Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-74 on behalf of the Government of Canada, as well as our government's planned investments to strengthen the middle class and maintain the strength and sustainable growth of the Canadian economy.
Budget 2018, entitled “Equality + Growth: A Strong Middle Class”, represents the next stage in our plan to invest in people and the communities where they live in order to provide the best opportunities for success to the middle class and all Canadians.
The bill we are talking about today, budget implementation act, 2018, No. 1, is the next step in the plan that our government launched over two years ago. When we took office, we jumped into action by helping develop a confident middle class that stimulates economic growth and that is currently benefiting from more opportunities for success than ever.
Giving Canadians the opportunity to reach their full potential is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the smart thing to do for our economy. The decision to invest in the middle class is the right decision. Targeted investments combined with the hard work of Canadians across the country have helped create good, well-paying jobs and will continue to strengthen the economy over the long term.
Before I go into some of the measures introduced in Bill C-74, it is always a good thing to step aside and take a holistic approach to what is going on in the Canadian economy. For example, if we look at the first quarter gross domestic product, we see some continuing good signs. As an economist, I love these terms. We had real final domestic demand rise by 2.1%, driven by a 10.9% increase in business investment.
Recently, off those numbers, the Bank of Canada governor, Stephen Poloz, commented on the signs of the economy of exports and business investment continuing to pick up. Despite the uncertainties in the global economy and the continuing NAFTA negotiations, business investments remain strong.
Those are great signs for our economy, but what does that really translate to? Quite simply, it translates to 600,000 new jobs, 600,000 people working today who were not working two and a half years ago. Those Canadians are our neighbours, our friends, our family. Also, 300,000 kids have been lifted out of poverty because of the Canada child benefit, which we introduced and which is arriving monthly, tax-free, to Canadian families, such as the families in my riding, Vaughan—Woodbridge. Those are great things that we are doing.
The A.T. Kearney foreign direct investment confidence index came out two weeks ago, making comments on what our plan for the economy is doing for Canada. Canada was ranked number two. I would like to read what the A.T. Kearney index said:
Canada moves up three spots to its highest ranking in the history of the Index. An update to the Investment Canada Act, a newly established Invest Canada agency, and new trade agreements [CETA, CPTPP, entering into negotiations with Mercosur] could be boosting investor optimism.
What does a boost in investment translate to? Very simply, it means jobs for middle-class Canadians in my riding, and coast to coast to coast. I am very proud of the measures introduced in Bill C-74.
One of them is the Canada child benefit. We have spoken about it quite a bit, and we should continue to do so. In my riding, Vaughan—Woodbridge, over $59 million was sent via the Canada child benefit to families in a one-year period. It assisted approximately 19,400 children. The number of payments was 10,900, with an average payment of $5,400.
We can throw lots of numbers out there, but behind them are Canadian families like the ones that reside in Vaughan—Woodbridge. These funds are being sent tax-free, not to millionaires but to real Canadian families, families that are working hard to pay their bills every day, assisting them to pay for their kids' sports, lunches, new clothes, and so forth, and maybe save for an RESP for when their children go to university.
I am so proud of the fact that our government indexed the Canada child benefit. What does that mean? Let me simply tell members.
For example, the Canada child benefit is an important government initiative aimed at making a positive change for the millions of Canadian families with children. Close to 3.3 million families with children are receiving more than $23 billion in annual Canada child benefit payments.
A single mom of two children aged five and eight with a net income of $35,000 in 2016 will have received $11,125 in tax-free Canada child benefit payments in the 2017-18 benefit year. Naturally, this $11,125 is absolutely tax free. That is $3,500 more than she would have received under the previous child benefit system.
This means that, for a family making $35,000, once the Canada child benefit is indexed, it would add up to almost $560 more per year. For families in Canada, $500 more a year is a lot of money, to pay for their kids' lunches and school clothes, to bring their son or daughter to a soccer game in the evening or to a soccer practice, and so forth. I am proud that our government has looked at this initiative. I am proud that our government has lifted 300,000 kids out of poverty because of this. I am proud that our government has indexed this. These are real, tangible measures that are assisting families from coast to coast to coast on an everyday basis, and our party should be proud of that.
