Hon. Bill Morneau (Minister of Finance, Lib.)
|| That this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying I very much appreciate the advance applause.
I would like to begin by stating that our thoughts are with our friends in the United Kingdom.
We think about our friends in the United Kingdom at this time, knowing that they are facing a tragedy. We think about the families who are facing something that is indescribably difficult. I would like to start by saying that it is important for all of us to reflect upon.
I am pleased to rise in the House today to table budget documents for 2017, including notices of ways and means motions. The details of the measures are contained in these documents, and I am asking that an order of the day be designated for consideration of these motions.
I also wish to announce that the government will introduce legislation to implement the measures in the budget.
As Canadians come together to celebrate Canada 150, we proudly reflect on the generations that came before us, generations that built a country on the belief that with hope and hard work they could deliver a better future for themselves and for their children, and for their grandchildren. That optimism and that confidence helped define us as a country.
Sharing those beliefs with others made Canada a beacon of diversity, openness, and generosity around the world. Yet, over the last few decades, the middle class and those working hard to join it have fallen behind.
Everyday folks who work hard to provide for their families are worried about the future. They are worried that rapid technological change, the seemingly never-ending need for new skills, and growing demands on our time mean that their kids will not have the same opportunities they had. And who can blame them?
For a decade, middle class struggles were simply swept under the rug. People were left without a clear vision at a time of unprecedented change. However, the good news is that Canadians, on their own accord, worked hard and persevered. We have always been resilient, innovative, able to adapt and prosper in the face of change.
Knowing that, we put together a plan to ensure that, in a changing world, Canada's middle class and those working hard to join it can—and will—succeed.
A year and a half ago, our government set out to deliver the kind of change that would make a real difference for Canadians. We said we would help people retire with dignity. We said we would ask the wealthiest 1% to pay a little more, so we could cut taxes for the middle class. We said we would make smart, responsible investments in our communities.
That is exactly what we did. We have delivered on behalf of Canadians, and we are just getting started.
We realize there is much more hard work in front of us than behind us, but I remain inspired that we are on the right path.
One of the most memorable moments I have had as Canada's finance minister actually happened in a taxi cab in Toronto. On the way home one night, my taxi cab driver, Mian, recognized me and we started chatting. Then he did something that surprised me. He called his wife and put her on the speakerphone. They wanted to talk to me about the difference that the Canada child benefit had made in their lives.
You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that this benefit gives nine out of 10 Canadian families with kids more help with the high cost of managing their family.
In Mian's case, with three children aged 11, 9, and 10 months, the Canada child benefit means that he and his wife receive about $300 more each month than they did a year ago. That is an extra $3,600 tax-free every year, money that can be put toward groceries, school supplies, and new clothes for going back to school.
There are countless other stories just like this one across the country, each a sign that confidence is building and our plan for middle-class prosperity is working.
Stories like Dave's, a plumber from British Columbia who took advantage of a training program supported by the federal government to get his Red Seal certification last year. Now he has a well-paying job and is able to return to work in his community.
There is also Nebis, a mother of three from a remote Algonquin community in Quebec. The Canada child benefit has helped keep her three kids enrolled in hockey this season.
Mian, Dave, Nebis, like millions of middle-class Canadians, want to see progress for themselves and their families. They want a government that puts people first. They want a government focused on creating good jobs today, while also preparing Canadians for the jobs of tomorrow. They want a government that puts our skilled, talented, and creative people at the heart of a more innovative and globally competitive Canada.
Here is our plan.
Across the country, we are building stronger communities.
We are doing it by creating jobs, shortening commutes, ensuring clean air and water, and improving quality of life for millions of Canadians.
In the last year and a half, 744 public transit projects have been approved.
In Calgary and Ottawa, long-awaited and transformative light rail transit projects are under way.
In Montreal and Vancouver, riders can look forward to a more enjoyable commute thanks to rehabilitation work being done to the metro and SkyTrain systems.
We are repairing nearly 50,000 social housing units, to make sure families have a safe and secure place to live. We have lifted 18 long-term boil water advisories in first nations communities. Our work continues, because we will not stop until every child in Canada has access to clean drinking water.
Ten years from now, our cities, towns, and northern and rural communities will be healthier and better connected. Our air and water will be cleaner. More Canadian goods will get to international markets, and modern, efficient public transit systems will get hard-working parents home more quickly at the end of a long day.
As we look to the coming decades, we also see the potential of new innovations to transform our lives. Self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, genomics, quantum computing, mobile payments, the sharing economy, these ideas are changing our world for the better, just like the innovations that preceded them.
A few decades ago, we never could have imagined how mobile computing would impact our lives. Thanks to e-commerce platforms, an Alberta farmer can sell top-quality beef to millions of potential buyers all over the world.
Cutting-edge research from Montreal has led to breakthrough treatments for multiple sclerosis.
