Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the motion put forth by the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam.
While I appreciate his concern, and commend him for bringing this matter to the attention of the House, I am unable to support his motion.
Does the hon. member not realize that there are many demands today on the government's scarce resources, not just his? I would hope that he realizes this, because it is important for the government to remain firmly committed to sound financial management and fairness in the tax system.
The government intends to continue to follow a balanced approach to managing the wide range of priorities and pressures facing it, as exemplified by measures in the 2003 budget, which I will discuss in a moment
Since the beginning of our mandate back in 1993, two of the government's ongoing priority areas continue to be sound financial management and fairness in the tax system. Balancing these two equally demanding commitments has been a challenge for the government. It would appear that my hon. colleagues opposite have not been paying attention to any of the tax measures our government has consistently introduced since 1993.
The government is fully aware that better economic performance for Canada tomorrow requires a more productive, innovative and sustainable economy today. Our tax system plays an important role in creating a stronger, more productive economy
An efficient tax structure can enhance incentives to work, save and invest. It can also support entrepreneurship and the emergence and growth of small businesses. In addition, a competitive tax system is critical in encouraging investment in Canada, which leads to greater economic growth and job creation.
That is why the government launched a five-year $100 billion tax reduction plan—the largest in our history—which has strengthened the foundation for economic growth and job creation in this country, and helped low and middle income Canadians at the same time.
Need I remind hon. members that, in the course of preparing the 2003 budget, the Minister of Finance was advised by Canadians that his budget must be more than the tallying of accounts. The budget must reflect the sum of our values as well.
The budget the minister presented to this House in February meets this challenge in three arenas of national life:
First, it builds the society Canadians value by making investments in individual Canadians, their families and their communities.
Second, it builds the economy Canadians need by promoting productivity and innovation while staying fiscally prudent.
Third, it builds the accountability Canadians deserve by making government spending more transparent and accountable.
Just as important, the government is able to meet these challenges and pursue significant new investments, but without risking a return to deficits, because of our continuing commitment to sound financial management.
Exactly as I just explained, Mr. Speaker, we cannot support this motion because of the many demands on scarce government resources and because of our commitment to sound financial management.
Our commitment to fiscal responsibility is real and rigid—not just rhetoric—as demonstrated by the fact that we have already delivered five consecutive surpluses, a $47 billion reduction in the federal debt, the $100 billion tax reduction plan, and in our latest budget a $34 billion investment in health care for Canadians.
In Budget 2000, the government introduced its five year $100 billion tax reduction plan, the largest tax cut in history. The 2003 budget builds on the plan to further improve the tax system and enhance incentives to work, save and invest.
The plan continues to deliver growing tax relief—about $24 billion this year, and $30 billion in 2003.
Let me expand on this a bit. For example, 75% of the tax reduction plan was focused primarily on personal income tax deductions. Federal personal income tax reductions under this plan are 21% on average and 27% for families with children.
Key elements of this plan include: full indexation of the personal income tax system as of January 1, 2000; lowering personal income tax rates for all taxpayers; eliminating the deficit-reduction surtax; and substantially increasing tax support for students in post-secondary education.
We have also created a Canadian advantage in the area of business taxation. The government legislation a 7 point reduction in the general rate of corporate tax from 28% to 21%. For this year, the rate has already been reduced to 23% and will fall to 21% in 2004.
Honourable members will recall that we recently debated Bill C-28, the Budget Implementation Act, 2003, here in this chamber. That bill contains several measures that improve the tax system, many of which are directed at helping families with children.
There is no more important investment that we can make than in the opportunities we create for our children. Through this bill, the 2003 budget strengthens our long-standing commitment to Canadian children and families in several key areas.
First, annual assistance for children in low-income families is increased through the Canada child tax benefit to $10 billion by 2007—with annual benefits increasing to $3,243 for the first child, $3,016 for the second child and $3,020 for each additional child.
Second, in recognition of the fact that caring for children with severe disabilities imposes a heavy burden on families, a new indexed $1,600 child disability benefit, effective July 2003, will provide additional assistance of up to $1,600 annually to low and modest income families with a disabled child.
Third, $80 million per year is provided to enhance tax assistance for persons with disabilities, drawing on an evaluation of the existing disability tax credit and the input of a technical advisory committee.
The budget also adds to—and builds on—tax measures introduced in previous budgets to provide support to persons with disabilities.
More infirm children or grandchildren will now be able to receive a tax-deferred rollover of a deceased parent's or grandparent's RRSP or RRIF proceeds, and the list of expenses eligible for the medical expense tax credit is expanded to include, for example, certain expenses for the incremental cost of gluten-free food products for individuals with celiac disease.
Canada's high calibre workforce also deserves the support of a competitive tax system, a fact not overlooked by the tax reduction plan. The 2003 budget further improves the tax system through incentives to save and invest, to help small and medium sized enterprises and boost Canadian competitiveness.
For example, to promote savings by Canadians the budget increases registered retirement saving plan and registered pension plan limits to $18,000 over four years and indexes these new limits.
However, I urge my hon. colleagues to remember that any new tax measures must be done in concert with our commitment to sound financial management. We have to ask ourselves, what other commitment would we have to give up to pay for the proposal before us today? As the minister said in his budget speech, we will not go back into deficit.
I am unable to support this motion and I encourage other hon. members to follow suit.