Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to discuss Canada's economic recovery act. This vital legislation will implement key measures from the economic action plan, our targeted road map to save and protect jobs today, while preparing us for the economy of tomorrow, along with other important economic initiatives.
Since January, we have been putting our plan in place as quickly and effectively as possible. We have done so because our Conservative government understands that Canadians are concerned about their jobs and their future, the very same Canadians I represent in communities all across my beautiful riding of Huron—Bruce.
I want to assure those Canadians that this plan is working. Along with their help, our plan is boosting Canada's recovery by focusing on the economy and promoting economic stability. In so doing, we are helping Canada emerge from the current global recession as a more competitive economy.
Do not take my word for it. Look at the recent IMF world economic outlook, a report card on the global economy. It forecasted Canada to have the highest growth of any G7 country in 2010. The World Economic Forum's 2009-10 Global Competitiveness Report ranked Canada as the 9th most competitive economy in the world, a big jump from 14th under the previous Liberal government in 2005-06.
Under the 2009 Forbes magazine's best countries for business ranking, which looks at business conditions in over 100 economies around the world, Canada has rocketed up four spots to number three.
Listen to how respected BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders raved about Canada. She stated, “Nowhere is immune, but by most key measures, the Canadians are coming out of this crisis in a league of their own”.
Indeed, Canada entered the current global recession on a strong economic fiscal footing. Our Conservative government paid off $37 billion of debt, giving Canada one of the lowest debt to GDP ratios in the G7, while simultaneously cutting taxes and making key strategic investments.
As BMO economist Doug Porter remarked in an interview with CBC Newsworld earlier this year, “Canada did go into this downturn with almost pristine fundamentals. Those pristine fundamentals do suggest that Canada will hold up a little better than other economies and probably will emerge a little stronger than other economies”. We are seeing that evidence today.
Our Conservative government is not, however, merely content to ride on our past achievements. We are building on our strengths to ensure Canada's economy remains in poll position for the recovery throughout Canada's economic action plan.
Canada's economic action plan is targeted, effective and timely. It is a plan that is supporting struggling communities and industries, cutting taxes, building new roads and bridges, helping the unemployed and much more. In total, the plan is providing $61 billion of stimulus to create 220,000 Canadian jobs. On top of these measures, over 160,000 Canadians are benefiting from work-sharing agreements that are allowing companies to continue to provide jobs to their employees.
Canada's economic recovery act is an extension of that plan. Not only will it implement numerous key measures from the plan outlined in budget 2009, but other new initiatives to support ongoing economic stability and growth. I understand the Liberal leader, before even reading the act, decided to oppose and vote against it, as he continues his singular obsession with an election, no matter the cost.
I am proud to say that while the Liberal Party of Canada pushes for an unnecessary election that could threaten Canada's fragile economic recovery, our Conservative government is pushing forward for Canadians in support of economic recovery.
While Liberals seemingly did not bother reading the economic recovery act before rushing out to denounce it, let me highlight the key measures they have decided to blindly oppose.
Through the economic recovery act, we are creating new opportunities for our construction and resource sectors with new tax credits.
To help alleviate some of the fees associated with buying a house, fees that often serve as a disincentive for young people entering the housing market, and to encourage first time home ownership, we have introduced the first-time home buyers' tax credit. This would provide up to $750 in tax relief to help with the purchase costs of a first time homeowner.
If I may add from personal experience, I bought a home a few years ago for the first time. This tax measure would have been a very appreciative measure. I can appreciate that families are looking forward to this new tax credit.
The first-time home buyers' tax credit has worked, as illustrated by the strong existing home sales in Canada largely driven by the entry of first-time home buyers. An entry spurred on by first-time home buyers' tax credit and another key element of Canada's economic action plan, the increase to $25,000 to the amount first time home buyers can draw from their RRSPs. Members do not need to believe me, but this was stated in a Canadian Press article from September:
...thanks in part to government incentive programs, particularly for new home buyers, the market has bounced back.
Earlier this year, Ottawa increased the amount first-time home buyers can withdraw from their RRSPs from $20,000 to $25,000, and implemented a tax credit for first-timers....
Again, this is a program I was fortunate enough to take advantage of several years ago. It was a tremendous opportunity to put toward the purchase of my home and I am very proud to see our government's action enhance this so that other young couples who are looking at purchasing a home can use this system.
While it is important that young families can enter the housing market, it is also important that they and all Canadians can add value to their homes. Another housing measure in the economic recovery act would help do just that, the home renovation tax credit, or HRTC. It is estimated that the credit would provide approximately 4.6 million families with up to $1,350 in tax relief on eligible renovation projects undertaken before February 2010. Without a doubt, the HRTC has been an overwhelming success.
The Globe and Mail hailed it in a glowing editorial declaring that the HRTC:
...has proven one of the more successful of the government's stimulus measures, helping create demand for services and supplies.
While I travel throughout the riding of Huron—Bruce and talk to home builders, home building supply firms, the home building supply companies are very busy. The people who work in the inventory section are swamped and very busy. One would never know there is a global recession going on. Contractors are booked. These are the initiatives that we took to ensure our economy is moved forward. This is definitely one of the great measures brought forward.
The HRTC is putting tradespeople to work and giving a boost to those who produce and sell building materials. A report from the Globe and Mail states:
“Home Hardware Stores Ltd., Canada's largest independent seller of building materials, is getting a boost from the government's renovation tax credit”, spokesman Rob Wallace said....
