Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-43, the economic action plan 2014 act, no. 2. I would like to thank the member for Crowfoot for sharing the time that he has as the Minister of State for Finance with me.
Just over a year ago I was honoured to be elected to represent the riding of Brandon—Souris. At that time, I made a commitment to my constituents that I would support measures to continue building on the economic growth of the region I represent.
The economic action plan is good for the residents of Brandon—Souris, as it is for all Canadians. Our government supports initiatives that will leave more money for small businesses, more money in the pockets of apprentices, and more money in the pockets of hard-working families.
As my colleague, the member for North Vancouver, mentioned earlier, our government is committed to ending unfair billing practices of telecommunications companies and reducing the administrative burdens on charitable organizations.
Our government recognizes the fundamental importance of small business in fuelling our economy, which makes up 82% of Manitoba's economy, and a similar percentage elsewhere in Canada. For that reason, we have introduced the new small business job credit, which is anticipated to reduce employment insurance premiums by 15% for the next two years.
Any small business that pays employer employment insurance premiums equal to or less than $15,000 will be eligible for this credit. It is expected to save small businesses more than $550 million over this timeframe. This new initiative will assist local businesses to hire new employees and create new jobs in southwestern Manitoba.
Small businesses are the backbone of the Canadian economy, employing approximately 70% of the total labour force in the private sector, accounting for nearly 90% of Canadian exporters, and contributing about 41% to Canada's private sector gross domestic product. It is essential that our local small businesses remain globally competitive and successful, and this small business job credit will do exactly that and enhance opportunities for small business.
Our government also created the Canada apprentice loan. This initiative will allow apprentices registered in a Red Seal trade to apply for interest-free loans of up to $4,000 for a period of technical training. It is anticipated that at least 26,000 apprentices will apply for these loans each year. Right now, there are more than 50 trades in the Red Seal program, accounting for almost 90% of all apprentices and more than 80% of the total trades workforce in Canada.
As with student loans for university and college students, interest and repayment of the Canada apprentice loan will not start until after apprentices complete or leave their training programs. This will ensure that apprentices will be on the same playing field as college and university students.
As is the case for many members of the House, the constituency I represent is experiencing a skills gap in the labour force. There are too many employers looking to hire skilled tradespeople, and every time a job posting goes unfilled is a lost opportunity to grow our local economy.
As a father and a grandfather, I understand the importance of children being involved in fitness activities. In my constituency, just as in many constituencies across this country, hockey, soccer, baseball, and for sure curling are popular activities. Sports are also expensive and our government understands that.
To reflect that reality we are increasing the maximum amount of expenses that may be claimed under this tax credit, from its current limit of $500 to $1,000 for the 2014 tax year and beyond. As well, beginning in 2015, this tax credit will be made refundable, which will benefit low-income families.
Currently, the children's fitness tax credit provides tax relief to 1.4 million families, and when these measures are fully implemented, they will deliver additional tax relief to approximately 850,000 families. Eligible activities for this tax credit include hockey, soccer, golf lessons, horseback riding, sailing, bowling, and other activities that require a similar level of physical activity.
We are supporting the families in southwestern Manitoba and the families across this country through these initiatives. By promoting the physical health of Canadian children, we are also promoting the financial health of families.
Our government is supporting Canadian consumers by ending the pay-to-pay practice that is being followed by some telecommunications companies. In these unfair pay-to-pay billing practices, Canadians who receive a paper copy of their telephone or wireless bill were being charged a fee to receive their bill in the mail, but now Canadians would no longer be charged a fee for receiving a bill in paper form.
Canadians who do not have Internet access are often low-income individuals or seniors. They are at a disadvantage, as they are unable to get an electronic bill. We listened to the complaints and we are ending this unfair practice. Our government made a commitment in the 2013 Speech from the Throne, and we are delivering on this initiative through this legislation.
As well, our economic action plan proposes to amend the Criminal Code to allow charities to use modern electronic technology to raise funds. Every year, charities in Canada raise millions of dollars through lottery sales to support their good works. However, because of outdated legislation, charities cannot use modern electronic technology such as computers to process their lottery sales. Under the current system, charities must process and activate all sales manually and then send customers their tickets in the mail. As a result, it is more time-consuming and costly to charities.
Our government is proposing to amend the Criminal Code to allow charities to conduct their lotteries by using a computer. This change would allow charitable organizations to use e-commerce to issue lottery tickets and issue receipts to donors. This change would help charities save millions of dollars in administrative costs by allowing them to use electronic technology for their tickets. For example, the Heart and Stroke Foundation has noted that by using computers for a lottery, it could save potentially $1 million in administrative costs annually. If this change is made, charities will be able to allocate more of their budget to support their initiatives and programs. That is how it should be.
To summarize, this legislation is good for our economy, it is good for families, it is good for consumers, and it is good for Canadian charities.
I remain as focused as ever in supporting the growth of our economy and providing support to job creators and hard-working families throughout Canada. I urge all members of this House to support this legislation so that we can continue to get results for Canadians.