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Conservative MP for Willowdale (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 41.70% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Business of Supply September 16th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, ultimately government action in deciding minimum wage, as my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, has mentioned, is a very blunt instrument. It is like using a tennis racket to swat a fly.
The only way that a business person would increase jobs is if the economy is stimulated with tax credits and the business owner is encouraged to invest in production equipment or obtain a lower cost of production. As the cost of production is increased, the cost is simply passed on to the end price, which therefore increases the inflationary rate in the economy and makes it more difficult for everybody to earn a living wage.
Business of Supply September 16th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, if I look at this purely on the microeconomic scale as an employer, if the wages were competitive internationally or competitive within Canada and there were a growth aspect in the economy, I would absolutely hire more workers.
If we allow our economy to grow with more free trade around the world, and every dollar that we export translates to five dollars of domestic GNP, that is how I would look at improving our economy and the lot of our citizens.
Business of Supply September 16th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House and also to be the last speaker on this issue of minimum wage.
We have heard today about our government's outstanding record of achievement with respect to creating jobs and economic growth. I would like to dedicate my time to exploring in more detail how we are building on these results by helping to connect Canadians with available jobs.
Despite our excellent employment performance, our government is constantly looking for ways to make it even better, and we find it unacceptable that many Canadians are out of work or underutilized at a time when skills and labour shortages are emerging in certain sectors and regions. Indeed, many employers agree with us and continue to identify the shortage of skilled labour as an impediment to growth. In fact, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce lists skills shortages as the number one barrier to Canada's competitiveness.
Faced with this challenge, we have taken effective and concrete action to support the development of a skilled, mobile, and productive workforce.
To begin, let me go back to budget 2007, when our government introduced the working income tax benefit, or WITB. The WITB fulfilled our government's commitment to help make work more rewarding to low-income Canadians already in the workforce and increased the incentive for other low-income Canadians to enter the workforce.
Economic action plan 2009 went even further by effectively doubling the benefits provided under the WITB. Today this initiative is making a real difference in the lives of Canadians. It has lowered the welfare wall so that low-income individuals now keep more of their earnings. In 2013, over $1.1 billion in WITB benefits were provided to individuals and families.
Recognizing that families are the cornerstone of our society, economic action plan 2011 took action to further reduce the tax burden on hard-working Canadian families. In doing so, we recognized that some families need additional support. For example, many Canadians have assumed added responsibilities in caring for infirm parents or other family members. These family caregivers make special sacrifices, often leaving the workforce temporarily and forgoing employment income.
In support of these families who care for infirm dependants, economic action plan 2011 introduced the family caregiver tax credit, which came into effect in 2012. This 15% non-refundable credit on an amount of $2,058 in 2014 provides additional tax relief for caregivers of all types of infirm dependent family members, including, for the first time, spouses, common-law partners, and minor children.
To further help caregivers, economic action plan 2011 removed the $10,000 limit on the amount of eligible expenses a taxpayer can claim under the medical expense tax credit for a financially dependent relative.
We also established the registered disability savings plan, or RDSP, based on the recommendations of the 2006 expert panel on financial security for children with severe disabilities. The RDSP is designed to help individuals with severe disabilities and their families save for their long-term financial security.
Since its implementation in 2008, our government has made a number of improvements to the program. For example, to make sure that RDSP beneficiaries with a shortened life expectancy can access their savings, economic action plan 2011 provided them with more flexibility to withdraw their RDSP assets without requiring the repayment of Canada disability savings grants and Canada disability savings bonds.
In 2011 our government launched a review of the RDSP to ensure that RDSPs are meeting the needs of Canadians with severe disabilities and their families. Based on the feedback received during the review, economic action plan 2012 announced a number of measures to improve the RDSP.
These measures provided greater access to RDSP savings for small withdrawals, gave greater flexibility to make withdrawals from certain RDSPs and ensure the RDSP assets were used to support a beneficiary during their lifetime, enhanced flexibility for parents who save in registered education savings plans for children with disabilities, introduced greater continuity for beneficiaries who cease to qualify for the disability tax credit in certain circumstances, and improved the administration of the RDSP for financial institutions and beneficiaries.
More than 81,000 RDSPs have been opened since they became available in 2008. Thanks to a measures like the RDSP, our government is making sure Canadians with disabilities get the support they need.
Let me now say a few more words about the government's tax reductions for seniors and pensioners. On this subject I once again have plenty of material to draw from.