The company's eastern, central and western warehouses all are reporting higher shipments to more than 1,000 independently owned stores...
“We're ecstatic,” said Mr. Wallace. “We're far ahead of where we expected to be.”
Those are results for Canadians. A report from the Sault Star in northern Ontario stated that by most accounts, the HRTC move has worked. It went on to state:
“There's no doubt that it has brought a lot of people out of the woodwork to do renovations that they normally wouldn't have done,” said Andrew Walton, sales manager at Northwood Window & Door Centre.
John Patrizio, general manager at Rona Cashway Building Centre said that the building store has been busy with customers planning to take advantage of the 15% tax credit that covers projects that were started after January 27 or will be started before February 1, 2010.
Bob Boissonneault, assistant store manager at Home Depot, said that the tax credit has generated more spending. “A tonne of people have taken advantage of it”.
Clearly, the temporary nature of the credit is providing an incentive for homeowners across Canada to continue to invest in their biggest and best asset during these challenging economic times. One wonders why the Liberals have opposed this measure and this act, and one wonders why they took this position even before taking the time to review the act.
Another key measure that the Liberals are opposing in the economic recovery act is enhanced support targeted for those who need it most. For low income Canadians who receive social assistance, landing a job can cost them dearly in both higher taxes and reduced income support. The working income tax benefit, or, as it is known, WITB, helps to reduce the financial disincentives faced by these individuals.
Originally introduced in budget 2007 by our government, the landmark WITB is a refundable tax credit that helps make work pay by supplementing the earnings of low income workers to help ensure that these workers are financially better off by getting a job. For low income working Canadians with disabilities, facing even larger barriers to workforce participation, the WITB includes a generous disability supplement.
The Caledon Institute of Social Policy has called the WITB “a welcome addition to Canadian social policy”...it “fills a long-recognized gap in Canada's income security system”. Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Management said that it was “very helpful to the working poor in our urban centres”.
The economic recovery act would enhance the WITB by $580 million in 2009 and subsequent taxation years. It is expected that more than 1.5 million Canadians would benefit from the enhanced WITB for the 2009 tax year. As a member of the human resources committee, we have heard nothing but favourable comments about the WITB initiative.
That is not all the economic recovery act is about. It also would provide Canadians with more flexibility to improve their quality of life, even during difficult times. Our Conservative government understands Canadians, particularly those nearing retirement who are worried about their pensions. Uncertainty and turmoil in financial markets is a concern for all Canadians, especially older Canadians who have worked hard and saved diligently for their retirement years and rely on their pensions and savings.
The economic recovery act would not only help maintain the quality of life for seniors, it would actually improve it during these difficult economic times. For example, the act would strengthen the Canada pension plan by implementing a number of reforms, reforms that were unanimously supported and recommended by the federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers in their tri-annual review of the CPP last May.
The reforms include the following: removing the work cessation test in 2012 so that people may take their retirement pension as early as age 60 without the requirement of a work interruption or earnings reduction; enhancing the retirement pension calculation to allow up to an additional year of low earnings to be dropped from the calculation; and enabling a person under the age of 65 who receives a retirement pension and continues working or returns to work to contribute to the Canada pension plan and thereby create eligibility for a new post-retirement benefit.
The Canada pension plan reforms would ensure that older Canadians across the country have the support they need to adapt to a changing economy. Furthermore, our Conservative government is also continuing to move forward on pension issues. Earlier this year, we held national consultations on improvements to federally regulated pensions to inform of key changes to be released shortly.
Moreover, as only approximately 10% of pensions are federally regulated, we are also working with provincial governments, forming a research work group and arranging a national summit of finance ministers later this year to further look at the larger issue of retirement income security in Canada.
I would also like to take a moment to quickly review other vital initiatives in the economic recovery act to help provide the stability our economy needs, initiatives include: helping farmers by extending the existing tax deferral available in regions affected by drought; ensuring that the province of Nova Scotia continues to receive a meaningful net fiscal benefit from its resources by resolving the crown share saga after decades of neglect by the previous Liberal government; improving transparency and accountability in the use of taxpayer dollars by mandating that all federal departments and crown corporations produce quarterly financial reports; ensure dependability for public broadcasting by increasing the borrowing limit for the CBC; and promoting global growth and co-operation by giving small and low income countries a bigger voice at the IMF while strengthening Canada's commitment to debt relief.
Canada's economic recovery act would provide a balance between stimulating our economy for the short term and building our capacity in the long term. In every region of Canada, families and businesses are paying less tax and unemployed workers are receiving better support and new training. Major job creating infrastructure projects are breaking new ground. Colleges and universities are benefiting from new investments, and Canadian households and businesses are seeing improved access to financing.
Our Conservative government's economic recovery act would provide much needed stability for our country's economy. It is timely, targeted, temporary and cost-effective and it would lay the foundation for long term growth.
The Liberal leader would rather look at narrow, partisan self-interests and force an unnecessary election, jeopardizing the recovery and inviting a prolonged session. Now is not the time for political games but a time to recognize that our economic recovery remains fragile. We must stay focused and we must stay on course. We need to continue to implement Canada's economic action plan, supporting Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
As the Calgary Herald editor noted:
...the Canadian economy, when compared with outcomes in peer nations, vindicates [the Prime Minister's] claim to sound [fiscal] management...[the Liberals'] promise to vote against him can only be seen as a self-interested reach for power, at a dangerously sensitive time in the nation's recovery. It is irresponsible, as well as widely unwanted.