Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-45, the jobs and growth act, 2012, which is legislation to implement the next phase of Canada's economic plan.
Our plan will help Canadian workers and their families. It will help them by creating a pro-growth environment that will create jobs and long-term prosperity from coast to coast to coast. The measures in today's act are key to achieving this goal.
Indeed, the bill before us today includes wonderful initiatives to grow our economy, create jobs, support Canadian families and communities when they need it most, promote clean energy and enhance neutrality in the tax system, while at the same time taking into account the taxpayers' ability to pay.
So far, our action plan is working very well. Since July 2009, for instance, over 820,000 jobs have been created in Canada. That is the strongest job creation record in the G7, and 90% of the jobs created are full-time. But that is not all.
The World Economic Forum states that our banks are the soundest in the world. The OECD and the IMF predict that our economy will be among the leaders of the industrialized world over the next several years. Our net debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7, by far. All three of the major credit rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch and Standard and Poors, have reaffirmed Canada's top credit rating.
Only recently, respected head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, told The Globe and Mail the following:
Canada is...faring relatively well because of its fundamentals...and the way in which it has been properly supervised and regulated and organized over the course of the last few years. [...] Canada is doing a lot better than other advanced economies.
However, as we all know, it is not enough to simply maintain Canada's advantage among the major advanced economies. As we have said all along, Canada is not an island. We are not immune to global weakness from beyond our borders. There is no question that Canada will be impacted by ongoing global economic turbulence, especially from our biggest trading partners in the United States and Europe. That is why we must move quickly to implement the pro-growth, job-creating measures contained in economic action plan 2012 by enacting today's legislation.
For instance, today's act would help build a strong economy and create jobs by extending the job-creating hiring credit for small business, which will benefit over 500,000 employers and help them to create jobs. It would also promote interprovincial trade, improve the legislative framework governing Canada's financial institutions, facilitate cross-border travel, remove red tape and reduce fees for Canada's grain farmers. Supporting Canada's commercial aviation sector is a priority in this legislation.
This legislation also supports families and communities by improving registered disability savings plans, helping Canadians save for retirement by implementing the tax framework for pooled registered pension plans, improving the administration of the Canada pension plan and strengthening the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It would also promote clean energy, enhance neutrality of the tax system by expanding tax relief for investment in clean energy generation equipment and phasing out tax preferences for the mining and oil and gas sectors. It respects taxpayers' dollars through changes, such as, taking landmark action to ensure the pension plans for federal public sector employees are sustainable and financially responsible and by closing tax loopholes and eliminating duplication.
It is true that the jobs and growth act, 2012 is comprehensive and ambitious. As we all know, the challenges that our economy face are neither small nor one-dimensional. In a fast-paced and uncertain global economy, where we face increasing competition from rapidly growing emerging markets like Brazil and India, we must move quickly to implement vital economic reform. However, as is becoming all too familiar, we have heard the same tired complaints from opposition members. They say, “Let us not move forward on economic reform. Let us not support the economy”. They say, Let us play partisan politics instead”. I say shame on them.
At a time of global economic turbulence, the opposition's amateurish political games and desperate delay tactics to block our government's continued support for the economy will do nothing but hurt Canadians. Make no mistake about it.
We are proud of economic action plan 2012, and we are proud of today's act. We are not afraid to debate it.
In addition to the many hours of debate in this House, our government led a comprehensive study of this bill. No fewer than 10 House committees, in addition to the Standing Committee on Finance, took part and held hearings on various parts of the bill. Over the past few weeks, those committees heard from countless witnesses who shared their opinions with parliamentarians and the public.
I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank the committee members and chairs, especially the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc, for all of their hard work.
I would especially like to thank the members and chairs of these committees for completing their study in a timely manner to ensure that swift implementation of job-creating measures to secure our economic growth happen here.
In my time remaining, I will speak specifically to those job-creating measures, which become increasingly important with each passing day.
As I mentioned before, the global economy is all too fragile, as recent headlines can attest. Only two weeks ago, we learned that Europe entered a second recession. South of the border, the United States is edging closer to its so-called fiscal cliff. It is at times like this that our government must stay focused on the economy. This is when we must turn our attention to the needs of everyday Canadians in communities across the country so that they can continue to rely on a strong Canadian economy to support their families and grow their businesses.
