Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and ladies and gentlemen. I appreciate the opportunity to meet with the Standing Committee on Finance to discuss Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of economic action plan 2014, tabled in Parliament on February 11.
Canada's Economic Action Plan underscores the government's top priority to create jobs, foster growth and ensure long-term prosperity. A weakened global economy has made that priority even more important.
Last week I presented to Canadians our government's economic and fiscal update. I outlined the state of both the Canadian and the global economies.
In the aftermath of worst recession since the Great Depression, Canada has done well. Since the depths of a recession that cost 62 million jobs worldwide, we created over 1.2 million net new jobs in Canada—one of the strongest job creation records in the G-7.
The federal tax burden is at its lowest level in over 50 years. In 2013, Canada leapt from sixth to second place in Bloomberg's ranking of the most attractive destinations for business. According to KPMG, total business tax costs in Canada are the lowest in the G-7 and are 46% lower than in the United States.
Both the IMF and the OECD expect Canada to be among the strongest-growing economies in the G-7 this year and next. A recent New York Times study found that after-tax middle-class income in Canada, substantially behind in 2000, now appears to be higher than in the United States. In fact, the Canadian middle class is among the richest in the developed world.
But today's prosperity is not a guarantee for tomorrow. This is especially true in a global economy defined by weak, uneven growth, or what IMF director Christine Lagarde has called the “new mediocre”. We must relentlessly take action to remain resilient and secure our prosperity, and that is what we have set out to do.
Therefore, we have to work persistently to remain resilient and ensure the prosperity of our generation, as well as the generation of our children and grandchildren.
First, we are taking action to improve the integrity and fairness of the tax system. Since 2006, and including measures proposed in economic action plan 2014, the government has introduced over 85 measures to improve the integrity of the tax system.
Bill C-43 goes further.
This bill takes the tax system and makes it simpler and fairer for fishing and farming businesses. It empowers amateur athletes to save money—money for their retirement. These kinds of amateur athletes, Mr. Chairman, are the ones who bring home the gold in the Olympic Games and in competitions around the world.
This bill puts in place new tax incentives to encourage clean energy generation. We are doing this by expanding the eligibility for the accelerated capital cost allowance. We're making it easier for Canadian film and video producers to receive the Canadian film or video production tax credit.
Mr. Chairman, we are cracking down on tax evasion, including offshore regulated banks and captive insurance schemes, ensuring that all Canadians pay their share.
Keeping taxes low and fair is an important element of our economic action plan. Another priority is creating jobs.
This is one of our government's priorities. Measures must be implemented to connect Canadians with the skills training they need to succeed.
In Canada, apprentices in skilled trades learn the most through paid jobs in the workplace and receive six to eight weeks of technical training a year.
They can face serious costs, including educational fees, tools and equipment costs, and living expenses. That is why we introduced the Canada apprentice loan in the first budget bill to help connect Canadians with available jobs. This initiative is helping apprentices register in Red Seal trades by providing access to over $100 million in interest-free loans each year to complete their training.
Given that the parameters of the Canada apprentice loan program are similar to those of the Canada student loan program, we believe that both programs should benefit from the same treatment. Specifically, Bill C-43 proposes that the Income Tax Act be amended to extend the existing student loan interest credit—which is a non-refundable tax credit available for interest payments on loans approved under the Canada student loans program and similar provincial programs—to interest paid on a Canada apprentice loan.
By helping Canadians acquire skills that will help them get hired or find better jobs, we are investing directly and wisely in our country's most precious asset—our citizens.
Mr. Chairman, this is only a small sample of the measures contained in this bill.
Let me briefly review a few more. The bill would amend the Telecommunications Act to prohibit service providers from charging their subscribers to receive bills in paper form, fulfilling a commitment in the 2013 Speech from the Throne to end pay-to-pay billing practices. It would establish the Canadian High Arctic research station, a world-class research station that will strengthen Canada's leadership in Arctic science and technology. It would also promote transparency and accountability in the extractive sector both at home and abroad; cut red tape for charitable organizations, allowing them to use new technologies to raise funds for the causes that matter to Canadians; and provide more than $8 million over five years, starting in 2016-17, to create a DNA-based missing persons index.
I take particular pride, Mr. Chairman, in this last initiative. Lindsey's law, which called for a DNA-based missing persons index, was named for Lindsey Jill Nicholls. At age 14 she went missing while on a car ride to meet friends in Kootenay, British Columbia. Her mother, Judy Peterson, has been a courageous advocate for a national DNA-based databank that can compare the DNA of missing persons with that collected through crime scene investigations and convicted offenders. Lindsey's law represents further action on the part of our government to stand up for the victims of crime and their families.
Mr. Chairman, it has been a pleasure to highlight some of the key measures to defend Canadian values and support growth and prosperity. The measures in this legislation are necessary and the benefits enduring.