Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this opportunity to introduce Bill C-43 at second reading. Today's legislation builds on the strong foundation that was laid last year. We are continuing to build on our portfolio of initiatives we have introduced since 2006, with affordable measures to create jobs, promote growth and support long-term prosperity.
This key strategy is working, creating jobs, keeping the economy growing and returning to balanced budgets in 2015. Since we introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, our economy has created nearly 1.2 million net new jobs since the depths of the recession in 2009, one of the strongest job creation records in the G7.
I would be remiss if I did not tout some of the outcomes of our economic action plan.
According to KPMG, total business tax costs in Canada are the lowest in the G7 and 46% lower than those in the United States. When was the last time that happened? What is more, Canada leapt from sixth to second place in Bloomberg's ranking of the most attractive destinations to do business in the world.
Both the IMF and the OECD still expect Canada to be among the strongest-growing economies in the G7 over this year and next.
For the seventh year in a row, the World Economic Forum rated Canada's banking system the soundest in the world.
All the major credit rating agencies accord Canada a top AAA rating with a stable outlook, a rating shared by very few countries.
A recent New York Times study found that after tax, middle-class incomes in Canada were substantially behind in 2000 and now appeared to be higher than those in the United States. In fact, the Canadian middle class is among the richest in the developed world for the first time ever.
The federal tax burden is at its lowest level in over 50 years, and remember we have removed more than one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls entirely. The average family of four will save nearly $3,400 this year and a small business earning $500,000 now saves over $28,000 in taxes, thanks to our low-tax plan.
It is clear that Canada has become an international success story, but Canada is still not immune to the global economic challenges beyond our borders. Our government has been adamant that as long as Canadians are still looking for jobs, there is more work to be done.
With that, let me now turn to the measures in today's legislation that would build on our success and ensure that we would continue to keep Canada on track for job creation and balanced budgets.
First, Bill C-43 reaffirms this government's commitment to making our tax system simpler and fairer. It also closes tax loopholes and strengthens tax enforcement to ensure low taxes for all taxpayers, not only a select few.
Allow me to highlight some of the measures we have taken to improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system.
First, today's legislation would simplify the tax rules relating to the lifetime capital gains exemption, LCGE, and the intergenerational rollover for taxpayers who carry on farming and fishing businesses in combination. This builds on our original measure to increase the potential rewards of investing in small business, farming and fishing.
Economic action plan 2013 increased the LCGE from $750,000 to $800,000 in 2014. To ensure that real value is not eroded over time, we also indexed the $800,000 limit to inflation for the first time ever. The first indexation adjustment will occur for the 2015 taxation year. To accomplish this, the government proposes to generally treat a taxpayer's combined farming and fishing business the same as separate farming and fishing businesses conducted by the same taxpayer. This would ensure consistent treatment for taxpayers who conducted farming and fishing activities in different legal forms.
Similarly, a special income tax rule is currently available to farmers who dispose of breeding livestock due to drought or excess moisture conditions existing in specific regions in a given year. This rule permits farmers to exclude up to 90% of the sale proceeds from their taxable income until the year following the sale or a later year if the conditions persist.
Bill C-43 proposes to extend this tax deferral to beekeepers and horse breeders, effective for 2014 and subsequent taxation years. These are two examples of our Conservative government standing up for the interests of Canadian farmers, fishers, and others who own and operate businesses in Canada.
As I mentioned, our government takes tax evasion seriously, and we want to close loopholes to ensure that all taxpayers are paying their fair share. Bill C-43 would tackle tax loopholes head-on.
It is vital that the government have the ability to obtain tax information from other jurisdictions through revised tax treaties and through tax information exchange agreements with non-treaty countries. Current, reliable information is key to our government's efforts to verify compliance with Canadian laws and to reduce opportunities for abuse. Bill C-43 would take another important step in this direction by adjusting the policy encouraging the exchange of information for tax purposes.
Specifically, the definition of “non-qualifying country” in the Income Tax Act is relevant in determining the foreign accrual property income of a foreign affiliate of a taxpayer for a year. Today's legislation in that regard proposes two changes. First, it proposes to amend the definition of “non-qualifying country” so that it does not apply to those jurisdictions for which the convention on mutual administrative assistance in tax matters is in force and in effect. Second, it proposes to ensure that the FAPI rules do not apply inappropriately with respect to the British overseas territory the British Virgin Islands, a jurisdiction that now has a comprehensive tax information agreement with Canada.
Our Conservative government has also consistently demonstrated that it recognizes the importance of a strong financial sector. Bill C-43 would be no different. Our government is moving forward with its dual agenda with respect to credit unions, ensuring that the regulatory framework is clear and supporting those provincial credit unions that want to be federally regulated.
Since the financial crisis, we have pursued an important agenda of regulatory reform to ensure that the federal financial system is stable and competitive and serves the needs of various participants. Stability has been the dominant theme of the federal reform agenda.
Bill C-43 would deliver on the announcement made in economic action plan 2014 about withdrawing the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions' supervision of provincial credit union centrals and clarifying access to federal intervention tools for provincial credit union centrals, credit unions, and caisses populaires.
As many hon. members appreciate, Canada's credit unions are a valuable source of financial services in communities across the country, including in my area of North Vancouver. We want to promote the continued growth and competition of the credit union sector on a national scale.
