Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the legislative changes made by Bill C-101.
To understand this bill, it is important to understand our government's values. Indeed, it is a good reflection of what we have been doing since our first day in office. Since day one, our government has been firmly on the side of Canadian workers. We have made investments in Canadians and in the economy, investments that have helped create over one million jobs across the country over the past three years. We are helping more workers access skills training so they can get and keep those jobs.
Furthermore, faced with global uncertainty, we have negotiated new trade agreements that will give Canadian workers and businesses access to two-thirds of the global economy. This represents billions of customers around the world. When the United States imposed unfair tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, we stood up for our workers. We refused to turn a blind eye or take a hands-off approach, as the Conservative members suggested. At the end of the day, the fact is that our plan worked. We managed to get the tariffs lifted, and we did so because we were thinking about our workers and Canada's interests.
That was a victory for workers and for the country, but we know we are not out of the woods yet. Despite everything we have done to help Canadian workers succeed, global forces beyond our control may continue to threaten that growth, so we must remain very vigilant. We have a duty to ensure that trade practices do not negatively impact the Canadian market by undermining our steel industry and jeopardizing thousands of good middle-class jobs. That is at the core of this bill, which builds on our previous work and strengthens our government's commitment to protecting Canadian workers and their jobs from potential threats like those.
We did not get to this point by accident. We have been listening closely to Canada's industries and workers, and they say that they want more reassurance. They want a government that is willing and able to act quickly when markets are distorted, so we are taking action.
The legislation we are debating today, Bill C-101, would amend the Customs Tariff and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act. Specifically, it would remove the two-year moratorium on the imposition of safeguard measures should provisional safeguards be found to be unwarranted.
Safeguards are actions taken by a government to restrict imports of a product temporarily to protect a specific domestic industry. Through this legislation, Canada would be able to respond quicky and appropriately to situations where a surge of imports harmed or could harm Canadian producers and workers.
I want to add that these amendments are intended to be temporary. Our government is proposing that the amendments be in effect only until June 2021. To take this action, further amendments to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act are necessary. They are included in this bill.
I want to assure hon. members that the conditions for the application of safeguards would remain unchanged. There are still bars to meet before any safeguard measures are put in place. This legislation would just help us evaluate and act on those standards faster.
I think that all honourable members can agree that these are very interesting and volatile times for international trade. The rules governing international trade and free trade are evolving, sometimes very quickly and often unpredictably. We cannot take anything for granted.
That is why our government has gone to great lengths to try to protect Canadian workers and ensure that Canada's businesses can compete on a level playing field. In fact, when things are unfair and the market distorted, Canadian jobs are at risk.
As the Prime Minister stated, Canada has always been a trading nation. However, we cannot allow this longstanding tradition of openness to threaten or harm Canadian businesses. In the case of the steel industry, we will not let Canada serve as a back door to other markets.
Canada already has the strictest enforcement regime to combat this practice, with 77 trade remedy measures in force for imports of steel and aluminum alone. Last year, we further strengthened the enforcement regime to prevent foreign exporters from avoiding tariffs.
Our enforcement framework includes Canada's trade remedy system, which helps preserve a fair and open trade climate for our producers. It protects Canadian businesses against the effects of foreign goods that are unfairly subsidized or that are sold in Canada at artificially low prices. We currently have trade remedies involving 13 steel products from 25 countries.
In budget 2017, our government went even further to strengthen and modernize our trade remedy system. In April 2018, we increased funding for the Canada Border Services Agency and Global Affairs Canada to keep trade enforcement working for Canadians. This bolstered our efforts to prevent the transshipment and diversion of unfairly priced foreign steel and aluminum into the North American market. The new funding started immediately and amounted to more than $30 million over five years and $6.8 million per year after that. It means more than 40 new officers to investigate trade-related complaints, including those related to steel and aluminum. It means more accurate data on imports so we can better monitor trade trends and better protect our industries and workers against unfair trade.
At the same time, our government made targeted and timely investments to support the Canadian steel and aluminum industry. This includes an investment of $2 billion to defend and protect the interests of the Canadian steel, aluminum and manufacturing industries and their workers. These investments will help companies expand into new markets, increase operational and environmental efficiencies or purchase new technology and equipment.
We know that strong, decisive trade action works, because we have seen it work. As I said earlier, when the United States imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, we stood up for our country's steel and aluminum workers, industries and the communities that rely on their businesses. We imposed reciprocal dollar-for-dollar countermeasures to encourage the full removal of the U.S. tariffs. Canada stood firm and did not back down. As members know, on Friday, May 17, we were proud to announce that these tariffs and countermeasures would be eliminated by the following week.
Therefore, there should be no doubt in the minds of any members here today that our government has protected and will continue to protect Canada's steel and aluminum workers, and all Canadians.
Their success is well earned.
Despite global uncertainty, Canadians created more than one million jobs since fall 2015. Last year, all job gains were in full-time positions. The rate of unemployment and poverty is at its lowest in more than 40 years and salaries are rising faster than the cost of living.
