Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to discuss some of the provisions in Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, and to explain why we must not let the New Democrats and the other opposition parties delay its passage.
As the Conservative government said very clearly, since 2006, our focus has been on the economy. As we have all noticed, we are on the right track in terms of jobs and growth. In many ways, Canada has done well despite the global uncertainty. For example, almost 760,000 jobs have been created since July 2009. That is the strongest job creation record in the G7.
The IMF and OECD both project that Canada will have among the strongest growth in the G7. For the fourth straight year, the World Economic Forum rated our banking system the world's best. Forbes magazine ranked Canada as the best place for businesses to grow and create jobs. Canada also has the best fiscal position in the G7 by far. Canada also has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7.
In the words of respected financial analyst and commentator, Camilla Sutton, of Scotiabank, “the long-term story for Canada on a relative basis is still a very, very good one. There's very few other places I'd rather be than Canada...when it comes to these uncertain times, Canada holds its own and shines”.
However, we all know that global economic recovery remains fragile, especially in Europe. That is why we are focused on jobs, the economy and implementing economic action plan 2012 through Bill C-38. As successful as our past has been, we must stay focused on the present and the future. The economy must remain at the forefront of our priorities. It is the right thing to do.
The well-being of Canadians depends on a healthy economy. The well-being of my constituents of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell depends on a healthy economy.
A strong economy makes it possible for all Canadians to benefit from growth and long-term prosperity. By making sensible and responsible decisions today, we will provide everyone with a better standard of living tomorrow.
That is the goal that the Conservative government has set for itself with this bill. And that is why it is so important to move forward with this bill today, and not allow the New Democrats and the other opposition parties to delay its passage with their stalling tactics.
In my remarks today, I would like to focus on a few of the measures in Bill C-38 that would help strengthen Canada's housing sector.
The housing sector is one of the most important pieces of our economy. In my riding, certain towns like Clarence-Rockland have seen tremendous growth. Local businesses are benefiting. The local economy is benefiting. For that to continue, there is a real need for new families to choose housing in these communities. We can all agree that the housing market requires ongoing stability and close monitoring.
For most Canadian families, the biggest investment we make in our lifetimes is the purchase of a home. Families will not buy if they think the housing market is unstable. Ensuring that such an investment is secure is the responsible thing to do. That is why our government regularly monitors housing finance risks and takes action when necessary.
For example, we have adjusted the rules for government-backed insured mortgages recently on multiple occasions. In addition, in June 2011, Parliament approved legislation to formalize arrangements with private mortgage insurers and Canada Mortgage and Housing, CMHC, in an effort to better manage risks arising from the mortgage insurance sector.
Now, as part of the Conservative government's ongoing efforts to strengthen the mortgage sector, we are proposing amendments in today's bill that will reinforce supervision of CMHC and guarantee that its commercial activities are managed with a view to promoting the stability of the financial system.
Specifically, the amendments include the following: an additional objective for CMHC of ensuring that its commercial activities promote and contribute to the stability of the financial system, including the housing market; legislative and regulatory powers given to the Minister of Finance in respect of CMHC's securitization programs; powers given to the Superintendent of Financial Institutions to review and monitor the safety and soundness of CMHC's commercial activities and to report to the CMHC board of directors and HRSDC; and the addition of the deputy minister of human resources and skills development and the deputy minister of finance as ex-officio members of CMHC's board of directors.
We believe these amendments would contribute to the long-term stability of the housing market and would benefit all Canadians. We have heard a great deal of positive reaction.
Louis Gagnon, a professor at Queen's University, stated:
I believe that the federal government's plan to bring CMHC under the direct supervision of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is long overdue.
OSFI is responsible for the oversight of insurance companies and it only makes sense to bring CMHC under its purview, since CMHC is the most systematically important insurance entity in the land and also the most vulnerable one.
This is what the respected Finn Poschmann, vice-president of the C.D. Howe Institute, said:
...the legislation will require at least annual inspections from OSFI, with reports to the board and the responsible ministers. Formalizing the requirement in legislation could do wonders for reporting and accountability, and will help the board and management reassure themselves that CMHC is carrying out its activities...“in a safe and sound manner … with due regard to its exposure to loss.” This is good....
Before concluding, I will turn my attention to the health sector where we are proposing changes to the tax treatment of certain health related goods and services. Health care is very important to the people of my riding, as it is to people across Canada. As a father of five children, I know very well how easily the costs add up when someone is affected by illness. The more our government can do to alleviate these costs during these stressful periods the better.
These changes will better reflect the changing nature of the health sector and will acknowledge the impact of the expenses related to health and disability that Canadians encounter for their own care or that of their loved ones.
For example, we are proposing to remove the GST from the professional services of pharmacists beyond those related to dispensing prescription drugs, which are already tax exempt.
We also propose to expand the list of health care professionals who can order certain medical and assistive devices that are zero rated under the GST. This reflects the increasing involvement of health care professionals, such as nurses, in giving orders for these devices. We also propose to expand the list of GST zero rated medical and assistive devices and the list of expenses an individual may claim for income tax purposes under the medical expense tax credit.
These measures represent a simple, thoughtful and appropriate way to ensure that our tax system remains fair and up to date.
I note that during the finance committee's study of today's act, the Canadian Medical Association voiced its support for the measures that I have just mentioned.
Today's act would accomplish a great deal for Canadians and it contains a host of other measures that deserve my colleagues' attention. As an example, today's act would take the first step toward making important improvements to the registered disability savings plan, or RDSP, by allowing spouses, common-law partners and parents to establish an RDSP for adult individuals who might not be able to enter into a contract themselves.
It has been my pleasure to highlight some of the key measures recently proposed by the Conservative government to keep the country on the path to growth and prosperity.
Now it is important that we work together and continue to co-operate for the good of Canada and Canadians. The measures in today's bill are necessary and will have lasting benefits.