I am proud to represent a riding, Vaughan—Woodbridge, within the city of Vaughan, that is one of the most entrepreneurial areas of the country. We have approximately 13,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in the city, and I meet with these folks regularly. We are also blessed to have many large organizations. We have Canadian Pacific's busiest intermodal facility in the country, a key barometer of trade and investment. We have Home Depot's eastern Canada distribution centre. We have the FedEx distribution centre for eastern Canada. We have UPS's distribution centre for all of eastern Canada. Again, UPS made that wonderful announcement of investing $500 million in the Canadian economy, creating thousands of additional jobs. We have a furniture maker, Decor-Rest, which employs 700 Canadians, competing globally against furniture makers both here in Canada and in the United States and Mexico, and winning in competing.
I am blessed to have all these entrepreneurs. I am also blessed to have a number of bakeries and great pastry shops, which I have talked about before, especially during Italian Heritage Month. I visit them and we talk about what makes these companies successful.
One big thing we have done, which is contained in Bill C-74, is the reduction in the small-business tax rate from 11% in 2015, which will eventually fall to 9%. We should be proud of that. For small businesses making $500,000 a year in active income, the savings would be $7,500. That can offset other increased input costs they may face. They can use those savings to invest in their businesses, or whatever they choose. That is something we need to applaud.
Looking at our corporate tax system in Canada, the combined federal corporate tax rate in the province of Ontario, roughly 12.9%, is one of the lowest small-business tax rates globally. We have seen that turn up in the job numbers, with 600,000 new jobs, most of them private sector jobs. That is a good barometer for the economy. That is why we have larger companies like CN or CP hiring. However, we also have small companies, because we know that small and medium-sized enterprises and businesses are the backbone of our economy.
That measure, introduced in Bill C-74, is something we should be very proud of. Cumulatively, that measure would result in approximately $3 billion in tax savings due to lower taxes for small and medium-sized enterprises in Canada through the 2022-23 period. This is a substantial reduction in taxes. When we brought in the tax cut for middle-class Canadians, people said, “Whom does it affect?” It affected nine million taxpayers. We brought in a multi-billion dollar tax cut that benefited millions of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and here we are doing the same thing for small businesses.
We also undertook extensive consultations with small businesses on how we could best work with them to grow their business, because we want to increase jobs and investment and achieve better productivity and a better standard of living for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
We also want to ensure that the businesses that benefit from that low small-business tax rate are the appropriate ones. We undertook a consultation and arrived at a point where we introduced measures where 97% of businesses remain unaffected. If people have an active business, they can continue to invest in it and continue to grow. That is wonderful. These are measures contained in Bill C-74. However, we also have what I think is a very prudent measure. If they have actually accumulated $3 million, $4 million, or $5 million in what is called passive income, which is a little technical to describe, something they can save for retirement or set aside and invest in a separate business, which may not be connected to their own business, that is great. They can continue to do that, and we are not going to change the tax structure within their passive investments. However, at a certain point they will no longer benefit from the small-business tax rate of 12.9%, and we will move them up to the 24% tax rate. It is a fair measure.
Canadians expect fairness and progressivity in their tax system. Canadians expect us to do a thoughtful job. When others take a risk, they should be rewarded, but at the same time they should understand that when they have done very well and have been able to set aside some monies within passive investments, they are also going to move up to the corporate tax rate, which is very competitive globally. Even with the United States' adoption of its recent tax reform, our corporate tax rate is very competitive with the U.S. tax rate, and we need to point that out.
There are a lot of good measures contained in Bill C-74, and I am very proud of them. Another one I would like to talk about is the Canada workers benefit. This is something a lot of low-income working Canadians are going to benefit from. There are a couple of measures that I think are very good and long-lasting, and they will proceed beyond this Parliament and many others.
One is working with CRA and undertaking automatic enrolment. Automatic enrolment means that those in society who do not have the means or access that many of us here enjoy are automatically enrolled to receive these benefits. According to the estimates, just this measure alone is going to lift 70,000 people out of poverty and provide additional benefits. Someone making $15,000, a student or a retiree, can receive up to nearly $500 more with the new Canada workers benefit. It is something I am very proud of. My progressive roots cheer this on. It is something that all Canadians can be very proud of.
