moved that Bill C-28, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to Bill C-28, which is the fall budget implementation bill. The measures in the bill are positive. They continue with the legislation with respect to implementing budget 2006 which I had the honour to present in the House on May 2.
Broad based tax relief is provided by this budget bill. It is wide-ranging tax relief for Canadians. There are a number of budget items in the bill, including the exemption for small brewers and vintners; the Canada employment credit; the deduction for tradespeople's tool expenses; and the capital gain extension for fishers to $500,000 lifetime which is very important for fishers, particularly in Atlantic Canada and on the west coast. The bill also includes the textbook tax credit which will help students; the exemption for scholarship and bursary income; the children's fitness tax credit; and the tax credit for public transit, which has important environmental benefits. The bill also includes the changes with respect to corporate dividends; doubling the pension income credit from $1,000 to $2,000; the small business increase from $300,000 to $400,000 effective January 1, 2007, assuming the bill passes; and the apprenticeship job creation tax credit. The bill also includes a number of other initiatives that are steps forward in terms of equitable treatment for Canadians in many walks of life.
The original budget implementation bill, which has been passed, served as a launching pad for the development in the coming months of a strong results-focused agenda for a more competitive, productive Canada. Budget 2006 represents the first part of our government's commitment to put government spending back on a sustainable track over time, to restore fiscal balance and to improve Canada's competitiveness.
Budget 2006 lays the groundwork for future budgets, while providing real benefits for all Canadians today.
When the new government was elected in January of this year, it was expected that we would be more accountable as we said we would be and that we would treat Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars with respect.
Canada's new government has kept its word. We said we would introduce legislation to improve accountability and we did. We said we would crack down on crime and we did.
We also said we would cut the GST and we did by a full percentage point effective July 1 this year. We said we would reduce personal income taxes and we did that too. We also cut corporate income taxes for small, medium and large businesses, something other governments, including our predecessor government had promised to do but failed to deliver.
We are leaving more tax dollars in the pockets of Canadians to be used to make the decisions that are right for them and their families. We have ensured that Canada will be a country of opportunity by investing in families and communities, education, security and infrastructure.
We have done this in a way that is fiscally responsible by paying down the debt, including the third largest debt payment in the history of Canada a few weeks ago of $13.2 billion. This will free up about $660 million of money that otherwise would have been paid in interest. Taxpayers' money that would have been used for interest payments now will be available for other spending priorities or for tax reductions from year to year to year and year after year.
We have been containing government expenditures. The President of the Treasury Board led the initiative and made the announcement of $1 billion in expense reductions for this year and for next year. This is part of what will be an ongoing program of expense management control dearly needed by the Government of Canada on an ongoing basis.
We have our goal of delivering the greatest value for taxpayers' dollars, including program review of course. We want to make sure that programs that are ongoing continue to fulfill the mandate for which they were created, and if not, then not to continue those programs.
This bill contains measures that will improve the quality of life for Canadians. It introduces the Canada employment credit. This is an issue with respect to which members hear often, that people who are self-employed have certain advantages in terms of deductions. The Canada employment credit will extend that to take into account the reality that many people who work and who are not self-employed have expenses that might relate to uniforms, safety gear or home computers, the kinds of things that are necessary for their particular work. For some Canadians, particularly lower income Canadians, these additional costs sometimes impose a barrier to joining the workforce.
The Canada employment credit is a new employment expense tax credit for employees' work expenses. This credit has been administered as of July 1. On a full year basis it provides tax relief on employment income of up to $500 in 2006. Since it came into effect mid-year, working Canadians could receive a credit of up to $250 for 2006, that is for the half year. The annual amount of employment income eligible for the credit will double to $1,000 effective January 1, 2007.
Budget 2006 significantly increased the amount of income that employed Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax, together with increases to the basic personal amount. By 2007 that amount will be almost $10,000.
The Canada employment credit will make work more attractive, particularly for lower income workers. It also will put employees on a more equal footing, as I said, with the self-employed in terms of the tax recognition they receive for the expenses they incur to earn income. This measure is expected to reduce the taxes paid by working Canadians by $890 million in 2006-07 and by more than $1.8 billion in 2007-08, a significant part of the $20 billion in tax reductions contained in budget 2006.
