moved that Bill C-59, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 21, 2015 and other measures, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back here again this week with the opportunity to speak to Bill C-59 after a busy weekend in the riding of Crowfoot, having been in Camrose and Stettler for their art walk, as well as the rodeo and parade, and a number of other events that were held throughout my riding. I know all of us are busy on weekends. A great way to start Monday is debating Bill C-59.
This morning I would like to outline some specific features of the bill that would support families, seniors and rural Canada, as I represent predominantly a rural riding.
Let me begin by reaffirming that under the bold leadership of our Prime Minister, our government's top priority has been creating jobs, and focusing on economic growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians. That is why our government brought forward a number of measures to do that, such as cut taxes for job-creating businesses, invested in research and development, expanded markets for Canadian businesses abroad, committed unprecedented support for job-creating infrastructure, and established the framework for responsible development of our natural resources, despite global economic fragility, geopolitical uncertainty with what was happening in Europe, Ukraine and the Middle East, and also volatile oil prices.
Make no mistake that our economic action plan is working. It is the plan that has steered Canada out of the great recession and created over 1.2 million net new jobs, overwhelmingly in the private sector, full-time and well-paying jobs. According to KPMG, total business tax costs in Canada are the lowest in the G7 countries and 46% lower than our closest ally and trading partner, the United States. Bloomberg has ranked Canada the second best place in the world to do business.
However, this success does not just happen. It does not occur overnight. It requires tough decisions, sound judgment and a focus on priorities. Supporting small business has been one of those priorities. It is also a central element in the budget that we are debating here today, the economic action plan. the budget implementation act. We have delivered substantial ongoing tax savings to small businesses and their owners. This enables them to take those savings and reinvest in their businesses, which helps create more jobs for those businesses.
We already reduced the small business tax rate from 12% to 11% earlier, and in 2015 we propose to take it from 11% to 9% by 2019. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has strongly endorsed this measure and agrees with our plan. Many of the small businesses that benefit from our tax relief are from rural Canada.
Our government recognizes the important role that farmers play in our economy and communities. Canadian farmers have always been among the best producers, the best farmers in the entire world. For generations, they have fed Canadians around the globe, while providing jobs and opportunities across Canada. My grandfather moved to Canada in 1905-06 with the hope of homesteading, breaking the land and starting a family farm. That story has been told many times throughout the west and throughout Canada.
As someone who has owned and operated a farming business, I can say first-hand that to ensure these operations succeed, it demands hard work, focus and discipline. A farmer's budget does not simply balance itself. Our government firmly believes Canadian farmers should be strong and profitable, and able to capitalize on market opportunities. We believe Canadian farmers deserve support from their elected officials, not the mistreatment and high taxes that Liberal Party elitists imposed for 13 long years. Those high-tax measures and bloated government policies burden our agricultural sector and set our farmers back.
By contrast, our Conservative government stands with farmers. We are working to provide them access to millions of new customers. Through our free trade agreements, through expanding our customer base, we have an opportunity to get into countries that we have never been in before, and we have lowered tariffs so we can have trade with many of those countries.
Let me remind members that last year we simplified the tax rules relating to the lifetime capital gains exemption and the intergenerational rollover for many Canadian farmers. To accomplish this, our government passed legislation to generally treat the taxpayer's combined farming business the same as perhaps a separate farming business conducted by the same taxpayer. This will ensure consistent treatment for taxpayers who conduct various farming activities.
Economic action plan 2015 would build upon the work we have been doing since 2006 to foster a strong, stable, sustainable and prosperous agriculture sector for all of Canada.
I was pleased to join members of the Saskatchewan farming community and our Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, to announce new federal supports for agriculture. What we announced was to allow farmers to maintain more of their capital for retirement. Economic action plan 2015 would bring forward the measures to provide funding to increase lifetime capital gains exemption for farmers and fishermen, but certainly for farmers, up to $1 million.
This was welcomed by the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. It said:
The CCA appreciates another measure of practical importance to producers, particularly those wishing to retire or transition from the industry.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture also praised this measure. It said:
The Lifetime Capital Gains exemption is an important tool for helping farmers manage the tax burden associated with the transfer of farm assets. The CFA is pleased the increase to $1 million is effective immediately, as it will assist farmers in their transfer of assets to the next generation by providing greater flexibility for both the retirees and new entrants.
That answers a lot.
Farmers realize they may be living poor, but they have some savings in their farm assets. When they retire, they need those to help them through their retirement so they may have a secure, dignified retirement.
I would like to now turn to parts of the bill which deal with improving the quality of life of Canadians, in particular, the health of Canadians.
There are measures in the bill that would continue our government's proud record of being a champion for persons with disabilities. This is an area where the former finance minister was a very strong advocate. As we shaped economic action plan 2014, I was pleased to witness this commitment by former Minister Flaherty first hand at the budget table. His legacy includes the landmark registered disability savings plan, which helped to ensure the long-term financial security of Canadians with severe disabilities. Since becoming available in 2008, more than 100,000 Canadians have opened a registered disabilities savings plan, and with that has come a great deal of confidence and security.
To ensure this program continues to serve Canadians who need it most, today's bill proposes an extension of the federal temporary measure that allows a qualifying family member to become the plan holder of a registered disability savings plan for an adult individual who might not be able to enter into a contract on his or her own. We are also introducing a new home accessibility tax credit for persons with disabilities and for seniors. This non-refundable credit will provide tax recognition for the cost of improvements that allow a person who is eligible for the disability tax credit, or is a senior who wants to stay in his or her home to be more mobile, safe and functional within their own home. These measures will assist Canadians who face the daily challenges of living with a disability or who are in their seniors years in leading a much better quality of life.
