Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-43, the second budget implementation act.
I would like to start by thanking my colleagues on the finance committee from all the parties. It has been what I would call, at best, a hectic fall with the committee actually working on not only the budget implementation act but also a fairly aggressive schedule with respect to the pre-budget consultations. Some of those things have wrapped up in the last week and some will be wrapping up this week, and so I do want to thank them for that.
I also want to thank our great chair, the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc, who does such a great job in chairing that committee. He is very fair-handed and he works very well with all his colleagues.
I would like to talk about three or four provisions of the bill and then, in whatever time I have left, I would like to spend some time countering some of the things I have heard in debate today and try to give some assurance to people about the objectives that would be accomplished.
The first thing I would like to talk about is the extension to apprenticeship loans of the tax credit for interest paid on student loans.
As we know, with apprentices, about 80% to 85% of their training is called “on-the-job training”. Somewhere in the order of 26,000 people would benefit each year from the provisions in this agreement. That is important because when we look at the study we did on youth unemployment in Canada, it is a little over 14.2% right at this point in time, which is not as high as it has been in the past, but youth employment has been a stubborn issue for successive governments over the past number of decades.
One of the things we saw in the study done in 2013 is that 50% of students, if they had the choice, would actually want to go to university and only 20% would actually want to pursue a trade. That is unfortunate because there are incredible industrial and manufacturing opportunities available for our young apprentices and tradespeople.
This is one of these efforts, with the expansion of the loans and the interest to apprentices in the trades, that would create more interest for people to go into the trades.
The second thing I would like to talk about is clean energy generation. Part of the bill would also include the expansion of the accelerated capital cost allowance for clean energy generation that would expanded to water current energy and to equipment that would gasify eligible waste fuel.
Earlier this morning, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley said there is nothing in here on the energy, the environment, or anything like that. When we encourage companies with an accelerated capital cost allowance to actually invest in this type of equipment, that feeds all the way up the pipeline, in terms of the R and D in the sector, as well, because more of these types of energy generation that are being supported through aggressive capital cost allowance would also provide the opportunity for that to happen, as well.
I also want to talk briefly about the small business job credit, about which there has been a lot of discussion today.
The reality is that $550 million would go back to small businesses. I was in committee and heard the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report, but at the end of the day, CFIB is the leading spokesman for small business in Canada, and it said this would create not only 25,000 person years of employment but also additional training to help small businesses grow their businesses.
When we look at New Brunswick where probably 80% or more of the businesses have fewer than 10 employees, we see we are talking about a significant number of our small businesses that would be able to take advantage of that. I know my New Brunswick colleagues, including the member for Saint John, would really be happy to hear that.
The last issue I want to talk about is the credit unions and the point that was brought up previously.
I believe we have somewhere around 300 credit unions actually in Atlantic Canada, and the credit union movement is very strong in terms of loans to the agricultural sector and to small business in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, as well. The ability for these credit unions to go beyond their provincial scope and to come under federal regulation is important, and this would allow them the tools to do that.
We did have representatives from the credit unions actually come to committee. They said one of their major concerns was not necessarily the legislation but ensuring that the phasing in and coming into force of it was stretched out over a period of two years, because that would allow them at least the opportunity to engage with the department and make sure there were no unintended consequences to this. I think it was a very fair proposal they made.
Now I would like to go back to a few things I heard earlier today that are important to get back to. The member for Victoria talked about tax evasion. Some of the aspects of the budget continue to close loopholes and other tax-related things.
It is also important to talk about the number of auditors. There has already been an increase of about 750 auditors at CRA. CRA is realigning its operations because we are trying to actually collect more taxes. In fact, up to March 31, 2014, the CRA audited 8,602 international tax cases, identifying over $5.6 billion in additional taxes that are being collected. In addition to that, we continue aggressive action on the file with respect to tax treaty networks and developing those, as well as tax exchange agreements. Those are all very important aspects in saying that our government is very much on the job when it comes to tax evasion.
The next piece I would like to talk about a bit is the Public Health Agency of Canada and some of the changes in the bill. I heard a lot of talk this morning that the chief public health officer in some way would be neutered by this change. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, when we look at the comments that were made, we see that the Public Health Agency of Canada now has somewhere around 2,000 employees and a budget of some $600 million.
The chief public health officer, Mr. Taylor, provided us with his comments. Mr. Taylor has done a fine job as a chief public health officer. In fact, the legislation we are proposing today is codifying what the agency has been doing since 2012. It makes sense to have an administrative arm and a deputy minister level to be looking after the administrative side. Mr. Taylor very clearly said he did feel his role to talk about health issues to Canadians; and his mandatory requirement to report to Parliament is still very much in place.
We had comments to that effect from some of our witnesses who also came to committee. A couple of witnesses did express concern, Mr. Culbert and Mr. Hoffman. When the chair, the member for Edmonton—Leduc asked some very pointed questions with respect to the actual legislation, asking if they saw any portion of the legislation that would prevent the public health officer from actually reporting, they said they did not think so, but they were not sure.
I rely on the testimony of Mr. Taylor very much, because he is the one who has operated in this environment in the last couple of years and he is the one who actually knows how this would work because he has seen it actually work for the past couple of years.
Those are very important changes, and it is very important that we continue on because it is very important, too, as part of a budget bill to ensure that a $600 million agency each year is properly administered. We do not want a distraction between the administration of the affairs of that public health agency and the important role the chief public health officer plays.
There are tremendous benefits in the budget implementation act, Bill C-43. There are some very important administrative and legislative changes being proposed in the bill. Even though there were some amendments proposed at committee, certainly all they would have done was take away from the good things that would be done.
There is strong effort on the tax credits for the interest paid for apprentices. It is an awesome thing to get more people involved in apprenticeship. Also, clean energy generation and some of the great things in part 4 would move us forward on continued economic growth in Canada.