Our government increased the age credit amount by $1,000 in 2006 and by another $1,000 in 2009. We doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000. We introduced pension income splitting and increased the age limit for maturing pensions and RRSPs to 71 from 69 years of age. As a result of these actions, seniors and pensioners are receiving about $2.8 billion in additional annual tax relief.
Overall, actions taken by this government have substantially increased the income seniors can earn before they are required to pay income tax. In 2014 a single senior can earn at least $20,054 and a senior couple at least $40,109 before paying federal income tax.
Seniors and those who support them may also take advantage of tax credits, such as the disability tax credit, the medical expense tax credit, the caregiver credit, and the family caregiver tax credit, which, as I have mentioned, was introduced in economic action plan 2011 and came into effect in 2012.
In the same year our government enhanced the guaranteed income supplement, the GIS, for those seniors who rely almost exclusively on their old age security and the GIS and may therefore be at risk of experiencing financial difficulties. The measure provided a new top-up benefit of up to $600 annually for single seniors and $840 for couples, and is improving the financial security of more than 680,000 seniors across Canada.
Finally, let me add that new measures we have introduced recognize that the health of the Canadian economy ultimately depends on providing opportunities for a high quality of life for all Canadians. That is why economic action plan 2014 continues to implement the government's plan for jobs and growth by connecting Canadians with available jobs through helping them to acquire the skills that will get them hired or help them get better jobs; fostering job creation, innovation, and trade by keeping taxes low; reducing the tax compliance burden; continuing to provide Canadian businesses and investors with the market access they need to succeed in the global economy; and supporting families and communities by taking additional steps to protect Canadian consumers, keeping taxes low for families, and improving the safety of Canadians.
Keeping taxes low is an important element of our economic action plan. It helps Canadians succeed in the global economy through the creation of high-quality jobs and greater opportunities for success.
Economic action plan 2014 is the next chapter in our government's long-term plan to strengthen the Canadian economy in an uncertain world and create jobs and growth while keeping taxes low for families and businesses and balancing the budget in 2015.
Taken together, the measures our government has introduced since 2006 and those in economic action plan 2014 will continue to keep taxes low and help Canadians succeed in the global economy, creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
In the deliberations prior to my speaking, we talked a lot about the macro aspect of the minimum wage. A $5 increase over the Canadian average of $10 or $11 means a 50% increase. Divided over the five years that are recommended, that is a 10% increase a year. That is quite significant.
Let me address this issue from a micro point of view and as a former business owner for 20 years. If the minimum wage were to increase by 10% a year, I would not hire additional staff. I would not pass it. I would have to keep my costs down to run my business.
Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 12th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to be a Canadian citizen, and it is a privilege for me to rise in this House to address this point.
Women in this country were given their citizenship and the right to vote about 100 years ago. The Chinese did not get their right to vote until 1947. The South Asians did not get their right to citizenship until 1948. Although many Japanese during the internment period were born in Canada, they did not have the right to vote in the 1950s. This was all under the rules of the former Liberal government.
If we had let the Chinese write their laws when we first came to this country in 1421, if I remember properly, we probably would have written them in such a way that one would have to live here a lifetime before being permitted to be a citizen. Under Chinese law, if one parent was from Switzerland and the other from Japan, the children would have to be either Japanese, Swiss, or Chinese and they would have to change their name before they could be citizens.
It is a privilege to be a Canadian citizen. As we define that privilege, I think this current act does a good job. What are we looking for? We are looking for the intent to stay, a commitment to this country, to be grounded in this environment, to pay taxes, and to learn the language so that people can communicate as Canadian citizens. Those are the elements that are necessary.
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 5th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, this is another area where I have some experience. I spent 10 years of my life building subway systems around the world, which is also very important and pertinent to Canadian infrastructure building.
The fact that we have allocated $53 billion in long-term sustainable funding gives the municipalities an idea of how to move forward with their infrastructure spending.
Infrastructure spending has many facets. There is short-term infrastructure spending, which is for basic repairs and maintenance for potholes, bridges, roads, and so on. Then, as we direct how we can grow a community in a sustainable way, we need to look at how we build roads and highways, power plants, and other social infrastructure that sustains a community.
Then there is longer-term infrastructure building that looks at the high-end, very expensive expenditures, such as for high-speed rail and subway systems. To give an example, in 1985-86, when we were building the Vancouver SkyTrain, the average cost per kilometre was $25 million. If we were to build that today, we would be paying $300 million. Therefore, we need to do this in a very slow, gradual, and determined way.