We must stay the course with our plan for jobs and growth, which is widely considered to be a model for the world. It is this fiscal discipline that has served us so well, earning us the lowest net debt to GDP ratio in the G7. Indeed, this has been recognized time and time again by international leaders. Only recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised our government's approach, saying:
Canada's path of great budgetary discipline and a very heavy emphasis on growth and overcoming the crisis, not living on borrowed money, can be an example for the way in which problems on the other side of the Atlantic can be addressed.... This is also the right solution for Europe.
I am so glad that the Minister of Foreign Affairs agrees wholeheartedly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
It is this emphasis on growth I would like to highlight in my discussion of today's act, and in particular, the hiring credit for small business to help small employers all across Canada defray the cost of hiring new workers.
I am pleased to tell Parliament and all Canadians how well the credit has been received by Canadian small business owners. For example, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, representing over 100,000 Canadian entrepreneurs, explains exactly how the hiring credit helps their members:
The Hiring Credit for Small Business...is a popular measure among all SMEs but is particularly important among growing firms as it helps them strengthen business performance.
In fact, small businesses liked the credit so much in 2011 that they asked for it again in 2012, saying, and once again I will quote the CFIB:
The 2011 EI Hiring Credit was very helpful to CFIB's members, particularly the smallest businesses.... This is a relatively inexpensive measure that benefits businesses across the country.
Unbelievably, not only has the NDP voted against this measure time and time again, but shortly after the introduction of the jobs and growth act, 2012, the NDP finance critic actually came out against the bill's extension of tax relief for small business, oddly calling the hiring credit for small business “an across-the-board cut for small business”.
Let us forget about the NDP finance critic's odd reasoning. I want to explain exactly what his party opposed not just once, but twice.
As indicated in Canada's economic action plan, this measure allows for a credit of up to $1,000 against a small employer's increase in its 2012 EI premiums over those paid in 2011. For the benefit of Canadians watching at home and my opposition colleagues, I will take a moment to explain how this credit works.
Say, for example, Bill and his wife Linda own a small café and that, last year, they hired five employees. Their business's payroll was $125,000 and they paid $3,108 in EI premiums. This year, more customers are visiting their café and they have expanded. They hired a new employee, which raised the business's payroll to $150,000. With the hiring credit for small business, they will receive a credit of $732, which will cover the increase in EI premiums for their new employee, which will help them create a stable job in their own community.
To make things even easier, the Canada Revenue Agency will automatically calculate the hiring credit when Bill and Linda file their 2012 tax return. They will not even have to apply, which will enable them to avoid endless red tape and delays.
I would remind my opposition colleagues of the evidence we heard at committee that the credit is working and is having a tangible impact on the ability of small businesses to hire more workers.
Only recently, Corinne Pohlmann, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, told me and other members of the finance committee that:
It's not always easy for every single small firm to hold onto every employee they bring on. We always say small businesses are the first to hire and the last to fire. They'll do anything they can to hold onto their people. We saw that through the recession very clearly.... [T]he way the EI hiring credit is now, it has also been useful for a lot of the very small companies.
If an issue affects small business, it touches 60% of Canadian workers and has a major impact on job creation, especially in a period of economic recovery. With that in mind, our government has long recognized that small businesses are the engine of job creation in Canada, employing hundreds of thousands of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
We are proud of our consistent record of support for this fundamental sector of our economy, this year and every year since we formed the government. That is why, since 2006, we have lowered the tax bill of small businesses to help them succeed, even when the opposition has tried to stand in our way.
The NDP talks about supporting job creation, but let us take a moment to actually examine the record.
We reduced the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%, but the NDP voted against it. We increased the amount of income eligible for the lower small business tax rate from $300,000 to $500,000, but the NDP voted against that too.
While the New Democrats have never met a tax they did not like, they could take a lesson or two from the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, Canada's largest industry and trade association, with over 85% of its members representing small and medium-sized businesses. Despite what the opposition might have us believe, the CME explains:
Over 110,000 companies pay corporate taxes and...90 per cent of those businesses are small and mid-sized enterprises.
These are the companies on Main Street...in which most Canadian workers are employed. When businesses keep more of their profits, they have more money to expand [and] hire more people
We on the government side understand this, which is exactly why we are here debating the jobs and growth act, 2012 and the extension of the small business hiring tax credit. I urge all members to carefully consider the measures in this act, including other measures to grow our economy and create jobs, to provide support to Canadian families and communities when they need it the most, to promote clean energy, and to enhance the neutrality of the tax system.
While hope springs eternal that the New Democrats might come to their senses, their rejection of the small business hiring tax credit and other job creation measures in the jobs and growth act, 2012 is just another sign that their tax-and-spend agenda is out of touch with the priorities of small-business owners and hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast.