and I have no plan to do so. I would have to ask the bank to wait four or five years before we revisit the issue and figure out how I will pay the money back. What would happen if I did that? They would send me packing and ask that I do my homework next time and present them with a realistic proposal. It makes me tear my hair out to watch this government continue to lie to Canadians by not giving them the real numbers, by telling them lies about the situation, and by not being straight with them.
When they voted for this government a year ago, Canadians had very high expectations. Today, no one knows how the government is going to pay back this out-of-control deficit.
We might ask ourselves what options the Liberal government has for repaying that money. It so happens its recent announcements shed some light on the matter. The Liberals intend to tax and tax some more. What is more, they are offering no constructive measures to stimulate the economy.
They claim to have provided tax relief to families. I am sorry, but the people that I talk to who want their children to be active or to get involved in cultural activities had their tax credit cut.
They even had the audacity to reduce the amount of savings that a father or mother can set aside and watch grow tax-free, money they can use one day when they need to purchase something, thereby keeping our economy going.
The Liberals are implementing a system that will make Canadian families pay more for the Canada pension plan. I think that once Canadians realize this, they might revolt and demand that the government not change the CPP, because everything the government touches seems to turn into a deficit later on.
What we need is not a government that runs deficits, but rather a government that creates wealth. Spending more and taxing Canadians is not the way to create wealth. Instead, we need to help businesses by lowering corporate taxes and introducing job creation and R and D programs.
When we look at the situation, we see that major institutions like the IMF, the OECD, and the Bank of Canada have downgraded their forecasts for Canada. It has become very clear that this government's approach is not working.
Today I ask this government to do its homework. I ask this government to stop taking more taxes and more taxes and more taxes from Canadians, and to listen to leading economists who are urging the government to stop spending in order to stimulate the economy. There are other ways to achieve that.
This brings me to my closing remarks. The Prime Minister broke his promises immediately upon taking office. He broke his promise of running a modest deficit by borrowing three times more than he said he would. He broke his promise to lower the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%.
He broke his promise to offer a revenue-neutral fiscal plan. He even said that family benefits would be cost neutral, but that did not happen, either.
I am pleased to have had the opportunity to speak to this issue.