Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today and speak to Bill C-13, the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act.
Thanks to the policies of our government, Canada continues to be an economic leader during a period of global economic uncertainty. We know that Canada is not immune to the economic storm that continues to rage across the globe. That is why our government is launching the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. We are taking action that will help Canadians through this period of economic uncertainty.
In the bill we are debating today, I will outline how our government is taking measures that will support families and communities, promote job creation and economic growth.
Our Conservative government believes in keeping families strong. We believe hard-working Canadians deserve to keep more of the money they earn. That is why, since 2006, the government has cut taxes over 120 times. As a result, the overall tax burden facing families is at its lowest level in nearly 50 years.
We have removed over one million Canadians from the tax rolls. We have increased the amount Canadians can earn tax free. We have reduced the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%, putting nearly $1,000 back in the pocket of an average family.
We introduced the universal child care benefit offering families more choice in child care by providing $1,200 per year for a child under the age of six. We introduced the child tax credit providing personal income tax relief of up to $320 in 2011 for each child under the age of 18. We introduced the children's fitness tax credit promoting physical fitness among children through a credit of up to $500 in eligible fees for programs associated with physical activity.
We brought in the landmark tax-free savings account, the most important personal savings vehicle since the RRSP. We eliminated the marriage penalty for one-earner families by increasing the spousal amount to the same level as the basic personal amount. We introduced a registered disability savings plan to help families of children with disabilities save for their child's future care.
For our seniors, we provided more than $2 billion in annual targeted tax relief through such measures as pension income splitting, increases in the age credit amount and a doubling of the pension credit amount.
In addition, families are benefiting from other new targeted measures like the first-time home buyers tax credit, the expanded home buyers plan and the public transit tax credit. Due to our strong record of tax relief, total savings for a typical Canadian family is over $3,000 since this government took office.
Bill C-13 includes several new measures that are designed to support families by leaving more money in their pockets. One of those measures is the family caregiver tax credit.
The family caregiver tax credit is a 15% non-refundable tax credit on an amount of $2,000 for caregivers of loved ones with infirmities, including for the first time spouses, common law partners and minor children. This proposal has received wide support from those who know the challenges faced by families that care for a loved one with a serious illness.
The Canadian Caregiver Coalition said:
—(CCC) applauds the Federal Budget....The announcement of a Family Caregiver Tax Credit demonstrates the federal government's commitment to families and the caregiving responsibilities that they assume....We are pleased to see the federal government recognizing and furthering the support for family caregivers by mitigating their financial burden through this program.
The Canadian Cancer Society said:
A new family caregiver tax credit announced in [Budget 2011]...is a good start in providing more support for all family caregivers.
We welcome the tax credit and other measures in the budget as a step in the right direction.
To further assist caregivers, the bill would remove the $10,000 limit on the amount of eligible expenses caregivers could claim on behalf of a financially dependent relative. Surely we can all agree in the House that families that care for a loved one are deserving of this tax relief.
In addition to supporting caregivers, we are supporting communities. As part of our economic action plan we partnered with communities and provinces to build the infrastructure needed to ensure long-term economic growth and prosperity.
In Bill C-13 we are legislating a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund to provide predictable, long-term infrastructure funding for our municipalities. On this matter, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities said that budget 2011 “delivered a vital commitment to cities and communities to develop a new, long-term federal infrastructure plan”.
In the next phase of our economic action plan, we will continue our efforts to support our local communities, not just through infrastructure investments but through a number of other initiatives as well.
To help address the issue of a shortage of doctors and nurses working in rural and remote areas, Bill C-13 proposes that practising family physicians will be eligible for federal Canada student loan forgiveness of up to $8,000 per year to a maximum of $40,000. Nurse practitioners and nurses would be eligible for federal Canada student loan forgiveness of up to $4,000 per year to a maximum of $20,000.
I am pleased to report that these proposals have also received broad support. The Canadian Medical Association said:
The initiative to address the shortage of primary care physicians recognizes the particular challenges of providing health care in rural and remote areas of the country.
The Canadian Nurses Association added:
...Canada’s nurses are pleased to see nursing and medical student debt relief as well as tax relief for Canadians providing care for family members.
While Bill C-13 addresses the health of rural communities, it also contains important measures to keep our communities safe by recognizing the vital role volunteer firefighters play in serving our communities, often putting themselves at great risk for the safety of their neighbours. In fact, nearly 85,000 volunteer firefighters provide their services to protect the lives and property of Canadians living in urban and rural communities across Canada. In recognition of their brave service, Bill C-13 proposes a new 15% non-refundable volunteer firefighter tax credit on an amount of $3,000 for volunteer firefighters who perform at least 200 hours of service to their communities during a year. This builds on our government's action to ensure first responders receive the proper training to respond to emergencies involving hazardous materials. Unfortunately, both the Liberals and the NDP voted against this $1 million initiative that was contained in budget 2007.
I hope that this time opposition members will join with our government to provide the critical support for our volunteer firefighters provided in this bill. The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs said:
The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) strongly applauds the Conservative government's introduction of a $3,000 tax credit for volunteer firefighters in Budget 2011. This is a crucial measure to ensure the retention and recruitment of volunteer firefighters which will help keep Canadian communities safe.
Thanks to the policies of this government, Canada has avoided the worst of the global economic downturn. Although there remains a great deal of uncertainty in the global economy, the IMF is maintaining its positive outlook for Canada, thanks to our sound and stable economy along with the positive measures taken in the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. This is yet another example of Canada's global economic leadership, which includes nearly 600,000 net new jobs created since July 2009, the strongest job growth record in the G7; the World Economic Forum, for the fourth consecutive year, ranking Canada's banks as the soundest in the world; Forbes magazine ranking Canada as the best place in the world for businesses to grow and create jobs; the IMF and the OECD forecasting Canada's economy will be among the strongest in the G7 this year and next; and Fitch Ratings, Moody's and Standard & Poor's all giving Canada a triple-A credit rating.
Bill C-13 would provide support to Canadians who care for infirm family members. It would support our local communities by providing measures to bring doctors and nurses to rural communities. It would acknowledge the vital role volunteer firefighters play in keeping us safe. It also would support local infrastructure. These measures combined would build on Canada's economic leadership by ensuring more money stays in the pockets of hard-working Canadians and is spent on services that matter most to them.
We campaigned on the issues contained in Bill C-13 and we are keeping our campaign commitments. I am pleased to stand in this House and support this bill and I would encourage all hon. members to do the same.