moved that Bill C-8, An Act to implement certain provisions of the economic and fiscal update tabled in Parliament on December 14, 2021 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to begin debate on Bill C-8, the economic and fiscal update implementation act, 2021. This legislation builds on important measures enacted by another critical piece of legislation that received royal assent in December, Bill C-2, which provided certainty to Canadians and Canadian businesses in the face of the omicron variant. Like this legislation, Bill C-2 provided essential and targeted support for businesses still deeply affected by the pandemic, including the Canadian tourism sector, which continues to be one of the most affected by COVID-19.
As the Minister of Tourism, I want to reiterate that our government remains fully committed to supporting the tourism industry in these difficult times so that it can quickly get back on its feet and prosper.
I have said it many times and I will continue to say that Canada's economy will not fully recover until our tourism sector recovers. With the support measures that our government has put in place since the beginning of the pandemic, I am convinced that local tourism businesses will recover from the pandemic and be better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them in the future.
I can say, as the Associate Minister of Finance and as the member of Parliament for Edmonton Centre, that first and foremost, the best way to keep our economy growing and supporting businesses like those in our vibrant tourism sector is to win the fight against COVID-19. Bill C-8 includes numerous measures to win this fight, including $1.7 billion to help the provinces and territories secure the additional rapid tests they need to keep Canadians safe and healthy, including through expanded school and workplace testing programs.
Access to rapid tests is important for breaking transmission chains, especially for new variants like omicron, and for protecting the people around us.
Our government also supports the provinces' and territories' proof of vaccination initiatives.
Developing a standard proof of vaccination would help fully vaccinated Canadians to travel within the country and internationally, and despite the claims of some it is an essential tool in protecting Canadians. Let me be very clear. Vaccine mandates and proof of vaccination credentials protect our families, our workplaces and our communities. They give us the confidence to have a meal at a restaurant, attend community events with families and friends, and even begin to travel safely in accordance with public health guidelines. This is also another way we can support Canada’s tourism sector, by making Canadians and international visitors feel safe as they explore all that our country has to offer.
As I always note, safety comes first, then travel. Bill C-8 would support these efforts by allocating the necessary funds, some $300 million, for the government to reimburse provinces’ and territories’ expenditures related to the implementation of their proof-of-vaccination programs.
Bill C-8 will also support Canadians' health and safety by investing in adequate ventilation, which can help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Whether it is ventilation for a classroom, shopping centre or meeting room, the government is determined to help businesses and organizations improve the ventilation and air quality in their buildings and to ensure Canadians' safety.
Many small businesses are on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic. They want to do their part and make indoor air cleaner, but investing in equipment to improve ventilation can be very expensive.
That is why in Bill C-8 we are proposing a refundable tax credit for small businesses of 25% of qualifying expenses made to improve air quality.
Our government also wants to improve ventilation in schools and protect students, teachers, school staff and parents from outbreaks. To do this, Bill C-8 proposes to provide up to an additional $100 million to provinces and territories through the existing safe return to class fund. This funding would continue the support provided through the original $2-billion safe return to class fund by specifically targeting ventilation-related improvement projects.
As the pandemic continues to affect the lives of Canadians, our government knows that elevated inflation, a global phenomenon driven by the unprecedented challenge of reopening the world’s economy, is leading Canadians to worry about the cost of living. We understand concerns about the higher cost of living, and we are taking action.
Our government has cut taxes for the middle class while raising them on the top 1%. Building on the success of the 2015 and 2019 middle-class tax cuts that lowered taxes for millions of Canadians, our government has put more money in the pockets of Canadians. We are also working with provinces and territories to implement a Canada-wide $10-a-day community-based early learning and child care system that would make life more affordable for families and create new jobs. Because of this measure, the fee reductions in the coming year would help deliver thousands of dollars in tax savings to families with young children.
Additionally, on December 13, our government and the Bank of Canada announced that we would renew the 2% inflation target for another five-year period, which will keep the bank focused on delivering low, stable and predictable inflation in Canada.
As members can see, our government is already working hard to address the cost of living and to make life more affordable for Canadians.
For example, we are proposing to increase support for teachers, whether they are teaching from home or in the classroom. Teachers have shown, throughout the pandemic and always, that they are willing to go above and beyond to make sure their students receive a high-quality education.
To support teachers and early childhood educators in Canada, we are proposing, with Bill C-8, to expand and enrich the eligible educator school supply tax credit.
Bill C-8 also seeks to address housing affordability through the implementation of a national, annual 1% tax on the value of non-resident, non-Canadian-owned residential real estate in Canada that is considered to be vacant or underused, something our government announced as part of budget 2021 to crack down on underused housing. The bill would introduce a new act, the underused housing tax act, to ensure that non-resident, non-Canadian owners, particularly those who use Canada as a place to passively store their wealth in housing, pay their fair share of Canadian tax, beginning in the 2022 calendar year.
Be assured that this is not a new capital gains tax, as the opposition continues to misinform Canadians. It is a sound fiscal measure to address housing affordability. Bill C-8 would also support Canadians living in northern parts of the country by expanding access to the travel component of the northern residents deductions to give all northerners, including those who do not receive travel assistance from their employers, the option to claim up to $1,200 in eligible travel expenses.
Our government has put in place unprecedented relief measures throughout the pandemic to support Canadian families and businesses. As we continue to provide targeted support to those who need it the most, we will be there for Canadians.
As we emerge from COVID-19, we are focusing on jobs and growth, and we are making life more affordable so that Canadians can prosper. Bill C-8 would continue to support our government's work on this important issue.
Colleagues, we are all tired. We are all eager for this pandemic and the challenges it has created to become things of the past. Our message to Canadians from coast to coast to coast is clear. It is that our government is taking action to win this fight, to support Canadians and businesses, and to keep them and their families safe.
That is why I call on my colleagues here today to join me in supporting the passage of this important bill.