Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity today to highlight many of the pro-growth and job creation measures in Bill C-4, economic action plan 2013 act no. 2, which is a very important piece of legislation for our government.
We all recognize that during the global economic recession and throughout the recovery, Canada has experienced one of the best economic performances among G7 countries. Indeed, since the depths of the global economic recession, Canada's economy has created over one million net new jobs, nearly 90% of which are full-time, with over 80% in the private sector.
This morning, in fact, Statistics Canada announced that 21,600 net new jobs were created in the month of November, which is great news. Not only did this job growth beat market expectation, but solid gains were made in the manufacturing sector, where 24,900 new jobs were created. This continues Canada's strong job creation record, which is the best in the entire G7 by far.
It is not only that, but Canada's unemployment rate is at its lowest level since December 2008 and remains below that of the U.S. This is a phenomenon that has not been seen in nearly three decades.
However, that is not all.
All the major credit rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch, Standard and Poor's, have affirmed Canada's rock solid AAA credit rating. It is worth mentioning that Canada is one of only a handful of countries that can boast this top-notch rating. We can do this, thankfully, because the Conservative government understands the meaning of fiscal responsibility.
Indeed, when Standard and Poor's affirmed Canada's AAA rating on November 13, here is what it had to say:
The ratings on Canada reflect its strong public institutions, prosperous and resilient economy, fiscal and monetary flexibility, and effective policymaking. [...] Canada's success in the past decade in achieving credible monetary and fiscal policy, along with its openness to trade...will continue to support its economic performance.
Unlike other countries, Canada has found the right balance between efforts to support job creation and economic growth by respecting commitments to reduce deficits and return to balanced budgets in 2015. While many European countries, and even the United States, continue to struggle with their national debts, Canada is in the best fiscal position in the G7. In fact, Canada's net debt to GDP ratio was 34.6% in 2012, the lowest level in the G7 by far. Germany was second lowest, and closest to Canada, at 57.2%. If members are still not impressed, how about this: the G7 average is 90.4%.
While the Liberals may want to engage in reckless spending, our government is on track to return to balanced budgets by 2015.
Most importantly, unlike the previous Liberal government, we will balance the budget without slashing transfers for health care and education. Our Conservative government rejects that shameful practice and is protecting and growing transfers to help support the services that Canadian families depend on. Unlike the previous Liberal government, we understand that if we make government more efficient and control program spending, we can reduce the deficit while still increasing transfers.
As was recently outlined in the government's annual financial report in 2012-13, the deficit fell to $18.9 billion, which was down by more than one-quarter; that is $7.4 billion from the deficit of $26.3 billion in 2011-12, and down by nearly two-thirds from the $55.6 billion deficit recorded in 2009-10. The Liberals might be interested to know that the reductions in direct program spending played a key role in this outcome. Indeed, expenses fell by 1.2% from the prior year and by 3.8% from 2010-11.
Our government will also balance the budget without raising taxes. Unlike the high-tax NDP and Liberals, our Conservative government believes in low taxes and leaving more money where it belongs, in the pockets of hard-working Canadian families and job-creating businesses.
The opposition may be interested to know that since 2006 we have cut taxes over 160 times, reducing the overall tax burden to its lowest level in 50 years. In fact, our strong record of tax relief has meant that savings for a typical family of four, in 2013, totals nearly $3,400. This includes cutting the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%, increasing the amount Canadians can earn without paying tax, and introducing pension income splitting for seniors. It also includes measures like reducing the GST from 7% to 5%, which has put an estimated $1,000 back in the pockets of average families. This is a measure that both the Liberals and the NDP opposed.
That is not all. It includes introducing measures like the working income tax benefit, and the tax-free savings account, the most important personal savings vehicle since RRSPs. Overall, we have removed over one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls.
Keeping taxes low also helps the businesses in our communities grow and succeed. That is why, since 2006 we have consistently reduced the tax burden for small businesses. This includes reducing the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%, while at the same time increasing the small business limit to $500,000. In fact, our government's low-tax plan has resulted in over $28,000 in savings for the typical small business.
The NDP and Liberals might not understand how the economy works, but lower taxes not only encourage businesses to innovate and grow, it also makes Canada a more attractive destination in which to invest. As a matter of fact, Canada has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7.
To question whether this is having a positive impact, one need only look at the facts. Both the independent International Monetary Fund, the IMF, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD, project that Canada will have the strongest growth among the G7 in the years ahead. Last week, Statistics Canada announced that the Canadian economy grew 2.7% in the third quarter of 2013. This represents the ninth consecutive quarter of economic growth in Canada and is an encouraging sign that Canada's economy is on the right track.
However, while this is certainly encouraging news, we cannot become complacent. While economic conditions are improving, there are still too many Canadians out of work. The global economy looks fragile, especially in the U.S. and Europe, both among our largest trading partners. This is why our Conservative government remains focused on what matters to Canadians: creating jobs and growing the economy. That is exactly what today's legislation is all about.
Bill C-4 would implement key measures from economic action plan 2013, which would help support job creation and growth in communities across the country. One such measure is the extension and expansion of the hiring credit for small business. The history of this credit illustrates our government's commitment to small business in Canada.