With respect to businesses in Canada, including the job creation engine of small business in our nation, Canada's new government recognizes that working Canadians are part of the foundation of Canada's economic growth. Another crucial component of that is the business community. We have taken steps to help ensure that Canadian companies can compete with the world's best.
The budget implementation bill passed before the House rose last summer proposed a plan that would reduce the general corporate income tax rate from 21% to 19% by January 1, 2010. That bill also eliminated the corporate surtax for all corporations in 2008 and totally eliminated the federal capital tax as of January 1, 2006, which is two years ahead of schedule.
Bill C-28 builds on those measures by proposing a reduction of the current 12% small business tax rate to 11.5% for 2008 and to 11% for 2009. It is important to note that this bill also proposes an increase to $400,000 from $300,000 of the amount of income that a small business can have taxed at the small business tax rate effective January 1, 2007.
Bill C-28 improves equity in the tax system by providing capital gains tax relief to fishers, which I briefly mentioned previously, including an extension of the $500,000 lifetime capital gains exemption and an intergenerational rollover for fishing businesses. I certainly heard a great deal about this subject from hon. members in the preparation of the budget, including, of course, my colleague the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. This initiative will provide this important industry with the same tax treatment of capital gains as is extended to farmers in Canada.
In addition to accelerating the elimination of the federal capital tax in last summer's budget bill, Bill C-28 proposes to modify the minimum tax on financial institutions to reflect the growth of that sector since the tax was introduced. Bill C-28 proposes that effective July 1, 2006 a single tax rate of 1.25% apply on taxable capital employed in Canada over $1 billion rather than the two tier system that is currently in place for financial institutions with taxable capital in excess of $300 million.
Bill C-28 also proposes to eliminate the double taxation of dividends from large corporations at the federal level.
There is an important provision in the bill with respect to pension income. Canada's new government is fully aware of and grateful for the contributions made by our seniors in Canada. A deduction for the first $1,000 in eligible pension income was introduced in 1975. The deduction was converted to a non-refundable credit in the 1987 tax reform.
However, the maximum amount of pension income that could be claimed under this measure has been left unchanged since 1975, at that level of $1,000, which of course is worth much less in 2006 dollars. In the May budget, our government proposed to provide greater tax assistance to those who have saved for their retirement.
Budget 2006 proposes to double to $2,000 the maximum amount of eligible pension income that can be claimed under the pension income credit. This is effective for 2006 and subsequent taxation years. This measure will benefit nearly three million taxpayers receiving eligible pension income and will remove approximately 85,000 pensioners from the federal tax rolls completely.
I would like to say a few words about the textbook tax credit, which is important to our students in Canada.
We of course want to encourage education and training efforts by students. This bill, Bill C-28, proposes a new non-refundable tax credit to provide better tax recognition for the costs of textbooks for students. This will be put in place effective for 2006 and subsequent taxation years.
The textbook tax credit amount will be $65 for each month of full time post-secondary study and $20 for each month of part time post-secondary study. For example, a full time student enrolled for eight months would qualify for a textbook tax credit on an amount of $520 in that year, which would be a tax reduction of about $80. This benefit, we estimate, will extend to almost two million post-secondary students in Canada.
There is also the exemption with respect to post-secondary education scholarships and bursaries. In our platform in the last election, as I recall, we had a provision that we would exempt bursaries and scholarships up to $10,000.
In fact, in the budget, we announced that the exemption would be complete and that we would not have a monetary limit of $10,000, on the basis that we want to encourage students to work hard and do well. When they work hard and do well and get scholarships and bursaries, it seems counterproductive for the government to then tax them for reaching for the top and for working hard and doing well in their studies.
Budget 2006 proposes to fully exempt these sources of income from tax, effective for this year, 2006, and subsequent taxation years. This has a significant consequence, particularly when we start looking at the need we have in Canada for more graduate students in the sciences, in engineering and in the life sciences, and at our desire to encourage graduate study.
Let us take the example of a full time student, perhaps at the University of Saskatchewan, completing a Ph.D., who received a $15,000 scholarship and also earned an additional $10,000 in 2007 by working as a teaching assistant, which would not be unusual for a graduate student. As a result of the full exemption on scholarship and bursary income and the introduction of the new textbook tax credit, that student would save $675 in federal income tax.