Moreover, employment gains are broadly spread out among groups that are often under-represented in the labour market, such as new immigrants, single mothers, indigenous peoples living off reserve and young Canadians who do not have a high school diploma. This is the type of progress that makes a real difference in the lives of Canadians from one end of the country to the other.
Nevertheless, the reversals in global trends are not the only threat to Canadian jobs. New technologies present both obstacles and opportunities to Canadians seeking to build a career. We are making investments and introducing policies to help workers succeed in the economy of the future. By helping more people gain new skills today, we are creating the necessary conditions for long-term prosperity in every sector of the economy, especially for Canadian workers. In fact, that is the spirit of the bill currently before the House.
The nature of work is changing around the world, and Canada is no exception. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, estimates that one in six jobs in Canada is at high risk of automation. This means that a number of workers could be forced to change jobs many times throughout their years in the workforce. Many others will have to learn new skills simply to keep their jobs in an ever-changing work environment.
The good news is that, through the new Canada training benefit in budget 2019, we are providing real support to the workers of today and tomorrow.
The Canada training benefit will provide a flexible option for Canadians to find the time and money needed to pursue training, improve their skills and build strong and lasting careers. It does that in a few ways.
First, budget 2019 proposes a new, non-taxable credit to help Canadians pay for a training course or program. Under this new Canada training credit, eligible workers between the ages of 25 and 64 will accumulate a credit balance of $250 each year, up to a lifetime limit of $5,000.
Second, a new employment insurance training support benefit would provide up to four weeks of income support to workers when they take time off to take a training course. It would replace regular earnings so that workers do not have to worry about taking some time off to upgrade their skills.
Third, in addition to these two aspects, the government is proposing that it consult the provinces and territories about amending the labour laws to ensure that workers can take time off work for training without worrying about losing their jobs. This would protect a worker's right to take leave for training and skills development.
Before I wrap up, I want to remind members that this bill is very much in keeping with what I consider to be the three main pillars of government policy.
When we took office in 2015, the Canadian economy was sluggish, and Canada was in a technical recession. In my opinion, Canadians elected us based on three main economic pillars, on which we have founded our achievements these last three years in office.
These pillars kick-started economic growth in Canada. I would define them in the following manner. First, we made major investments in infrastructure to ensure that people and goods can travel efficiently across the country; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; look after our waste water systems; protect the environment; and build modern and effective infrastructure from coast to coast. It goes without saying that these investments also stimulated growth. We are talking about a very ambitious, $180-billion plan over 12 years.
The second pillar was reducing inequality by giving more to those who need it most and giving the middle class some breathing room. The first thing we did was lower taxes for the middle class and raise taxes on the wealthiest one per cent. Simultaneously, we introduced the Canada child benefit, a social policy unlike any other in recent Canadian history. The CCB reduced poverty in this country by 20% in just three years and reduced child poverty dramatically.
Those are just two of a suite of measures targeting the middle class and the most vulnerable Canadians. Seniors, for example, are getting more because we increased the guaranteed income supplement by 10% when we took office. The goal is to reduce inequality. We on this side of the House believe that the more inclusive our prosperity, the stronger our growth and the better off Canada's economy will be. We know we are right about that because in 2017, Canada's growth was the strongest in the G7 and we are still at the head of the pack.
The second pillar was about reducing inequality through measures like taxation and the Canada child benefit. There is also social housing, which the federal government has been withdrawing from for years. Now this government is getting back into it. I could also mention how we helped seniors by rolling back the retirement age from 67 to 65. The Conservatives had raised it, plunging hundreds of thousands of seniors into poverty. Then there is the Canada child benefit, which is putting a lot more money back in families' pockets.
According to available data, which, incidentally, are from the OECD, not from partisan think tanks, the average Canadian family has $2,000 more in its pockets in 2019 than it did in 2015.
Furthermore, according to Statistics Canada, a renowned and completely impartial institution that everyone can be proud of, we have succeeded in reducing poverty in Canada by 20%. We achieved that in just three short years. We are not planning to stop there. As I said, one of the key pillars of our government's efforts and our economic strategy is to reduce inequality.
The last pillar is about maintaining Canada's competitive edge by investing in science, research and innovation. Budget 2018 contained some of the largest investments in science in Canada's history. We are also opening up access to international markets, as we did with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement, or CETA, and with the renegotiated NAFTA. Thanks to these kinds of measures, we are making sure we are here to protect our industries from the threats of today's interconnected economy.
I believe that Bill C-101 is entirely consistent with the government's ambition and action. It will promote growth and prosperity, while protecting our industries and workers to ensure that Canada succeeds.
To conclude, I want to reiterate our government's commitment to Canadian workers and to our industry. We will continue to carefully monitor the situation, with great vigilance, for distortions in global markets. Make no mistake, if it is determined that a surge of imports is harming or could harm our workers and producers, we want to be able to respond.
It is the right thing to do for our workers, and the right thing to do for our economy. That is why I urge all members to support this legislation so that it can pass without delay.
On that note, I would like to thank the NDP, the Bloc Québécois and the independent members who voted in favour of this ways and means motion. The Conservatives, on the other hand, will have to explain their position on this.