Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise today and speak in this august chamber about Bill C-4, Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2, our second implementation bill from the government. I appreciate very much the opportunity to rise and talk about how important the bill is, not only for my constituents in the great riding of Wetaskiwin but for my province of Alberta and the country as a whole.
Canada is a great nation. It is built by the hard-working families of our communities. They are paving the pathway to prosperity for future generations with their hard work.
Since 2006, which was the year I was first elected, our government has invested in families at unprecedented levels. In fact, I ran for the nomination for this party because of the lack of interest that previous parties and governments seemed to have when it came to treating families fairly, particularly with the tax system. Now more families than ever before are benefiting from the measures that we put in place since 2006.
I will cite some examples. In my riding of Wetaskiwin, Alberta, trades play a large role in generating jobs for our communities. It does not matter whether one lives in or around Blackfalds, Rocky Mountain House, Millet, or any of the places in between: the tradespeople's tools deduction is working to put a little money back into the pockets of these hard-working families, right where it belongs.
This is not all we have done to improve the lot of families right across Canada to help them get ahead and make ends meet. Since 2006, the typical family of four can now realize approximately, on average, $3,200 in tax savings in any given year. Conservatives have done this by cutting the lowest personal tax rate and increasing the tax exemption amount. That means there are fewer Canadians paying taxes than ever before when it comes to personal income tax. Conservatives have reduced the GST, a tax that everyone pays, from 7% to 6% to 5%, and we have introduced numerous tax changes and savings measures to help families keep their hard-earned money.
I will go through a couple of examples, because I know the families in my constituency certainly appreciate this. There is the children's fitness tax credit. My kids play hockey, school sports, baseball, and soccer, and this has been a great opportunity for us to realize some of the savings because families incur a cost for these activities. It is wonderful to see so many kids out there participating in activities, keeping fit and so on.
There is the children's arts tax credit. Again I can speak for my own family, whether it is my boys in guitar lessons or my daughter playing cello or piano. These are the kinds of things that allow us to keep a little extra of our income to make sure we can pay for the lessons and the instruments in our particular case. It does not matter whether it is music or any of the other types of arts, such as dance or whatever the case may be; these are great initiatives.
There is the child tax credit. Before the Conservatives became the governing party, there was not even a tax credit for having kids. Everyone knows the cost of raising children is very high, and just keeping money in the hands of parents, who know how to spend it best, through a child tax credit, is a no-brainer.
There is also the family caregiver tax credit, which allows family members to look after their sick or elderly family members, and the first-time homebuyer tax credit, which reduces the barrier to make it a little easier for young families to get into their first home.
There is the registered disability savings plans, allowing families to save for their loved ones who are going to be struggling for the rest of their lives with the disabilities that they may have.
The volunteer firefighters' tax credit honours those men and women who voluntarily put themselves in harm's way to defend our property and our lives. They spend money out of their own pockets to make sure they are well equipped. The least the government can do is to offer something back through a tax credit to these brave men and women who are our volunteer firefighters. I should note that every fire department in the constituency of Wetaskiwin is a volunteer fire department.
There is the working income tax benefit. Absolutely, if someone is going to work, they should realize a savings as a result. This is going to break down that wall to make it more feasible for people to work. We should not have to have a choice in the tax system on whether it is more lucrative not to work than to work. This is a no-brainer as well.
We also have the textbook tax credit. A number of people in my constituency face the same issues I did when I went to university. I grew up in a rural community; there were no post-secondary institutions near me, so I had to move in order to get a post-secondary education. At no point in time did any previous government ever give me the opportunity to claim textbooks, which are a huge expense. Now we have that textbook tax credit, allowing students and families to keep more of that money and allowing them to invest more resources into their children's education.