We must see the immense opportunities that these changes bring with them, opportunities for progress and prosperity.
While the rapid pace of change can seem dizzying at times, we must never lose sight of what is driving these breakthrough innovations, people, people like Mian, Dave, and Nebis. Therefore, as we create the jobs of tomorrow, we will support a culture of life-long learning to help workers and their families adapt to the changing demands of our time. We will help students get the skills and work experience they need to kick-start their careers. We will make it more affordable for thousands of parents of young children to learn new skills while raising their families. We will give people who have lost their jobs the chance to go back to school for further training, helping these Canadians to advance their careers, and turn challenges into opportunity.
To give our young people the best possible start, we will promote hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering, and math, especially for young women, girls, and indigenous youth.
Building on work being done by impressive organizations like Ladies Learning Code and Actua, we will encourage students to learn coding in the same way they learn to read and write, preparing our kids for the jobs of the future.
Budget 2017 is about creating good middle-class jobs now, and in the years to come. To do that, we need to focus on our strengths, where we can lead globally and create good jobs for Canadians.
In this budget, we are making investments in six economic sectors where Canada can lead the way: digital, clean technology, agrifood, advanced manufacturing, bio-sciences, and clean resources.
In the realm of digital technology, I know two things to be true: one, Canada can be a world leader; and, two, we just cannot afford not to be.
That is why we will launch a pan-Canadian artificial intelligence strategy, and bring together Canada's main centres of AI expertise to drive investment and job creation across the country.
In agrifood, too, we are positioned for success. By 2050, global demand for food is expected to rise by 70%. That means more demand for prairie canola, Atlantic crab and lobster, and B.C. berries. It also means more jobs in the fields of southwestern Ontario and on the maple syrup farms of Quebec’s Eastern Townships. We will help farmers, producers, and processors build their businesses globally, and do so sustainably.
Canadians know that our environment and our economy go hand in hand. It is why we have worked with the provinces and territories to adopt the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. This not only means cleaner air to breathe; it means business and investment opportunities. That means jobs installing solar cells, manufacturing electric cars, or developing cleaner fuels will be in high demand.
Luckily, our energy sector is already well positioned to not only compete but to lead.
By investing in clean tech and responsible resource development, we will preserve our environment for future generations, create great jobs, and re-stake our claim as a leading supplier of energy to the world for the next 150 years.
Our plan is clear. Smart, ambitious investments in people, communities, and high-growth industries lead to opportunity, opportunity lead to jobs, jobs lead to a more confident and growing middle class, and a more confident, growing middle class is the only path to strong and sustained economic growth.
The government’s role in all of this is to lend support to those who are driving us forward and to make sure that everyone has a real and fair chance at success. This means ensuring that our most basic needs are met, and health and well-being are at the very top of that list.
Though our universal health care system is a source of pride for many Canadians, we know that more can be done for families caring for loved ones. It is why this budget provides support for caregivers helping loved ones at home and makes it easier for Canadians living with disabilities to get the tax relief they need.
We believe that whether their ailments are physical or mental, Canadians deserve the best possible care that we can provide. They deserve our help. I am pleased that with leadership from the Minister of Health over the last several months, we have reached health agreements with nearly every single province and territory.
Through these landmark agreements and historic health transfers to provinces and territories, representing over $200 billion over the next five years, we will reduce stress for families. We will ensure that every young person under the age of 25 gets the mental health support he or she need and deserve.
Having had the honour of representing and meeting families in St. James Town and Regent Park in Toronto, I have seen first hand the challenge of affordable housing. Therefore, it is my privilege to announce that the government will be investing over $11 billion, the largest single commitment in budget 2017. This is in support of a national housing strategy to protect every Canadian's right to a safe and affordable place to call home.
Our government has shown, and will continue to show, national leadership on housing. We will prioritize support for vulnerable citizens, including seniors, indigenous peoples, survivors fleeing domestic violence, persons with disabilities, those dealing with mental health issues, and veterans.
The decisions we make and the policies we create impact men and women differently.
In order to make laws and develop policies and programs that are in the best interests of all Canadians, we have to know what kind of impact they will have.
We know, for example, that while Canadian companies are getting better when it comes to hiring more women, they are still less effective at promoting women to senior roles, and we know that fewer women join or stay in the workforce than men. That means that as a country, we are not taking full advantage of the talents, insights, and experience of more than half of our population. It makes no sense. We need to do better.
Therefore, as a first step, we have asked the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders to quickly advise us on how we can better empower women entrepreneurs and remove barriers for women in business.
However, not all obstacles to progress are as obvious, so in budget 2017, we did something that should have been done a long time ago: we published the government’s first-ever gender statement. This is an assessment that ensures all budget measures, not just those aimed specifically at women, help us advance the goals of fairness, gender equality, and stronger workforce participation.
