moved that Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to begin debate on the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act. This act represents a key component of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.
Today's legislation represents an ambitious, substantive, and positive response to the economic challenges of today and the opportunities of tomorrow.
Indeed, the global economic recovery is challenged, as demonstrated by ongoing events in Europe and in the United States. While the roots of these global challenges are not from within our borders, they could nevertheless impact Canada. That is why our Conservative government has remained squarely focused on helping protect and grow Canada's economy to the greatest extent possible since the onset of the global economic turbulence.
In our initial response, Canada's economic action plan, we delivered $60 billion in extraordinary investments to support jobs and growth during the worst of the global recession. It was a plan that helped families and businesses deal with the short-term challenges, while also supporting Canada's long-term prosperity through, for instance, landmark infrastructure investments in roads, bridges, universities, colleges, and many more.
It was a plan that, according to countless independent observers, worked.
As BMO economist Doug Porter publicly declared, it was, “arguably one of the most successful stimulus programs in the industrialized world”.
Earlier this year, our Conservative government built on that record of accomplishments with the next phase of Canada's economic action plan: a low tax plan for jobs and growth.
The next phase seeks to foster positive conditions for long-term economic prosperity, while staying on track to return to balanced budgets, while helping Canadian families.
The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act represents a vital component of the next phase as it implements many of its key elements. For instance, the act would promote job creation and economic growth by: providing a temporary hiring credit for small business, to encourage additional hiring; expanding tax support for clean energy generation, to encourage green investments; extending the mineral exploration tax credit for flow-through share investors by one year to support Canada's mining sector; simplifying customs tariffs in order to facilitate trade and lower the administrative burden for businesses; extending the accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for investments in productivity-improving machinery and equipment for Canada's manufacturing sector; and eliminating the mandatory retirement age for federally regulated employees in order to give older workers wishing to work the option to remain in the workforce.
The act would support communities from coast to coast to coast by: legislating a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund to provide predictable long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities; enhancing the wage earner protection program to cover more workers affected by employer bankruptcy or receivership; introducing a volunteer firefighters tax credit for volunteer firefighters; and increasing the ability of Canadians to give more confidently to legitimate charities, by helping combat fraud and other forms of abuse by illegitimate charities.
The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act would help families by: introducing a new family caregiver tax credit to assist caregivers of all types of infirm, dependent relatives; removing the limit on the amount of eligible expenses caregivers can claim for their financially dependent relatives under the medical expense tax credit; and introducing a new children's arts tax credit for programs associated with children's arts, cultural, recreational and developmental activities.
The act would invest in education and training by: forgiving loans for new doctors and nurses in underserved rural and remote areas; helping apprentices in the skilled trades, as well as workers in regulated professions, by making occupational trade and professional examination fees eligible for tuition tax credit; improving federal financial assistance for students; and making it easier to allocate registered education savings plan assets among siblings, without incurring tax penalties or forfeiting Canada education savings grants.
Finally, it would respect taxpayers by: phasing out the direct subsidy for political parties and closing numerous tax loopholes that allow a few businesses and individuals to avoid paying their fair share of tax.
The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act includes so much more to help families, students, businesses, seniors, communities and obviously the economy and jobs. To keep Canada's economy on the right track, I am confident that Parliament will endorse today's legislation in a timely and overwhelming manner.
Before spotlighting a couple of the numerous and very positive measures in today's legislation, let me underline that, while indeed the global economy is in a period of turbulence and there are challenges that lie ahead, Canada has performed relatively well. Over the course of the debate on the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act, the opposition, NDP and Liberals, will attempt, in the starkest terms and with the greatest hyperbole, to talk down the Canadian economy with its non-stop negativity.
The NDP and Liberals will downplay the achievements of our businesses, our workers and our government that have in recent years made our economy stronger and more competitive. Carried by the weight of the heavy pessimism in their overstated rhetoric and tired talking points, the NDP and the Liberals will throw their collective hands up and claim that Canada has not been up to the challenges of the global economy.
That is where we on this side of the House must differ. As Winston Churchill once noted, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”. Without a doubt, our Conservative government has seen, and sought to capitalize on, the opportunities and global economic turbulence of recent years. Unlike the NDP and the Liberals, we have believed that Canada and Canadians could meet that challenge, especially with the support of our low tax pro-growth economic policies.
Let me say it once again for the opposition. The facts are indisputable. Canada is standing tall.
On economic growth, both the IMF and the OECD forecast that we will have among the strongest economic growth in the G7 in the years ahead.
On jobs, Canada has the strongest job creation record in the G7 with nearly 600,000 net new jobs created since July 2009, with over 80% of those being full-time jobs.
On our financial sector, the World Economic Forum has, for the fourth straight year, rated our banking system the best in the world.
