Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the opportunity to speak at third reading of Bill C-71.
Along with strengthening health care, increasing the Canada child tax benefit and assisting below and modest income Canadians, Bill C-71 also covers a range of other measures such as debt management, income tax administration, first nations taxation and public service pensions, among other things.
While wide ranging, I would say, and I am sure hon. members would agree, that all these measures are connected. They fall within the sphere of the government's ongoing commitment to an effective, efficient and fiscally responsible government.
I would like to briefly summarize some of the bill's highlights. Bill C-71 provides for the transfer announced in the 1999 budget of an additional $11.5 billion in health care funding to the provinces under the Canada health and social transfer.
It is also important to note that this increase will be distributed equally for every Canadian in every province. By eliminating the per capita disparities in the distribution of the CHST, all provinces by 2001-02 will receive identical per capita entitlements, thereby providing equal support for health and other social services to all Canadians.
The provinces will receive $8 billion of the $11.5 billion through the CHST over four years beginning April 1, 2000. The additional $3.5 billion will be paid in the form of an immediate one time supplement to the CHST from funds available this fiscal year. The provinces can decide for themselves how much they will draw down each and every year over the next three years.
The purpose of the immediate one time supplement of $3.5 billion is to respond directly to the concerns that Canadians had from coast to coast to coast about the lack of emergency services that they were able to access, as well as the long waiting lists. The $3.5 billion will be in the hands of the provinces to immediately draw down as they see fit in order to meet the needs of their particular constituents.
When the funding increase reaches $2.5 billion in 2001-02, direct federal cash support under the CHST will be $15 billion a year. The health component then of the CHST will be as high as it was before the expenditure restraint in the mid-1990s.
The next measure in Bill C-71 deals with two components of the Canada child tax benefit: the base benefit and the national child benefit supplement. Both are changed in the 1999 budget. Bill C-71 sets out the design of the 1998 budget commitment to provide an additional $850 million increase in the national child benefit supplement payments to low income families. The maximum national child benefit supplement benefit level is being increased by $350 in two stages: $180 in July 1999 and $170 in July 2000. The net income level at which the national child benefit supplement is fully phased out is also being increased to $27,750 in July 1999 and $29,590 in July 2000.
These changes mean that a family with two children earning $20,000 will receive an increased benefit of $700 for a total of $3,750 per year. As well, a $300 million enrichment of the base benefit in July 2000 will increase benefits for modest and middle income families by $184 per family. It will also be accomplished by means of an increase to the $29,590 in the net income threshold of these benefits.
The bill also addresses assistance for children in another area by ensuring that the full amount of the single supplement of the GST credit will go to single parents earning under $25,921. Unfortunately some very low income families with children may not have been receiving the full GST credit supplement. This bill addresses this problem by increasing the GST credit benefits for low income single parents to complement the national child benefit by providing these parents with the full $105 amount of the single supplement.
The bill also addresses first nations taxation issues. The 1999 budget confirmed the government's willingness to continue discussions about taxation matters with first nations and to implement arrangements with first nations members.
Bill C-71 gives the B.C. Sliammon first nation authority to add a value added tax on all tobacco products and fuels sold on reserves. B.C.'s Westbank first nation, which already taxes tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, will now be able to charge a 7% GST style tax on its on reserve sales of fuel. In addition, the Yukon First Nation Self-Government Act will be amended to give effect to the GST rebate provisions which were added to their self-government agreements last year.
There are also measures involving the administration of taxation. A service agreement signed last October between Revenue Canada and Nova Scotia allows for a limited release of taxpayer information to Nova Scotia Workers Compensation Board. The bill also allows for co-operation in audits. Certainly this exchange of information helps ensure amounts owed are indeed paid.
Members will be pleased to note that before exchanging any information the federal government will ensure that the workers compensation board fully adheres to the current confidentiality safeguards that apply to the sharing of information with agencies outside Revenue Canada.
Another part of Bill C-71 deals with good financial management. Hon. members are aware that the government is committed to managing its debt cost as effectively as possible. This bill amends the Financial Administration Act to enhance the effectiveness of debt and risk management.
The amendments, many of which are technical, confirm some existing practices. They clarify the authority governing the government's borrowing and distribution of its debt and modernize the government's fiscal and risk management powers. The bill also spells out the government's standing authority under the FAA to ensure that maturing debt can only be refinanced within a given fiscal year, a practice the government has followed for years.
New borrowing authority to finance a deficit would be obtained as in the past through a borrowing authority bill. It is important to ensure that all members understand that the amendments to the FAA are in no way compromising the authority that is required to finance a deficit. In fact, that authority would be obtained as in the past through a borrowing authority bill.
Other measures guarantee that parliament will receive information annually on the government's debt management programs and plans which speaks to the transparency and openness of the management of our debt.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, some of the other measures of Bill C-71 have to do with amending the basic pension formula in the public service, Canadian forces and RCMP superannuation acts which calculate benefits on a five year rather than the current six year average salary. That is an improvement to the existing plan.
Also included in the bill are provisions for amending the Patent Act to clarify the Minister of Health's authority to pay the provinces moneys collected by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board from excessive pricing of products by patented manufacturers.
Also included in the bill is a measure clarifying the scope of federal loan guarantees under the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act to financial institutions that fund advance payments to our agricultural producers.
Finally, the bill also includes a measure that will provide the Minister of Finance with the authority to undertake financial operations necessary to meet Canada's commitments under the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Act.
The 1999 budget omnibus bill establishes important foundation blocks for the future in terms of new funding for our public health care system. It benefits children and families in need and implements measures that improve the operations of government, all while sustaining our commitment to financial discipline.
Generally and overall it is important to note the 1999 budget extends the government's plan to build a strong economy and a secure society. It is an approach that we as a government have consistently followed, an approach which is designed to advance living standards of Canadians. It is a strategy that we have applied through each of the government's six budgets to date. We essentially take action on three fronts: maintaining sound economic and financial management; investing in key economic and social priorities; and providing tax relief and improving tax fairness.
First, certainly strong economic growth and reduced debt burden better enable the government to provide tax relief and make key investments. The 1999 budget again confirms that the era of deficit financing is over. We will continue to deliver balanced budgets or better.
Second, our investments in health care and research and innovation and other key areas improve Canadians' ability to work and their quality of life.
The third pillar of our strategy tax relief is very clear. In essence the 1999 budget delivers tax reductions of $16.5 billion with the 1998 budget collectively. When we include the reduction in unemployment insurance that number escalates to $17.3 billion.
It is important to note that our approach will be one of balance and it will remain balanced. We have demonstrated a three front strategy over the last number of budgets. We will continue with that approach. The government has eliminated the deficit faster than anyone expected. We have seen the results of our financial management in low inflation, low interest rates, the increase in job creation and the ongoing economic activity.
It is important to note as well that the work of the government in this area is still not complete. We still must continue to provide improvements to the quality of life and the standard of living of Canadians. We need to continue to provide tax relief. We need to continue to provide opportunities for Canadians to work and enjoy the quality of life they are accustomed to in this great country.
It is clear that many benefits will result from Bill C-71. I urge my hon. colleagues to pass this legislation without delay.