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 5th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, 34 years ago, I was in public accounting. I looked at the Canadian tax act, and it is probably one of the most fair tax acts in the world. It looks at transfer payments between those who earn more versus those who earn less, and through a graduated system and through a system of looking at the capital gains one gets from capital asset appreciation, people are taxed accordingly. There is no inequality in this. It is truly a fair tax system.
By raising the basic minimum where people do not have to pay taxes, we are bringing a lot of people who are on the lower end of the middle class into a position where they can have a good standard of living. This is equally applied across the nation, regardless of which industry people are working in.
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 5th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of the budget implementation act. This act would ensure that important provisions in budget 2014 are implemented. This is especially true in the case affecting my riding of Willowdale, which has a lot of small and medium-sized businesses.
Our government has never strayed from our commitment to strengthen our economy for Canadians and the determination to see our plan through without raising taxes. Our government believes the hard-earned money of families and entrepreneurs belongs in the pockets of families and entrepreneurs. Low taxes, positive and targeted measures for economic growth, and for families, and balanced budgets is the right combination and the right path for economic growth.
Our plan has been reviewed by the business community. Recently the Conference Board of Canada performed a study on how Canada performs in our economy to find out which countries around the world are prosperous and which are not. The results are that Canada ranks fifth overall in economic performance among the top 16 countries around the world. This is good news for Canada as we continue to weather the global economic slowdown.
It is also important to note the recent report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. This report has concluded that personal income taxes are $17.1 billion lower today and that Canadian consumers are paying about $13.3 billion less in value-added taxes on their purchases of goods and services. I am proud of our government's record in standing up for Canadian consumers and families through these tax reductions. It is also very encouraging that recently the annual “Update of Economic and Fiscal Projections” confirmed that our Conservative government is on track to balance the budget in 2015 and is expected to have a surplus of $3.7 billion in the 2015-16 fiscal year. Our plan is working for Canadians, and I am proud to stand in support of policies that benefit the people I represent.
As the world experienced the economic downturn, our government introduced targeted spending to help protect Canadian jobs and to support the economy. Despite ongoing global economic uncertainty, Canada has the best job-creation record, the lowest net debt ratio, and the strongest business investment growth in the G7. These temporary initiatives have helped create jobs and growth. However, our government understands the importance of balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility for Canada's long-term economic success.
Our government would invest $11 million over two years and $3.5 million per year ongoing to strengthen the labour market opinion process to ensure that Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs. We would also provide $14 million over two years and $4.7 million per year ongoing toward the successful implementation of an expression of interest economic immigration system to support Canada's labour market needs.
Our government believes that families and communities are valuable in our economy. That is why we would encourage competition and lower prices in the telecommunications market by capping wholesale domestic wireless roaming rates to prevent wireless providers from charging other companies who may be their competitors more than they charge their own customers for mobile voice, data, and text services.
We have introduced a search and rescue volunteers tax credit for search and rescue volunteers who perform at least 200 hours of service in a year.
We would increase the maximum amount of the adoption expense tax credit to $15,000 to help make adoption more affordable for Canadian families.
We would exempt acupuncturists' and naturopathic doctors' professional services from the goods and services tax and harmonized sales tax. We would also expand the list of eligible expenses under the medical expense tax credit to include costs associated with service animals that are specially trained to assist individuals with severe diabetes, such as diabetes alert dogs, as well amounts paid for the design of an eligible individualized therapy plan.
It is important to note that since the government first introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, and part of that plan was to address some specific areas in the Canadian economy that were affected by the downturn, Canada has recovered more than all of the output and all of the jobs lost during the recession, the result of the sound economic policy of our government. Since July 2009, employment has increased by over one million. It is more than 600,000 above its pre-recession peak, the strongest job growth among the group of seven countries over the recovery. Almost 90% of all jobs created since July 2009 are full-time positions, close to 85% are in the private sector, and over two-thirds are in high-wage industries. Real gross domestic product is significantly above pre-recession levels, the best performance in the G7.
Balancing Canada's budget is essential to the long-term health and prosperity of our economy. By keeping our fiscal house in order, we can help keep taxes low, social programs affordable, and the economy growing. That is why our Conservative government remains committed to balancing the budget in 2015. We would do this by controlling spending and making government more efficient with taxpayers' dollars. What we would not do is cut provincial transfers for important social programs like health care and education.