In recognition of the important role credit unions play, our government created in economic action plan 2010 a new legislative framework for federal credit unions as a platform to broaden choices for consumers and to improve services for existing members. To continue to grow, some credit unions are looking to amalgamate with credit unions in other provinces to become a federal credit union.
In economic action plan 2014, the federal government also announced streamlining the process of amalgamating provincial credit unions, continuing into the federal credit framework, to make it less costly and complex. Bill C-43 would deliver on that announcement.
Yes, there is more. As we have said many times, we understand that the main priority of Canadians is jobs. Let me highlight three measures that are helping small businesses and ensuring that Canadians are first in line for jobs.
Bill C-43 would implement our recently announced small business job credit, which would save small employers more than $550 million over 2015 and 2016. It would also lower EI payroll taxes by 15%. This is real money that a small business could use to help defray the cost of hiring new workers and to take advantage of emerging economic opportunities supporting growth and job creation.
We have listened to the experts on small business. For example, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that our small business job credit would create 25,000 person years of employment over the next few years.
Monique Moreau, of the CFIB, said, “small businesses in Canada should be thrilled with this announcement...because they told us time and time again that payroll taxes like EI are the biggest disincentive to hiring.”
Our Conservative government recognizes the fundamental importance of small businesses in fuelling the Canadian economy, so while the opposition insists on attacking job creators with massive tax hikes, we will continue to lower payroll taxes for 90% of businesses to support some of Canada's most important job creators.
However, that is not all. Today's legislation would build on our support for small businesses and entrepreneurs by reducing barriers to the international and domestic flow of goods and services. This measure in today's legislation would promote job creation and would improve the conditions of business investment.
Currently, Canada's framework for protecting intellectual property is not aligned with international practices, creating unnecessary costs for innovative businesses. Harmonizing Canada's intellectual property regime with international norms would help improve Canada's innovative businesses' access to international markets, lower costs, and draw foreign investment to Canada by reducing the regulatory burden and red tape faced by businesses. Economic action plan 2014 proposes to modernize Canada's intellectual property framework by ratifying or acceding to the following widely recognized international treaties: the Madrid protocol, the Singapore treaty, the Nice agreement, the patent law treaty, and the Hague agreement.
Bill C-43 would complete the required legislative amendments to the Patent Act, the Trade-marks Act, and the Industrial Design Act to align Canada's intellectual property framework with international practices. The benefits expected for Canadian businesses from these reforms are significant. For example, accession to the trademark treaties would make it possible for a company to obtain protection for trademarks in a number of countries through a single international application, filed in one language and in one currency with the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization, thus cutting red tape and reducing paperwork and business costs.
Finally, we are implementing certain reforms to the temporary foreign worker program. Our message to employers has been clear and unequivocal: Canadians must always be first in line for available jobs. Our comprehensive and balanced reforms would restore the temporary foreign worker program to its original purpose as a short-term, last resort for employers when there are no qualified Canadians to fill available jobs.
Make no mistake about it, through these amendments in Bill C-43, we are making a comprehensive and balanced overhaul of the program. This clearly contrasts with the Liberals and the New Democrats, who have been completely incoherent about where they stand. While inundating our government with requests for foreign workers for their individual ridings, they are voting in favour of an expansive moratorium on the program. While they are demanding change to the program, they have voted against all our previous reforms to tighten access to the program and to crack down on abuse. These reforms would require that employers make greater efforts to recruit and train Canadians for jobs through initiatives like the Canada job grant.
Some of our temporary foreign worker program reforms include the following:
Employers seeking to hire high-wage TFWs would now be required to submit transition plans showing how they will be hiring more Canadians.
A new enhanced job-matching service would allow Canadians to apply directly, through the Canada job bank, for jobs that match their skills and experience. It would provide information to program officers reviewing an employer's labour market opinion impact assessment application on how many qualified Canadians have applied for specific jobs, meaning more and better labour market information.
There would be stronger enforcement and tougher penalties for abuse of the program through the expansion of the ability to publicly blacklist employers who have been suspended and are under investigation and those who have had an LMIA revoked and are banned from using the program. There would be improved information-sharing among departments and agencies involved in the oversight of the TFWP, including in provincial and territorial governments.
At the end of the day, this program should accomplish exactly what the name says. It would only be used to provide temporary help where clear and acute labour shortages exist and Canadians are not available.
Our government will always stand up for connecting Canadians with available jobs, and these measures allow us to do just that.
I could talk all day about the positive measures in the bill, so let me list a few more before my time runs out.
We are supporting families by doubling the children's fitness tax credit to $1,000 and making it refundable. As we promised in our 2013 Speech from the Throne, we are ending the pay-to-pay billing practices of telecommunication service providers whereby subscribers are charged to receive bills in paper form. We are creating a national DNA-based missing persons index to assist law enforcement in investigations and to help bring closure to the families of missing persons through DNA matching. We are reducing the administrative burden on charities by allowing them to use modern electronic tools to raise funds. The list goes on.
While these measures are a sign of excellent progress, again, our work is not done. Our government will continue to ensure that our tax system is fair for everyone. We will continue to close loopholes, address aggressive tax planning, clarify tax rules, and crack down on international tax evasion and avoidance. In doing so, our government will also build on the responsible management that has kept taxes low for Canadian families and has kept Canada's net debt burden the lowest, by far, among the Group of Seven countries.
For those reasons, and many other measures in today's legislation that I have not mentioned, I urge all hon. members to accord the bill their full support.