On our fiscal situation, Canada has, and will continue to have, by far the lowest total government net debt to GDP ratio in the entire G7 based on IMF projections.
On fiscal and economic fundamentals, Canada's credit rating, unlike numerous other countries, has been affirmed as being the highest possible by major rating agencies. Indeed, Moody's recently renewed Canada's triple A credit rating, praising our “economic resiliency, very high government financial strength, and a low susceptibility to event risk”.
On our competitiveness, Forbes, the influential business magazine, ranked Canada as the best country in the world for business to grow and create jobs, largely due to our low tax plan for Canadian businesses.
The list goes on.
There is little wonder that The Economist and global leaders have singled out Canada's economy and our Conservative government's economic leadership for repeated praise. BMO economist, Doug Porter, testifying before the finance committee this last week, declared, “--compared to policy making in the rest of the world, Canada's economic policy-making has been exemplary. I don't think there has been a significant misstep in recent years”.
We recall the words of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron before this chamber:
In the last few years, Canada has got every major decision right. Look at the facts...Your economic leadership has helped the Canadian economy to weather the global storms far better than many of your international competitors.
As encouraging and positive as those facts and quotes may be, they should not serve as an invitation to rest on our laurels, especially in the light of the ongoing global economic turmoil in the EU and United States.
We all know resting on our laurels is no way to stay ahead. That is why, as I mentioned previously, our Conservative government remains focused on what matters to Canadians: creating jobs and promoting economic growth through the implementation of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan outlayed in today's legislation.
As I mentioned, the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act is a very substantive piece of legislation at over 640 pages. While there is no way I can spotlight each and every great measure in the bill, I would like to spotlight a couple of them, one of which garnered strong attention to date, and another that some have overlooked.
First, I would like to talk about a measure that has garnered pretty strong attention, that being the new volunteer firefighters tax credit and what it means for communities across Canada. Every day, without hesitation, volunteer men and women across Canada put their lives on the line to protect our families from harm.
Canada is incredibly fortunate to have volunteer firefighters across this country who are willing to put themselves at risk to protect the lives and the property of their fellow Canadians.
Our Conservative government is proud of these brave men and women who volunteer their time in the service of their and our communities.
While there is no way we can every truly repay them, we can show them we value all of the nearly 85,000 volunteer firefighters who keep our communities safe. That is why I am proud that we have proposed the volunteer firefighters tax credit in this legislation. It will help volunteer firefighters by providing them with a 15% non-refundable tax credit of $3,000.
Day after day, volunteer firefighters play a vital role in serving our communities. By helping these brave men and women, our government is working to make Canadian cities and towns safer.
I should note that this new tax credit has been received extremely positively. In fact, the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs declared:
This measure will help with the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters across the country, which will in turn help protect Canadians and our communities.
The Charlottetown Guardian editorial remarked:
For all the time they devote to training and responding to fires in communities across the country, our volunteer firefighters deserve that much...it's a gesture of appreciation for the work our firefighters do for Canadians.
Second, and lastly, I would like to briefly talk about a measure that has not received a lot of attention: tax relief to help apprentices in the skilled trades and workers in regulated professions with the cost of occupational trade and professional examination fees.
As we all know, apprentices in the skilled trades must complete certification exams at the end of their apprenticeship to practice their trade. Likewise, students in fields like nursing, medicine, law and accounting are also required to complete examinations to practice their occupations.
Until now, the cost of these certification examinations were generally not eligible for tax relief. The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act will now make all occupational trade and professional examination fees eligible for the tuition tax credit where the examination is required to obtain a professional status, certification or licence in a trade recognized by federal or provincial law that allows the individual to practice that profession or trade within Canada.
Examples of eligible occupations, trades and professions include: architects, machinists, bakers, bricklayers, carpenters, chartered accountants, dental technicians, hair stylists, motor vehicle body repairers, welders and much more. In fact, it is estimated that more than 30,000 individuals would benefit just this year.
The new tax relief for certification examinations builds on other measures the government has introduced since 2006 for students and those helping to improve their own skills. This includes the apprenticeship incentive grant and the apprenticeship completion grant under which eligible apprentices could receive up to $4,000 which can be used to pay for tuition, travel, tools or other expenses.
I should also note that this new measure was also very well-received. Engineers Canada has applauded it and has stated:
“Making professional examination fees eligible for the Tuition Tax Credit...demonstrates a real commitment to fostering the highly-skilled, and qualified talent the country needs to compete....It will help in the pursuit of a strong, diverse, and modern economy.”
The Canadian Home Builders' Association stated that the measure would “target a very important issue--the shortage of skilled people in our industry”.
Those are two of the countless measures in the Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act that are positive and should be supported unanimously by Parliament. The NDP and Liberal members have opposed the many positive measures that we have put forward in this legislation. Their constituents and I would be interested in hearing their explanations why.