Mr. Speaker, today Canada has the strongest job growth among the G7 countries in the world.
Our unemployment rate is at its lowest level in four years. It is significantly lower than that of the United States, a phenomenon that has not been seen in nearly three decades. In my riding, unemployment rates are well below 5%, 4%. There is virtually no unemployment.
Meanwhile, we have created over one million net new jobs, nearly 90% of which are full time, and our government continues to make new opportunities for Canadians to find employment.
While other countries continue to struggle with debt that is spiralling out of control, Canada is in the best fiscal position in the G7. Canada still remains on track to return to balanced budgets in 2015-16. The deficit has been reduced significantly, and we are well on track to bringing it to balance.
Both the independent International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are projecting that Canada's growth will be among the strongest in the G7 in the years ahead. Real GDP is significantly above pre-recession levels, the best performance in the G7.
All Canadians want this to continue. They want us to continue to make progress with respect to the economy, thus increasing jobs and prosperity for them and their children.
However, our government has been very clear that we will not raise taxes on Canadians to balance the budget. I know the earlier speaker said that we cannot cut our way to prosperity, but we certainly cannot tax our way to prosperity. That is a fundamental difference between this particular government and the opposition.
Our government has an economic plan that makes sense. As we have repeatedly said, Canada's economy is not immune to the economic challenges beyond our borders. We have been and will continue to be impacted by the ongoing turbulence in the United States and Europe, some of our most important trading partners.
We are moving forward and focusing on the economy, all the while keeping taxes low, which means more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians. That in turn helps keep our economy strong.
A recent study by KPMG concluded that Canada's total business tax costs—the corporate income tax, capital taxes, sales tax, property taxes, and wage-based taxes—are more than 40% lower than those in the United States. This is what makes us competitive and makes our economy prosper. It continues to grow, and it grows jobs.
In short, our government has created an environment that encourages new investment, growth, and job creation. It is an environment that ensures that Canada has the strongest fiscal position and the lowest business tax costs in the G7.
Let me share some of the highlights of our tax relief initiatives.
Our government has implemented broad-based tax reductions that support investment and growth and is delivering more than $60 billion of tax relief to job-creating businesses over 2008-09 and the following five fiscal years.
We have reduced the federal general corporate income tax rate to 15% in 2012 from 21% in 2007 in order to spur investment and productivity. Can members imagine? It went from 21% to 15%.
The federal capital tax was eliminated in 2006, and the corporate surtax was eliminated in 2008 for all corporations. This translates into jobs and an expanded economy.
Even more, we reduced the small business tax rate to 11% in 2008 from 12% in 2007, and subsequently the amount of income eligible for this lower rate was increased to $500,000 in 2009.
Canada's system of international taxation was strengthened in order to better support cross-border trade and investment and to improve fairness.
All these actions are part of a policy framework that increases the productive capacity of our economy as well as Canadian living standards. Lower general corporate income tax rates and other tax changes have increased the expected rate of return on investment and reduced the cost of capital, giving businesses strong incentives to invest and hire in Canada. This will in turn increase Canada's productive capacity and raise living standards.
This bill is great news for Canadians. Unlike the NDP, which insists on higher taxes, economic action plan 2013 is focused on positive initiatives to support job creation and economic growth while returning to balanced budgets, thus ensuring Canada's economic advantage remains strong today and into the future.
However, the job does not end there. Today, Bill C-4 will implement key measures from economic action plan 2013, as well as certain previously announced tax measures, to help create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and secure Canada's long-term prosperity.
Our government's low-tax plan is helping to guide the Canadian economy along the path of sustainable economic growth. Bill C-4 builds on our successes and maintains our government's focus on the economy. While we believe in the benefits of lower taxes, our government fully understands that sustaining an effective tax system also rests on the foundation of tax fairness. Today I will discuss some of the key measures we are implementing to do everything possible to ensure that Canadians have a fair tax system.
That is why economic action plan 2013 is committed to closing tax loopholes that allow a select few businesses and individuals to avoid paying their fair share of tax. While Canadians work hard and pay their taxes, there are some who choose not to, and we must stop that practice. We must take initiatives to close those loopholes and ensure that the system is fair.
Chartered Accountants of Canada had this to say about economic action plan 2013:
The budget looks to close tax loopholes, address aggressive tax planning, clarify tax rules, reduce international tax avoidance and tax evasion and improve tax fairness. It also provides the Canada Revenue Agency with new tools to enforce the tax rules.
They continued with the strong backing of our initiatives and said:
We support efforts to maintain the integrity of the tax base....
This is high praise. I am proud of these measures, and I will elaborate on some of them.
Broadening and protecting the tax base supports our government's efforts to return to balanced budgets, responds to provincial governments' concerns about protecting provincial revenues on our shared-tax basis, and helps Canadians have confidence that the tax system is fair.
Ensuring that everyone pays his or her fair share also helps to keep taxes low for Canadian families and businesses, thereby improving incentives to work, save, and invest in Canada.
Since 2006, and including measures proposed in economic action plan 2013, the government has introduced over 75 measures to improve the integrity of the tax system.
Today's legislation takes additional steps in support of this objective, extending the normal assessment period by three years for a taxpayer who has failed to report income from a specified foreign property on his or her annual income tax return and has failed to properly file the foreign income verification statement known as T1135.
It introduces stiff administrative monetary penalties and criminal offences to deter the use, possession, sale, and development of electronic suppression of sales software designed to falsify records for the purpose of tax evasion.
Our systems, with the Internet, computers, and software, have made it possible for people to try to avoid tax. It is almost hard to believe that we would need such specific legislation, but let me read some portions of it.
What we now know as an electronic cash register, or a “device that keep a register or supporting documents through the means of an electronic device or computer system designed to record transaction data or any other electronic point-of-sale system” should be in place. However, here is a definition of electronic suppression of sales devices:
(a) a software program that falsifies the records of electronic cash registers, including transaction data and transaction reports; or (b) a hidden programing option, whether preinstalled or installed at a later time, embedded in the operating system of an electronic cash register or hardwired into the electronic cash register that (i) may be used to create a virtual second till, or (ii) may eliminate or manipulate transaction records, which may or may not be preserved in digital formats, in order to represent...
or misrepresent the actual point-of-transaction sale.
This legislation prohibits anyone who knowingly, or under circumstances attributable to neglect, carelessness, or wilful default, to participate, or consent or acquiesce in the use of an electronic suppression of sales device or similar device on pain of penalty. It also talks about possession of those devices and those who make them. There are stiff penalties to ensure these types of devices are not used. That is just one example of closing tax loopholes to ensure revenues are not lost.