Mr. Speaker, to respond to the points made by my previous colleagues, my parents are immigrants and they love this country because it is a strong democracy. I spent 33 years in the Canadian Forces fighting for our rights and ensuring that we have a strong democracy.
Our government demonstrates the fact that a strong, stable government has a steady hand on the tiller and that is why Canada is one of the greatest countries in the G7 right now in so many different ways, not just economically.
The previous speaker mentioned a few times in his speech about being baffled. I would respectfully submit that the New Democratic Party often is baffled. That party does not understand why Canadians need such strong legislation and a budget implementation act such as this. Canadian families depend on tax savings. They depend on those moneys being reinvested in their families and reinvested from businesses into the economy, thereby creating a stronger economy overall. This government facilitates that and allows Canadians to be able to do that.
Ever since this government came into power in 2006, it has been committed to ensuring economic growth and prosperity. I am proud that this government has delivered, with Canada emerging as one of the top countries in the G7 with 820,000 net new jobs created since 2009. Canada has had the best rate of job growth in the G7 and both the IMF and the OECD say so themselves. They forecast that Canada will be at the head of the pack for economic growth in the G7 in the years ahead. All we have to do is go outside of this country to hear what other nations are saying about Canada, and it is absolutely glowing. We are the envy of the world and I wish the New Democratic Party would take a look at what others in the world, our peers on the global stage, are saying.
The jobs and growth act would implement key initiatives from economic action plan 2012 and it would ensure that our economic advantage remains strong today and into the long term. This legislation would help our families and small businesses, consumers, seniors, students and manufacturers across Canada as well. The budget will provide tremendous opportunities for my constituents in Etobicoke Centre.
As someone who served as a reservist both full time and part time for 33 years, I know the extraordinary commitment that reservists make to keep Canadians safe. They can be called upon to serve abroad for extended periods, which can place significant financial strain on their employers, particularly small businesses, which are supportive of Canada's democracy and Canada's foreign policy and the need to sometimes send reservists abroad.
Canada Company numbers well over 250 of our captains of industry in this country, some of the same people who participate in True Patriot Love and similar organizations. Canada Company's motto is “Many ways to serve”. It builds the bridge between business and community leaders and the Canadian Forces.
The government is working to ensure that our reservists remain gainfully employed and that members of our military receive the widest support, care and recognition, which they deserve for the important contributions that they have made and continue to make to the security of Canada.
Building on our government's commitment to support the men and women of our armed forces, economic action plan 2012 commits to providing financial support to employers of reservists to offset such costs as the hiring and training of replacement workers or increasing overtime hours for existing employees. As a former commanding officer of a regiment and having worked for the Canadian Forces Liaison Council and others, this is a huge initiative because allowing reservists to deploy overseas has always been a sticking point. This is going to make it so much easier for those employers to make that contribution to their country, while maintaining their businesses and giving soldiers an opportunity to serve their country in uniform. Small businesses provide gainful employment to our reservists and a wide variety of Canadians. They play a vital role in the economy and job creation. Our government is committed to helping them grow and succeed.
Economic action plan 2012 includes a number of key measures to support the growth of small businesses, such as extending the hiring credit for small businesses.This is a temporary credit of up to $1,000 against a small firm's increase in its 2011 employment insurance premiums over those paid in 2012. This temporary credit is going to help approximately 536,000 employers defray the costs of additional hiring.
Many are familiar with the burdens of red tape and how it can negatively affect a business trying to grow. By the way, that often affects non-profit organizations as well. Our government is committed to reducing red tape by implementing a one-for-one rule and committing to develop a red tape reduction action plan to reduce unnecessary and ineffective regulations, allowing small businesses to focus on growing and creating jobs.
Other ways our government is reducing the administrative tax burden on small businesses include enhancing the Canada Revenue Agency secure “my business account” portal, and that improves the business section on CRA's website; doubling the thresholds for eligibility to use the GST/HST streamlined accounting methods; enhancing the predictability of the scientific research and experimental development tax incentive program; and providing written responses to business inquiries by the CRA.
These important measures all build on top of our government's significant action to reduce taxation for small businesses since 2006. For example, we provided $20 million to support the Canadian Youth Business Foundation's activities. The foundation works with young entrepreneurs to help them become the business leaders of tomorrow through mentorship, learning resources and start-up financing.
We extended the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment to help manufacturers and processors make new investments in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment.
We increased the small business limit to $500,000. This refers to the amount of income earned by small businesses eligible for a reduced federal tax rate. We reduced the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%, and we lowered the federal corporate income tax rate to 15% to help create jobs and economic growth for Canadian families and communities. We increased the lifetime capital gains exemption, which allows capital gains on qualifying small business shares to be realized tax-free, from $500,000 to $750,000. This is the first time it has been increased since 1988; it is incredible.
Our government also released a code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry of Canada to protect small businesses. This was heralded by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, who I quote as saying:
Merchants have new powers under the Code that have helped them achieve tangible results in their dealings with the industry....
This simply wouldn't have happened without the code.
As important as small businesses are to our economy, students represent Canada's future. I think all parties here can agree on that. Our government has an impressive track record of supporting Canada's students and growing our labour force. We have invested more than $10 billion annually in students and education, including more than $3 billion in transfers to provinces for post-secondary education and over $7 billion in direct support to students and their families.
As well, we have established the Canada student grant program, which is providing up to $250, per month of study, to low-income students and up to $100 per month to middle-income students. We have created a new textbook tax credit to help with the cost of textbooks for students; and $342 million a year is provided for the youth employment strategy giving young Canadians much-needed support as they pursue an education and career.
Apprenticeships have the potential to create a wealth of new talent in this country. Our government realizes the importance of practical hands-on experience. That is why we have provided $140 million per year to encourage more young Canadians to pursue apprenticeships, including the new apprenticeship incentive grant and the apprenticeship completion grant. We have created the new apprenticeship job creation tax credit to encourage employers to hire new apprentices.
Our Conservative government's major new investments have already helped better prepare Canada's students for the opportunities and jobs ahead. But we continue to expand on past initiatives and measures to provide students even more opportunities.
We are ensuring that students are even better equipped and better integrated into the workforce by increasing support for youth employment opportunities with an additional $50 million to the youth employment strategy.
We are doubling graduate internships in innovative firms with an additional $14 million for the industrial research and development internship program, to place even more students into practical hands-on research internships in Canadian companies.
This takes us to the fast and flexible economic immigration system. Immigrants are an important component of our economy. Many immigrants chose to settle down in my riding of Etobicoke Centre, as my parents chose to settle in Toronto. They are hard-working and eager to contribute to our economy; however, we need a fast and flexible economic immigration system.
Our government has placed a top priority on attracting immigrants who have the skills and experience our economy needs. The economic action plan will enable them to transition to an increasingly fast and flexible economic immigration system. In the future, our government will explore with provinces, territories and employers approaches to developing a pool of skilled workers who are ready to begin employment in Canada.
The federal skilled worker point system will be reformed to reflect the importance of younger immigrants with Canadian work experience and better language skills. Canada's immigration system supports a vibrant workforce by attracting skilled workers who will contribute to the growth of our economy.
I encourage the opposition to get behind this bill and support Canada's economic growth and prosperity, because all the things I have just laid out are why Canadians need to support to this bill, why the opposition needs to support this bill, and that is why they claim to be baffled.