Thanks, first of all, for inviting me here today. I'm happy to be here for the next 90 minutes or so to talk about budget implementation bill, no. 2. In particular, I'd like to thank you, Mr. Chair, as well as the vice-chairs and all the committee members, for your hard work during the last round of pre-budget consultations and, of course, during the review of the budget implementation bill. I am looking forward to hearing your questions on this important piece of legislation, which is the next step in the government's plan to strengthen and grow the middle class, and to build an economy that works for all Canadians.
The measures in this bill provide middle-class Canadians and those working hard to join them with more opportunities to succeed. These measures will enable everyone to contribute to Canada's success and to benefit from that success.
Before speaking to the specific measures included in the second budget implementation bill, I'd like to take a moment to highlight some of the actions our government has already taken, actions that, along with the hard work of Canadians, have helped to put Canada's economy in a very good place.
As you may remember, it was three years ago last week that the government was sworn in. Since then, we've continuously invested in Canadians, delivering on our promises and making smart investments that are helping to deliver real results for the middle class and for those Canadians who are working hard to join it.
One of our very first actions was to introduce a middle-class tax cut. More than nine million Canadians are now benefiting from that tax cut.
To help Canadian families with the cost of raising children, we also introduced the Canada child benefit, a simpler, tax-free and more generous benefit than the previous system of child benefits. Since its introduction in 2016, the Canada child benefit has helped to lift more than 520,000 people out of poverty across our country, including nearly 300,000 children.
To help give more Canadians the secure and dignified retirement they've earned after a lifetime of hard work, our government worked together with the provinces and strengthened the Canada pension plan.
To help low-income workers take home more money while they work, we introduced the Canada workers benefit, a program that will encourage more people to join and stay in the workforce, and offer real help to more than two million Canadians who are working hard to join the middle class.
We've also taken steps to support Canada's small business owners and entrepreneurs, the people who have helped to create the good, well-paying jobs that middle-class families rely on. This includes cutting the small business tax rate to 10%, effective this past January, and to 9% this coming January.
The government has also signed three new free trade agreements. Today, Canada is the only G7 country holding trade agreements with every other G7 country.
Mr. Chair, the results of the government's investments are clear. Over the past three years, Canadians have created over half a million full-time jobs. Canada had the fastest-growing G7 economy in 2017 and still has one of the strongest economies in the G7.
Wages are going up in Canada. The unemployment rate is at its lowest in 40 years. That being said, we know we still have work to do. Bill C-86 will enable us to make Canada even more egalitarian, competitive, sustainable and fair.
A moment ago, I referred to the Canada workers benefit, or the CWB. Not only are we introducing this more generous benefit for low-income working Canadians; we're also taking further steps to ensure that more workers who are eligible for the CWB actually receive it.
Budget implementation act, no. 2, or BIA 2, allows the Canada Revenue Agency to calculate the CWB for tax filers, even for those who have not claimed it. This means that low-income workers who are eligible to receive the CWB will be able to do so simply by filing their taxes.
We expect that when you combine this increase in take-up with other program enhancements, the CWB will deliver real help to more than two million working Canadians, starting next year. What's more, it will also help to lift about 70,000 Canadians out of poverty by the year 2020.
Ensuring that the people who have earned this benefit actually receive it, we believe, is just common sense. It's the right thing to do for the millions of low-income working Canadians, who are working hard to be successful and to join the middle class.
As all of you know, promoting and advancing other measures are also critically important in BIA 2. Promoting and advancing gender equality is another of our government's top priorities that are demonstrated in this act.
Canadian women are among the best educated in the world, but they still face barriers that keep many of them from reaching their full potential. Advancing women's equality drives our economic growth while boosting the income of Canadian families.
The wage gap between women and men has narrowed in recent years, but it remains a barrier. For every dollar per hour that a man working full time earns in Canada, a woman working full time earns, on average, about 88 cents. On an annual basis, women's earnings are even lower—about 69 cents for every dollar earned by men—because they're more likely to work part time.
We know that's not acceptable, and we're committed to doing better. That means taking real and meaningful action to help reduce the gender wage gap and to increase the participation of women in the labour force. That's exactly what we're doing with the legislation that we're discussing today.
With BIA 2, the government is introducing proactive pay equity legislation. It will require federally regulated employers with 10 employees or more to establish and maintain a pay equity plan so that employees who are not receiving equal pay for work of equal value can finally do so. This measure will apply to 1.2 million employed Canadians, including public servants, employees of Crown corporations, and employees of federally regulated private companies, such as banks, airlines, cable companies and radio and television broadcasters. As part of the act, we're also proposing to establish a new pay equity commissioner to administer and enforce the law, and to report annually back to Parliament.
That said, we also know that it often takes more than equal pay to deliver equal opportunity. As one example, no matter what a parent earns, child care duties in our society still fall disproportionately to women. That is why, in BIA 2, we are also proposing a new employment insurance parental sharing benefit. This “use it or lose it” benefit is intended to encourage all parents, including fathers, to take some leave when welcoming a new child, and to share more equally in the work of raising their children.
Two-parent families that agree to share parental leave could receive an additional five weeks of leave, or an additional eight weeks for parents who choose the extended parental benefits option. This will make it easier for women to return to work sooner, if they so choose. It will help to address some of the patterns of discrimination that many women experience during the hiring process, and it will give both parents an opportunity to spend time with their young children, setting up patterns of more equal parenting that can last for a lifetime.
The government proposes to make this measure available next March, three months earlier than originally planned. This earlier date would enable 24,000 more parents to benefit from the new measure.
Finally, BIA 2 also includes a proposal to introduce a gender budgeting act. We know that budgets are about making choices with limited resources. In budget 2018, all decisions were informed by what we call gender-based analysis plus. This allowed us to consider the different ways in which budget measures could impact Canadians based on their gender and also other factors. The gender budgeting act is intended to make this analysis a permanent feature of the federal budget-making process. It will ensure that these important factors are taken into account when making budgetary decisions.
Mr. Chair, we are committed to growing the economy in a responsible, fair and sustainable way. That also means protecting the environment and reducing carbon emissions. Forecasts show that climate change will cost our economy $5 billion a year by 2020. Canada needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and the best way to do that is to put a price on pollution. Pollution pricing is a proven way to encourage Canadians and businesses to innovate and invest in clean technologies.
For the past two years, the federal government has worked with its provincial and territorial partners on a plan to grow the economy while reducing Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. Provinces and territories had a range of options. They could either design or maintain their own carbon pollution pricing system that meets the federal standard, or they could voluntarily adopt the federal backstop pricing system, as Yukon and Nunavut decided to do.
Unfortunately, some provinces have failed to recognize the cost of pollution. For that reason, two weeks ago the Prime Minister announced that the gap in leadership will be filled by a federal pollution pricing system to be applied in New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. All direct proceeds—and that means all direct proceeds from federal pollution pricing—will be returned to the province of origin, with the bulk of the proceeds from the fuel charge going directly to individuals and families through climate action incentive payments. The amendments proposed in BIA 2 would allow for climate action incentive payments to reach individuals and families in those four provinces.
Thanks to Canadians' hard work, job creation is up and unemployment is down. More and more Canadians are benefiting from Canada's strong economy, but there is still work to be done. Budget implementation act, no. 2, allows the government to enhance the support that middle-class Canadians need to make better lives for themselves and their families.
I'm happy to answer any questions on the second budget implementation act or the supplementary estimates.