This measure will help foster academic excellence by providing tax relief to more than 100,000 post-secondary students in Canada.
There is also a tax credit with respect to apprenticeships to encourage apprenticeship job creation. The lack of skilled trades in Canada, as we well know, is becoming an impediment to economic growth. This is particularly true in some regions of our country. Meanwhile, many young Canadians find themselves stuck in low-paying jobs and either are not encouraged to consider the trades or are unable to do so because of financial barriers.
To encourage employers to hire new apprentices to learn a trade, the budget proposed a new apprenticeship job creation tax credit. As a result of this initiative, which is contained in Bill C-28, and which is effective as of May 2, 2006, the budget date, eligible employers will receive a tax credit equal to 10% of the wages paid to qualifying apprentices in the first two years of the contract, to a maximum credit of $2,000 per apprentice per year.
To encourage people to enter the skilled trades, there is also a deduction for tool expenses for tradespeople. Many members have heard from constituents over the years about how expensive it is for people starting off in the trades to pay for tools, particularly in some of the situations that involve very expensive tools, such as auto mechanics. Bill C-28 proposes a new deduction of up to $500 to tradespeople for the cost of tools in excess of $1,000, tools that they must acquire in order to proceed with their apprenticeship.
The tools deduction and the Canada employment credit together will provide tax relief to about 700,000 employed tradespeople in Canada.
Here is how it would work. For example, a tradesperson earning $60,000, with $1,500 in tool expenses in 2007, will be able to claim the new Canada employment credit on $1,000 and deduct $500 under the new tools deduction. The two measures will reduce federal income taxes by $265.
Also, apprentice vehicle mechanics will continue to be eligible to deduct their extraordinary tool expenses.
Another important credit in the bill relates to the use of public transit by commuters and the environmental benefits of more commuters using public transit and leaving their cars at home or at commuter stations. It is important to encourage Canadians to use public transit. Increasing public transit use not only will ease traffic congestion in our urban areas, it will also improve the environment.
Bill C-28 proposes the tax credit on the purchase cost of monthly public transit passes or passes for a duration of longer than a month. This measure, effective July 1, 2006, will provide benefits to approximately two million Canadians who make a sustained commitment to use this environmentally friendly mode of transportation.
For example, an individual who purchases passes costing $80 per month throughout the year will receive a benefit of up to about $150 in federal tax relief for the year. All transit users, including commuters, students and seniors, will qualify for this tax credit. What it amounts to is about two months of free public transit per year for commuters who have monthly passes or passes that are for longer than one month.
Another important tax credit is particularly relevant in Canada today given our concerns with obesity in children, about which much has been said and written in recent years and months. Studies show that regular physical activity has many positive effects on children, including healthier growth and development and improved physical fitness.
There is no doubt that all of us have seen some escalation in the costs of organized activities, making it difficult for many Canadian families to afford these activities for their children.
To promote physical fitness among children, Bill C-28 proposes to introduce the children's fitness tax credit, effective January 1, 2007 and designed to provide a tax credit based on up to $500 of eligible fees for programs of physical activity for each child under the age of 16.
As one would expect, the words “physical activity” can be interpreted more or less broadly and in different ways. Indeed, they are being interpreted in different ways. As I set out in the budget, I asked a panel of experts to consider the views of Canadians on this subject and on the design of the tax credit.
The three experts on the panel have done their work. I thank them for that. I expect to receive their report tomorrow. They have done this work as good Canadians. Despite their expertise and the remuneration to which they would be entitled in their normal occupations, they have done it for $1 each. The grand cost to the people of Canada will be $3 for this expert report that will provide advice on a working definition of the criteria for the tax credit.
I look forward to having an opportunity to share that report with hon. members and to have what I am sure will be a fulsome discussion about the design of that tax credit for young people.
In conclusion, the government's first budget is about focusing on priorities. This bill completes that budget implementation process.
This is about taking action to make a real difference in the lives of Canadians. It is about creating real results for Canadians. And it is about doing all of this in a way that is fiscally responsible, by making sure that we have balanced budgets, by making sure that we have expenditure control on an ongoing basis, and by making sure that we watch the hard-earned Canadian tax dollars the Government of Canada receives.
I encourage all hon. members to give the bill the swift passage that I would submit it deserves.