Indeed, in economic action plan 2011 our government first introduced the hiring credit for small business, which provided up to $1,000 to help defray the cost of hiring new workers. In fact, the credit was so successful that we extended it again in economic action plan 2012.
As I mentioned earlier, the economy is showing encouraging signs of growth. At the same time, there is still a large amount of uncertainty in the global economy. We have heard these concerns from business owners. That is why economic action plan 2013 and Bill C-4 extend and expand the hiring credit for small business.
As a result of this legislation, the credit provides for up to $1,000 against a small firm's increase in its 2013 EI premiums over that paid in 2012. It applies to employers with total EI premiums of $15,000 or less in 2012, an increase from the previous level of $10,000. Extending this credit would benefit over 560,000 employers, providing them with an estimated $225 million in tax relief in 2013.
As the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said recently:
The big change for small business is the extension and expansion of the EI hiring credit. [...] That's really good news....
That was from March 21, 2013, on the CTV News channel.
Clearly, our Conservative government recognizes the vital role that small businesses play in the economy and job creation. That is why we are committed to helping them grow and succeed.
On that note, there are many other measures in Bill C-4 that will support small businesses across Canada.
Bill C-4 increases and indexes to inflation the lifetime capital gains exemption. Not only will increasing the exemption from $750,000 to $800,000 make investing in small businesses more attractive, it will make it easier for entrepreneurs of today to transfer their family businesses to the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
Our government also wants to ensure that the value of this exemption is preserved over time. That is why Bill C-4 will index the exemption to inflation for the first time ever. Overall, this will provide an estimated $5 million in tax relief in 2013-14, and $15 million in 2014-15.
However, there are still more measures in Bill C-4 that support Canadian job creators.
Bill C-4 provides tax relief to encourage more businesses to invest in clean energy generation, by expanding the accelerated capital cost allowance.
The message is simple: keeping taxes low helps attract investment, allows our businesses to expand their operations and to hire more workers. It also helps Canadian families keep more money in their pockets. At the end of the day, Canadians know best how to spend their hard-earned money.
How can we keep taxes low if people are gaming the system and exploiting tax loopholes? Our government does not think it is fair when a select few businesses and individuals avoid paying their fair share. That is why economic action plan 2013 introduces a number of measures to close tax loopholes and address aggressive tax planning, clarify tax rules and reduce international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.
When it comes to closing tax loopholes, our record speaks for itself. Since 2006, including measures in economic plan 2013, our government has closed over 75 tax loopholes. Bill C-4 includes some of these measures, such as eliminating the unintended tax benefits from character conversion transactions and 10/8 arrangements. It also includes a number of measures to strengthen the ability of the Canada Revenue Agency, the CRA, to crack down on tax cheats and combat international tax evasion.
Overall, the actions in economic action plan 2013 to close tax loopholes and improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system will provide about $350 million in savings in 2013-14, rising to over $1.2 billion 2017-18, for a total of $4.4 billion over the next five years.
Protecting Canada's tax base is essential, as Canadians need to have confidence in their tax system. They need to know it is fair.
Unfortunately, the Liberals and NDP do not seem to share this view. While our government has worked hard to close over 75 tax loopholes, the NDP and Liberals have voted against each of these measures each and every time. I have to ask what the NDP and Liberals have against closing tax loopholes.
However, there is no reason to worry. While the Liberals and NDP work to protect these tax loopholes, our government is committed to ensuring that Canadians have a fair and neutral tax system that keeps everyone on a level playing field. Indeed, Canadians can rest assured that our government will continue to take action to close loopholes, address aggressive tax planning, clarify tax rules and combat international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.
Our government is also taking steps to crack down on those who are trying to defraud taxpayers. It has come to the attention of the CRA that certain retailers have been using electronic sales suppression software, also known as “zappers”, to selectively delete or modify sales transactions in their computer systems. By engaging in this practice, certain taxpayers are avoiding the payment of their fair share of taxes. That is why Bill C-4 introduced new administrative monetary penalties and criminal offences to target those who use, manufacture or possess this type of software.
The Canadian Restaurant and Food Service Association welcomed this, saying:
These measures appropriately target the producers, installers, and users of sales-distorting software, while supporting the competitiveness of Canada's hard-working small business community, among them 81,000 restaurants, the vast majority of which pay their taxes and operate in full transparency.
It is important that our government crack down on these types of activities. When some businesses cheat, everyone loses, but when everyone plays by the rules and pays their fair share, we can keep taxes low.
On that note, I would like to quickly conclude my remarks by saying that I hope the opposition will support these measures and Bill C-4. It is clear that these measures will help grow Canada's economy and will create jobs for Canadians. If the opposition members decide to oppose these measures, as they have done so many times in the past, I hope, at the very least, that they will stop advocating for high taxes.
I must admit that I was very sad to hear just last week that the leader of the NDP confirmed that he would impose a crippling tax hike on job creators, even as they continue to cope with a challenging global economy.
The simple fact remains that we cannot tax our way to prosperity. Thankfully, our Conservative government understands that low taxes promote economic growth and job creation.