Overall, since 2010, our actions have saved taxpayers nearly $19 billion per year. This prudent economic leadership has helped Canada maintain its strong fiscal position, with the best job creation record and debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7. Returning to balance will cement Canada's status as an economic powerhouse.
We all know that balanced budgets help keep taxes low, attract investment, and ensure sustainable social programs. Despite demands by the opposition for more government spending, we will continue to make government more efficient.
For Ontario, the federal budget confirmed that provincial transfers would total $19.2 billion in 2014-15. This is a whopping increase of 76% from the previous government. That government radically slashed transfers to Ontario, decimating health care, education, and other important social services that families rely on. Under our Conservative government, federal support has grown to historic levels and will continue to grow in the future.
Investment in Canada's public infrastructure creates jobs, promotes economic growth, and provides a high quality of life for families in every city and community across the country. Our government has made significant investments since 2006 to build roads, bridges, subways, rail, and much more. Furthermore, in 2013, our government announced the new building Canada plan, a $53-billion investment in critical infrastructure funding for the next 10 years. This is the largest and longest federal investment in job-creation infrastructure in Canada's history.
Our government recognizes that Canada's seniors have helped build and make our country great. That is why since 2006, about $2.8 billion in annual tax relief has been provided to seniors and pensioners, including introducing pension income splitting, increasing the age credit amount by $2,000, doubling the pension income credit, increasing the amount of the guaranteed income supplements, increasing the age limit for the RRSP-to-RRIF conversion, and establishing the landmark tax-free savings account.
Our government has been keeping Canada on the right path for economic growth. This includes lowering taxes over 160 times, which will save the average Canadian family nearly $3,400 on their tax bills in 2014. We also cut taxes for job-creating businesses, allowing them to hire more workers and open up new markets for Canadian goods and services, most recently through the historic Canada-European Union trade agreement.
To help Canadians get the skills and training they need to succeed, our plan would also move forward with the Canada job grant to connect people looking for work directly with in-demand jobs. We would also introduce the Canadian apprentice loan to give access to student loans to apprentices for the first time ever.
This bill is great news for my constituents in Willowdale and all the small and medium-sized businesses that sustain our economy. I invite all members of the House to join me in supporting jobs, growth,and long-term economic prosperity.
Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act May 28th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, there is a difference. Let me share my personal experience on this with him. When I first came to Canada as an international student in 1968 and graduated in 1972, I was prepared to pursue my postgraduate education either in Europe or in the United States. There was not that intent to reside in Canada or to stay in Canada. It was not until I subsequently obtained permanent residency that I decided to stay in Canada.
Therefore, when people are here on a work visa or under temporary status, there is no guarantee that they have the intention to stay. When we hear the intention or the voluntary desire that people profess to want to be a Canadian, that is the time when we should start counting their intention to be a Canadian citizen and their contribution to society.
Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act May 28th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, what we need to appreciate is that citizenship itself is a privilege. To be a citizen or to be a landed immigrant to work in Canada is itself a privilege. Then we also need to be clear that we have to separate those who come here on a temporary basis from those who are here with an intention to say. Those who are here with an intention to stay, if they fulfill the residency requirements, will be granted citizenship.
One of the responsibilities of being a Canadian citizen is the ability to have some sort of civic participation. With most of our elections being somewhere between every four years and every five years, I feel it is necessary for a person to have actually physically experienced that period of time in Canada in that civic participation.
Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act May 28th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for St. Catharines.
I am very pleased and privileged to have this opportunity to add my voice in support of Bill C-24, the government's legislation that would strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship. Let me also say that it is a privilege to be a Canadian citizen and to be able to rise in the House to speak. I first came to this country as an international student in 1968, but I was made a stateless citizen in 1971 when Canada chose to change its recognition from the Republic of China to the People's Republic of China. Due to the generosity of the Canadian immigration system, I was able to apply for my permanent resident status and subsequently became a citizen in 1976.
Let me address some of the issues in the new citizenship act. As we know, Canadian citizenship is highly valued around the world. The fact that more than 85% of eligible permanent residents go on to become citizens is a testament to this. Last year, this translated into nearly 129,000 new Canadians citizens from no fewer than 219 countries, a 14% increase over 2012 numbers. We can all take pride in the value of our citizenship and in our high naturalization rate. Unfortunately, because Canadian citizenship is so valuable, some people are prepared to lie or cheat in order to qualify. For example, they may break our citizenship law by pretending to be living in Canada when they are living abroad. In fact, more than 85% of Canadian citizenship fraud involves falsifying residency. In many cases, permanent residents have used the services of immigration consultants who fraudulently establish evidence of residence in Canada while living abroad most, if not all, of the time.
Ongoing large-scale fraud investigations have identified more than 3,000 citizens and 5,000 permanent residents linked to major investigations, the majority of them related to residents. In addition, nearly 2,000 individuals linked to these investigations have either abandoned or withdrawn their citizenship applications. Individuals who seek to obtain Canadian citizenship fraudulently have no real attachment to Canada. They want citizenship for no other reason than to obtain the many benefits associated with Canadian citizenship or purely for financial gain.
Right now, applicants must reside in Canada for three out of the previous four years before being eligible to apply for citizenship. The major fault with the current citizenship requirements is that “residence” is not defined under the current Citizenship Act. As a result, it is currently possible for someone to become a Canadian citizen even if he or she has spent little time actually living in Canada.
Under the changes we propose, the rules around resident requirements would be strengthened so that adults applying for citizenship would have to be physically present in Canada. We would also lengthen the residency requirement to four years out of the previous six years, with a specific requirement to reside in Canada for a minimum of 183 days during at least four of the six qualifying years.
In his testimony before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Martin Collacott, a former Canadian diplomat and spokesman for the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform, said:
...I think newcomers will value their citizenship more if they know it is not something that can be acquired quickly or without meeting certain standards.
I strongly support the provisions of Bill C-24 aimed at ensuring that residency requirements are actually met, particularly in view of evidence that thousands of people have obtained their citizenship fraudulently by claiming they had spent time in Canada when they had not.
The proposed residency requirement in Bill C-24 would be consistent with the Income Tax Act, which says that those in Canada for less than 183 days with no other attachment to Canada are considered non-residents for income tax purposes. Unlike the majority of Canadians, non-residents are generally only required to pay taxes on their Canadian-sourced income. By better aligning the residency requirement for citizenship with the residency rules under the Income Tax Act, it would help to further strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship. Coupled with the new residency requirement, it would also strengthen the permanent residence attachment to Canada.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, in a recent appearance before the standing committee, said the following:
For the first time, we have a pragmatic, transparent threshold to access Canadian citizenship. That is long overdue.
We obviously agree. I would add that these amendments to the Canadian Citizenship Act are also important because the physical presence in Canada assists with permanent residents' final integration into society.
A longer residence period would enable newcomers to develop a stronger connection to Canada. Furthermore, creating a clear and longer physical presence requirement would help deter citizens of convenience. Those individuals become citizens purely for the convenience of having a Canadian passport and to access the full range of taxpayer-funded benefits that come with this status, without any intention of contributing to Canada or even residing here.
In other words, they regard their Canadian citizenship primarily as little more than an insurance policy, to quote Mr. Collacott.
Of course in order to support their admission to Canadian society, citizens must first have an adequate knowledge of one of our official languages. As Mr. Collacott has said, the basic command of one of Canada's official languages is an essential skill for newcomers who are going to be able to contribute to society and the economy, as well as be able to realize their own dreams and aspirations as immigrants.
The government also believes that citizens must have knowledge about our country as well as the responsibility and privileges of Canadian citizenship, as this knowledge is essential to a new citizen's civic participation. This is why the amendments contained in Bill C-24 would also expand the age group who must first show proof of their language proficiency and take a citizenship knowledge test. We would expand the current age group from 18 to 54 years old, to 14 to 64 years old.
This would provide incentive for more individuals to acquire official language proficiency and civic knowledge, thus improving their integration. It would also ensure that more newcomers are better prepared to assume the responsibility of citizenship.
Lengthening the residency requirement and expanding the group that must meet knowledge and language requirements would ensure that more new citizens are better prepared for full participation in all aspects of Canadian life.
As I have said, these changes would also help deter citizenship of convenience. Taken together, the amendments in Bill C-24 would preserve and protect the value of Canadian citizenship both today and in the future by ensuring Canadians have a real, rather than a tenuous or non-existent, connection to Canada.
In his testimony before the standing committee, Shimon Fogel, chief executive officer of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said his organization appreciates the steps taken by Bill C-24 to promote strong ties to Canada and buy-in to core Canadian values. He also added that the introduction of more robust residency requirements including physical presence to qualify for citizenship is particularly well received.
Canadian citizenship is highly valued around the world and, with this balanced set of reforms, the government is taking steps to ensure that it stays that way.