We realize that this is just the start, and we look forward to feedback on this first effort, which we will then build into future budgets.
Another challenge we must confront is access to quality child care. Too often we hear stories of single parents living in poverty because the cost of child care is so high they cannot afford to go back to work. That is not acceptable in our country.
To help low- and middle-income families with the costs of child care, we are committing $7 billion over the next decade to increase the number of high-quality child care spaces available across our country. In order to provide immediate relief, this will be working together with provinces and territories. We know that doing this could create up to 40,000 new subsidized child care spaces over the next three years. Canadian parents deserve our support, and we are delivering.
We know that strong partnerships between the federal government and indigenous communities are crucial for our success. Over the next five years, funding for indigenous peoples will have increased by over 27% from what it was when our government took office, well in excess of what would have been provided under the decades-old 2% funding cap. It will contribute to a higher quality of life on reserves, while setting Canada on a path toward true reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
This work continues today, both because it is a recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and because it is essential to our economic future.
Together, we will build stronger, more resilient communities and renew our nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis.
We will help break down employment barriers, with a focus on skills development, training, and better education. We will provide greater access to mental health, wellness, and suicide prevention services, while working with indigenous communities to combat substance abuse.
This is our plan for Canada. For it to succeed, we all have to do our share. I have been very fortunate in my life to have had a successful career in business and I have always paid my fair share of taxes, but it can be tempting for some to be too aggressive in their tax planning. Our review of federal tax expenditures, for example, highlighted a number of issues around tax planning strategies using private corporations. These are strategies that can result in some very wealthy individuals getting tax breaks at the expense of others.
Canadians expect a fair tax system. Our government is committed to taking action on this issue, and we will have more to say on this in the near future.
One of our government's very first actions was to raise taxes for the wealthiest Canadians, so that we could cut taxes for the middle class. Because of this tax cut, nine million Canadians see more money on their paycheques. These measures are making a real difference in people's lives.
We also gave the Canada Revenue Agency more resources to detect, audit, and combat tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.
Going forward, we will close loopholes that result in unfair tax advantages for some at the expense of others. We will eliminate inefficient tax measures, especially those that disproportionately benefit the wealthy. We will work with the provinces and the territories to crack down on those who hide their identity to avoid paying taxes. Let me be clear. All Canadians must pay their fair share of taxes, period.
Canada has always played an important role on the international stage. Going forward, as needs change, so too will our approach. In international assistance, for example, we remain committed to helping the world's poorest and most vulnerable, and we will continue to modernize our efforts so we can deliver better results, improve transparency, and foster innovation around the world.
To support our women and men in uniform in increasingly complex and unpredictable times, our government will soon release a new defence policy for Canada, following extensive consultation and analysis.
We also know that as a trading nation, our future depends on openness and investment. That means never missing an opportunity to remind the world of what makes Canada a great place to live, to play, and to do business. Nowhere is this truer than with our neighbours to the south.
Canada and the United States have the most successful economic relationship in the world, supporting millions of middle-class jobs on both sides of the border. We are proud of this fact. We are also proud to have recently concluded CETA, free trade agreement that will create jobs, reduce red tape, and give Canadian businesses preferred access to half a billion potential customers across the European Union.
As we prepare for the global economy of tomorrow, we will put our best foot forward, always looking to develop strategic partnerships to attract talent and investment, partnerships that will help our companies succeed, create good middle-class jobs at home, and do well globally.
Canada 150 reminds us all that we have a lot to be thankful for.
Economically, our talented, skilled, educated, diverse, and innovative workforce gives us tremendous potential for growth. Our values, our stories, and our cultures shine for the world to see. Our two official languages open the doors of the entire world to us and make our country unique.
Our natural resources and natural beauty are unparalleled, allowing us to share the joys of building a campfire with our kids, hiking with a college friend, or swimming in cool, clean waters. In fact, this year we are putting our national parks on full display, as we invite Canadians and families from around the world to enjoy them, free of charge.
Most important, we have begun to see signs of confidence and optimism return to our middle class. Consumer spending is up since we introduced the Canada Child Benefit.
In the last seven months, we have seen a quarter million new jobs, the best job gains seen in a decade. Unemployment has fallen in the time since we took office. These are good, early signs that plan that is working.
That is why we will continue to invest in our people, our communities, and our economy while maximizing the value of every dollar and ensuring that public funds are spent responsibly and that our debt-to-GDP ratio drops by the end of our term in office.
Our approach to investing deliberately will enable us to maintain our enviable position as the G7 nation with the best balance sheet. Most important, at the same time, we will have built a better future for our kids.
However, we know there is so much more to do on behalf of middle-class Canadians, middle-class Canadians like Mian, Dave, and Nebis. Working together, we will embrace change and deliver prosperity for all.