Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the motion before us today. Hon. members of the House may differ on solutions, but I am sure we can all agree that we must continuously look for ways to improve the lives of all Canadians. However, while the opposition would have one believe that our government is doing little to help families, I will take this time to correct the record.
Frankly, the facts speak for themselves. Under this Conservative government, Canadians in all income groups are better off. Canadian families, at all income levels, have seen increases of about 10% or more in real after-tax, after-transfer incomes across the board since 2006. The lowest-income Canadians have seen a 14% increase alone during that same time period.
Income inequality has not increased in Canada since 2006. In fact, it has decreased. Canadian families, at all income levels, have had higher incomes after taxes, after transfers, and after inflation, in 2011 and prior to the recession.
Furthermore, the median net worth of Canadian families has increased by almost 45% in real terms since 2006.
While the opposition continues to pose high-tax schemes that would actually increase income inequality and leave less money in the pockets of Canadians, our government is actually taking action and standing up for Canadian families.
Our Conservative government has been clear that one of the most effective ways to support Canadian families is by providing tax relief. It does not stop there. Our government has seen to it that the federal tax burden is at its lowest level in over 50 years. We have removed over one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls completely. We have introduced nearly 180 tax relief measures since we took office in 2006, reducing taxes in every way the government collects them.
Let me list a few of them.
We have reduced the GST from 7% to 5%. That is a 27% reduction in GST, putting more than $1,000 back into pockets of the average Canadian family.
We have introduced the landmark tax-free savings account, the most important personal savings vehicle since RRSPs. I must point out that more than nine million Canadians have since opened a tax-free savings account.
We have introduced the child tax credit, a credit on an amount of $2,255 for each child under the age of 18.
We have introduced the universal child care benefit, offering families more choice in child care by providing up to $1,200 a year for each child under the age of six.
The NDP members who stand today and claim that they know what is best for Canadians voted against every one of these measures. The opposition will continue to reject our efforts to keep taxes low. That is the reality we face. The opposition prefers that we adopt dangerous economic policies that would kill business investment and jobs, and hurt Canadian families by taking more of their hard-earned money.
We will not take economic lessons from the opposition. Let me remind the opposition that under our Conservative government, we have seen the benefits of Canada's economic action plan. Canada's economy has seen one of the best economic performances among all G7 countries in recent years, both during the global recession and throughout the recovery. This was due to strong economic leadership, fiscal discipline, long-term thinking, and tough decisions.
With that, I would like to take the rest of my time today to expand upon a few of the very important measures my colleagues on this side of the House listed earlier today.
To begin, let me take members back to budget 2007, when our government introduced the working income tax benefit, the WITB. The WITB fulfilled our government's commitment to help make work more rewarding for low-income Canadians already in the workforce. It increased the incentive for other low-income Canadians to enter the workforce, as well.
Economic action plan 2009 went even further by effectively doubling the benefits provided under the WITB.
Today, this initiative is making a real difference in the lives of Canadians. It has lowered the welfare wall so that low-income individuals now keep more of their earnings. In 2013, over $1.1 billion in WITB benefits were provided to individuals and families alone. Up to 1.5 million working individuals and families receive assistance through the WITB.
Recognizing that families are the cornerstone of our society, economic action plan 2011 took action to further reduce the tax burden on hard-working Canadian families. In doing so, we recognized that some families need additional support. For example, many Canadians have assumed added responsibilities by caring for infirm parents or other family members. Our government felt it was important to assist these family caregivers who make special sacrifices, often leaving the workforce temporarily and foregoing employment income.
In support of these families who care for infirm dependents, economic action plan 2011 introduced the family caregiver tax credit, which came into effect in 2012. This 15% non-refundable credit on an amount of $2,058 in 2014 provides additional tax relief for caregivers of all types of infirm dependent family members, including for first-time spouses, common-law partners, and minor children.
To further help caregivers, economic action plan 2011 removed the $10,000 limit on the amount of eligible expenses a taxpayer can claim under the medical expense tax credit for a financially dependent relative.
Our government also recognizes that persons with disabilities specifically need assistance as well. Our support for them has been targeted and effective. This is evident through such programs as the enabling accessibility fund, which has funded over 13,000 community-based projects across Canada, totalling over $89 million.
Even as recently as the measures in economic action plan 2014, our government has proposed to connect persons with disabilities with jobs by providing $15 million over three years to the ready, willing and able initiative of the Canadian Association for Community Living as well as $11.4 million over four years to support the expansion of vocational training programs for persons with autism spectrum disorder.
That is not all. We also established the highly praised registered disability savings plan, or RDSP, based on the recommendations of the 2006 expert panel on financial security for children with severe disabilities. The RDSP is designed to help individuals with severe disabilities and their families save for their long-term financial security. Since its implementation in 2008, our government has made a number of improvements to the program. For example, to make sure that RDSP beneficiaries with a shortened life expectancy could access their savings, economic action plan 2011 provided them with more flexibility to withdraw their RDSP assets without requiring the repayment of Canada disability savings grants and Canada disability savings bonds.