On eliminating the marriage penalty for single-income families, I cannot believe that previous governments did not even value a stay-at-home parent. If a family made the choice to have one person stay at home to raise children in their formative years, the person who was not making an income, whoever that happened to be, would get less of a personal exemption amount at tax time. Well, we ended that penalty and treated stay-at-home parents equally in terms of tax. This is a step in the right direction, and someday I hope we can get to a point in this country where we actually see income splitting for families. That is something I will certainly be supporting.
There is also the tax-free savings account. As I go through my riding and talk with people, they say that this investment vehicle has revolutionized the investment and savings industry and allows Canadians more flexibility and freedom. This is an absolutely fantastic tool that I know will help empower people across the country to save for their retirement and plan for their future.
Time and time again, whether it is these measures or any other common sense measure that Canadians ask us to bring forward, at every opportunity when we have had a chance to stand in this place and vote in favour of these measures, it has only been Conservative members of Parliament who have stood up and voted in favour of these budgets. Every other time that I have been here, opposition members over there have been against all of the measures that I just talked about. If Canadians want to know who has their best interests at heart, they have to look no further than here on the Conservative side of the House to make sure that they have the resources they need to raise their families.
Speaking of some of the changes that we need to make in the budget here for those hard-working families who pay their taxes and play by the rules, there are some rules in budget 2013 that I would like to highlight.
Budget 2013 would restore fairness to the tax system by ensuring that everyone pays their fair share of taxes. When everybody pays their fair share of taxes, we all pay less. We are making changes that would improve the integrity of the tax system and close some of the loopholes that currently exist; strengthen compliance and clarification of the language so that there is less confusion, both for the person filing taxes and for those who audit and oversee the tax system; and combat international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.
As I said, closing loopholes and clarifying the tax rules would ensure that all Canadians pay their fair share. This would allow hard-working Canadians to keep more, because they would not be offsetting what other people hide or get away with.
Alberta, like the rest of Canada, was not immune to the effects of the global economic crisis. Yes, Canada is leading the G7 in job creation, and Alberta has a robust economy, but that does not mean all of our communities and all of our residents are thriving. Every once in a while we have to extend a hand to those who need a hand up and make sure that no one gets left behind. That is precisely why our government is investing over $1.25 billion in affordable housing initiatives.
In August, I had the pleasure of announcing on behalf of the Minister of State (Social Development) $600,000 in funding for Shkola Suites in Calmar, Alberta. This is a great initiative. It allows those families an opportunity to be close to a school for their kids and gives them a bit of a break on their housing costs so that they can get back on their feet and get re-established. This is an interim housing measure for those families who just need a little bit of help to get going again, because sometimes life throws a curve ball, and that can happen in Alberta just as much as it can happen anywhere else. Thanks go to Nancy Lang and the folks at the Leduc Foundation, who are doing a great job making sure that nobody gets left behind in those communities.
In order to continue helping Canadian communities and families, the budget would invest nearly $600 million in Alberta and across Canada to address homelessness. Coupled with our affordable housing strategy, I know that the budget would greatly help those people get back on their feet.
Speaking of communities, Alberta and every region of Canada has communities that are facing challenges when it comes to infrastructure. I hear this constantly. I represent a large geographic area of 26 municipalities and counties, and every one of them tells me the same story: they want long-term predictable funding, which is what we did through the gas tax transfer in previous budgets.
Now, going forward with the announcements in budget 2013 and with the implementation coming up in 2014, some $32 billion will be flowing to these communities in stable, predictable funding. When we couple that with $14 billion over the same time frame for major infrastructure and with the P3 partnerships, Canada will be well poised to address the infrastructure problems that it has, which would enable our communities to flourish and thrive going forward.
I want to talk a little about agriculture.
First of all, I want to thank the Prime Minister and the Minister of International Trade for the excellent work they did with the comprehensive economic and trade agreement.
Agriculture is a backbone in my constituency, as are all of the resource sectors that are there. I know that with the changes that will be coming as a result of the budget implementation and these trade agreements, central Alberta will be well poised to thrive well into the future.