Let me also highlight how today's legislation builds on our government's support for families and communities across our great country of Canada.
Since Canadians gave us our first mandate in 2006, this government has taken significant action to support and protect Canadian consumers by reducing taxes time and time again, including cutting the GST twice. Keeping taxes low and putting more back into the pockets of hard-working Canadians to spend in the way they decide is essential for jobs and growth.
Today, because of the measures introduced by our government, a typical two-earner family of four will receive up to $6,600 in tax relief and increased benefits in 2015. Economic action plan 2015 builds on the government's record of support for Canadian families by keeping taxes low and helping them save.
We are focused on helping 100% of families with children with policies like the family tax cut, and increased and expanded benefits through the universal child care benefit. Unfortunately, the opposition parties, both the Liberals and the NDP, would scrap the universal child care benefit and cancel income splitting for families.
Our government is also providing tax support for seniors and persons with disabilities, as well as measures to help students pay for their education.
Whether they want to purchase a new home or a car, start a new business or save for retirement, Canadian families have many reasons to save. That is why our government introduced the groundbreaking tax-free savings account, or TFSA for short. This savings measure is a flexible, registered, general purpose savings vehicle that allows Canadians to earn tax-free investment income. They can watch compounding interest grow in their favour. That gives them a much more secure, dignified retirement.
Canadians get it. Canadians understand. Canadians have embraced the tax-free savings account for their savings needs. It is unfortunate that the members opposite have all but rejected it. Let me remind them of some important facts.
Eleven million Canadians have opened a tax-free savings account, and half of those earn less than $42,000 a year. Sixty percent of those who have contributed to the tax-free savings account and who maximize their account earn less than $60,000. Six hundred thousand seniors, aged 65-plus, with income below $60,000 a year are currently maximizing their tax-free savings account.
Due to popular demand, today's legislation proposes to increase the tax-free savings account annual contribution limit from $5,000 to $10,000, effective 2015 and subsequent years.
While we are making it easier for Canadians to save money, at the same time we want seniors to feel confident that their savings will always be there, or that it will be there for them while they are enjoying their golden years. Seniors are already benefiting from important money saving measures, such as pension income splitting and taking advantage of the tax-free savings account.
The fact is that Canadians are living longer than ever, and we want to ensure that they have a secure, dignified retirement throughout their most senior years. That is why the bill that we debate today, Bill C-59, will reduce the minimum withdrawal rate for registered retirement income funds, or RRIFs.
As some members may know, the rules concerning registered retirement income funds and registered retirement savings plans dictate that RRSPs must be converted to RRIFs by the end of the year in which the RRSP holder reaches 71 years of age. A minimum amount must then be withdrawn. Alternatively, the RRSP savings may be used to purchase an annuity.
Economic action plan 2015 proposes to adjust that RRIF minimum withdrawal rate that applies in respect of ages 71 to 94 to better reflect more recent long-term historical real rates of return and expected inflation. The seniors advocacy group, CARP, says its members welcome this measure. As a result, the new RRIF factors will be substantially lower than the existing factors. By permitting more capital preservation, the new factors will help reduce the risk of outliving one's savings, while ensuring that the tax deferral provided on RRSP and RRIF savings continues to serve a retirement income purpose.
Our government has been consistent in advancing innovative options to allow Canadians to save and manage their finances for a secure and dignified retirement, and our work continues. Currently, 96% of pension plan assets in Canada are in a defined benefit plan, as compared to 71% in the United Kingdom, 42% in the U.S., and 15% in Australia.
That, in part, is why we began consultations on the framework for target benefit plans. These innovative plans would allow businesses to offer a third option, a middle ground between defined benefits and defined contribution models. At the same time, employees would receive a pension with a high degree of retirement income certainty.
Let me be clear. Current pensioners and retirees should be assured that it is not our intention to convert any pensions to target benefit plans without the explicit consent of that individual. A retired person's plan would not be converted unless that individual expressed a desire to convert the pension or agreed to do so. In the interim, those who are retired or saving for retirement will benefit tremendously from targeted tax relief and new optional savings methods, such as the tax-free savings account.
However, while we keep Canada's retirement system strong, I must inform Canada's seniors about a possible new threat to CPP benefits. The Liberal leader has announced that if given the chance, he would fund his favourite infrastructure projects with “...alternative sources of capital, such as pension funds.”
I regret to inform the House that it gets even worse than that. The Liberal leader has confirmed that he would implement the Ontario Liberals' dramatic payroll tax increase on every worker and small business in Canada. For a worker who earns $60,000 a year, the Liberal leader's plan and the Liberals' policy would mean a $1,000 tax hike. It would cost a two-worker family up to $3,200 more per year, whether those workers like it or not.
This mandatory payroll tax increase would kill middle-class jobs and force small businesses to cut hours and wages. According to the Meridian Credit Union, the majority of Ontario's small business owners believe this type of payroll tax would the greatest challenge that they have ever faced. According to a CFIB survey, 69% of employers in Ontario indicated that they would have to freeze or cut salaries. This is even further evidence that now is not the time for untested leadership and Liberal high-tax policies.
In closing, while I have touched on only a few of the measures in today's legislation, they are measures that would help create jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for all Canadians. Through this legislation, we will maintain and strengthen our advantages by continuing to pursue those strategies that made us so resilient in the first place: responsibility, discipline, and determination. That is what it is going to take.
I appreciate this opportunity to serve with a government that has steered our nation out of the great recession and brought Canada back into the black. Our balanced budget and low-tax plan for jobs and security will strengthen businesses, families, and communities across the country. I urge all hon. members to give their support to this bill.