We realize that some people, especially indigenous people living in northern and remote communities, have often faced barriers when it comes to accessing essential government services and federal benefits such as the Canada child benefit. With Bill C-74, our government will take steps to ensure that anyone who is eligible for support receives it.
Through Bill C-74, the government proposes to expand outreach efforts to all indigenous communities on reserves and in northern and remote areas, and to conduct pilot outreach projects for urban indigenous communities so that indigenous peoples have better access to a full range of federal social benefits, including the Canada child benefit.
Now I would like to talk about the Canada worker's benefit. Canadians working hard to join the middle class deserve to have their hard work rewarded with greater opportunities for success. We know that these Canadians are working to build a better life for themselves and their families. Low-income Canadians are sometimes working two or three jobs so that they can give themselves and their children a better chance at success.
That is why the government is proposing a new benefit in budget 2018 and in Bill C-74: the Canada workers benefit. This benefit builds on the former working income tax benefit and would put more money into the pockets of low-income workers. It would encourage more people to join and remain in the workforce by letting them take home more money while they work.
Through Bill C-74, the government would increase the overall support provided for the 2019 and subsequent taxation years. In particular, the government proposes to increase maximum benefits under the CWB by up to $170 in 2019, and increase the income level at which the benefit is entirely phased out. As a result, low-income workers earning $15,000 could receive up to almost $500 more from the CWB in 2019 than they could receive this year under the current working income tax benefit. That is $500 to invest in the things that are important to them, and to make ends meet.
The government is also proposing changes to improve access to the Canada workers benefit to allow the Canada Revenue Agency to calculate the CWB for anyone who has not claimed it starting in 2019.
Again, having the CRA automatically register people who are eligible for these programs and others is a large step forward for our tax system.
One thing I would like to comment on is the framework we have introduced for the pricing of carbon. We have done this in a very thoughtful and prudent manner. It is a backstop, and 85% of Canadians are covered by a form of carbon pricing system. The provinces are permitted to do what they wish with the revenues.
However, I agree with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. It was very disappointing that the NDP government in B.C. would move away from a revenue-neutral price on carbon. I am very disappointed. It speaks to fiscal foolishness. We need to allow provinces to do what they wish, but we need the provinces to be transparent. Our carbon pricing system is transparent. The funds flow back to the provinces and the provinces then decide how to allocate those funds, but they should also be transparent about it.
We have an opportunity in this world that we are moving into. Many countries have already adopted this pricing system, and many industries in the private sector, which I am a big champion of, have looked at this. We have companies all over the world, such as Daimler in Germany, FCA, Ford, or any automotive company, looking at adopting electric vehicles, at technology on clean tech, and at renewable energy. We have the system going on. We have this shift going on. We need to be a part of it.
However, this is not, as my Conservative colleagues are saying, scaring away investment. It is not. We saw it in the first quarter GDP numbers. Business investment in Canada is rising. We see that every day, whether it is Samsung announcing its AI facility in downtown Toronto, or Montreal being the gaming sector of North America when it comes to enterprise arts. We see it in Vancouver, with the clustering that is going on, and in the Kitchener—Waterloo area. We see it with many auto parts suppliers in Ontario, and then there is Toyota's announcement. Foreign direct investment in Canada is creating jobs. It created jobs yesterday, it is creating jobs today, and it will create jobs in the future, because we are making those conditions very strong.
Finally, when we talk about Canada's fiscal position, we maintain a AAA credit rating, which we have had for so long. It has been affirmed recently. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is declining. I would argue that we have the best fiscal position of any G7 country on any fiscal measure, and that is something we need to be proud of. It is something our government is proud of.
Therefore, when I hear the banter from the other side, I would love to sit down and chat with them and show them a couple of measures on the economy. These measures that show how well we are doing include the 600,000 new jobs we have created, the 40-year low in the unemployment rate, the increase in wages that Canadians are seeing from coast to coast to coast, and the infrastructure we are building in this country.