In 2011, our government launched a review of the RDSP program to ensure that RDSPs were meeting the needs of Canadians with severe disabilities and their families. Based on the feedback received during the review, economic action plan 2011 announced a number measures to improve the RDSP. These measures provide greater access to RDSP savings for small withdrawals, give greater flexibility to make withdrawals from certain RDSPs, ensure that RDSP assets are used to support the beneficiary during his or her lifetime, enhance flexibility for parents who save in registered education savings plans for children with disabilities, introduce greater continuity for beneficiaries who cease to qualify for the disability tax credit under certain circumstances, and improve administration of the RDSP for financial institutions and beneficiaries.
Since becoming available in 2008, more than 81,000 RDSPs have been opened. Thanks to measures like the RDSP, our government is making sure that Canadians with disabilities get the support they need. A lot of credit should go to the late hon. Jim Flaherty, who championed this program.
Let me now say a few more words about the government's tax reductions for seniors and pensioners. Once again, on this subject I have plenty of material to draw from.
Since 2006, our government has increased the age credit amount by $1,000 in 2006 and by another $1,000 in 2009. We have doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000.
We have introduced pension income splitting for seniors and increased the age limit for maturing pensions and RRSPs to 71 years of age from 69 years of age, and much more. As a result of these actions, seniors and pensioners are receiving about $2.8 billion in additional annual tax relief. Overall, actions taken by this government have substantially increased the income seniors can earn before they are required to pay income tax. In 2014, a single senior can earn at least $20,050, and a senior couple at least $40,108, before paying any federal income tax at all.
Seniors and those who support them may also take advantage of tax credits, such as the disability tax credit, the medical expense tax credit, and the caregiver credit as well as the family caregiver tax credit, which, as I mentioned, was introduced in economic action plan 2011 and came into effect in 2012.
In the same year, our government enhanced the guaranteed income supplement, the GIS, for those seniors who rely almost exclusively on their old age security and the GIS and may therefore be at risk of experiencing financial difficulties. The measure provided a new top-up benefit of up to $600 annually for single seniors and $840 for couples and is improving the financial security of more than 680,000 seniors across Canada. This increase in economic action plan 2014 was the largest increase for the lowest-income GIS recipients in a generation.
That is not all. Our government, since 2006, has also lowered taxes in a number of other very important ways for families. It has increased the amount of income all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax, increased the upper limit of the two lowest personal income tax brackets so that individuals can earn more income before being subject to higher tax rates, and reduced the lowest personal income tax rate to 15% from 16%.
Our Conservative government has been ambitious in our low-tax agenda. It is aimed at creating a tax system that fuels job creation and economic growth in the economy, and as I mentioned previously, it allows Canadians to keep more of their hard-earned money. Tax reductions have also given individuals and families the flexibility to make choices that are right for them. While the opposition members argue that we are only helping higher-income Canadians, this could not be further from the truth. Low- and middle-income Canadians are receiving proportionately greater relief. Benefits for low- and middle-income Canadians delivered through the personal income tax system, and support for families with children, have also been increased and enhanced under our government.
Finally, let me add that new measures we have introduced recognize that the health of the Canadian economy ultimately depends on providing opportunities for a high quality of life for all Canadians. That is why economic action plan 2014 would continue to implement the government's plan for jobs and economic growth. It would connect Canadians with available jobs and help them acquire the skills that will get them hired or get them better jobs in the marketplace; foster job creation, innovation, and trade by keeping taxes low; reduce the tax-compliance burden; continue to provide Canadian businesses and investors with the market access they need to succeed in the global economy; and support families and communities by taking additional steps to protect Canadian consumers, keep taxes low for families, and improve the safety of Canadians.
To conclude, keeping taxes low is an important element of our economic action plan. It helps Canadians succeed in the global economy through the creation of high-quality jobs and greater opportunities for success. Economic action plan 2014 is the next chapter in our government's long-term plan to strengthen the Canadian economy in an uncertain world and to create jobs and growth while keeping taxes low for families and businesses and balancing the budget in 2015. It is clearly working. It is accomplishing what it is intended to do, and by returning to balanced budgets in 2015, it bodes well for not only the current generation of Canadians but for future generations as well.
Taken together, the measures our government has introduced since 2006 and those in economic action plan 2014 will continue to keep taxes low and help Canadians succeed in the global economy, creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
A recent analysis by The New York Times and the Luxembourg Income Study suggests that Canada's median income households today are the richest of 20 peer countries, including, for the first time ever, the United States. It also shows that Canada's median income households saw increases of about 20% in their take-home incomes between 2000 and 2010.
Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer tells us that we have delivered $30 billion in tax relief, which is benefiting low- and middle-income Canadians the most. Again, this is leaving more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians, and in 2014, that saving is to the tune of nearly $3,400 for an average Canadian family.
Our record on tax relief is strong, and the results are speaking volumes. However, we have been clear that once the budget is balanced, our government is committed to even further, even greater, tax relief for Canadian families.
I encourage the opposition, once and for all, to put aside its reckless high tax, tax-and-spend agenda and support our government's efforts to help all Canadians at all income levels.