Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the very hard-working member for Mississauga—Erindale, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the motion proposed by the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. Today I would like to reassure the hon. member that our government's top priority is what matters most to Canadians, jobs and economic growth, while ensuring that all Canadians have the opportunity to share in the benefits of a strong economy.
Just a few years after the worldwide economic crisis, the strength of the Canadian economy today demonstrates that our approach is working. I have seen first-hand how our low-tax plan is benefiting the businesses, families, and communities in my own riding of York Centre. We have created jobs, kept the economy growing, and, I am pleased to note, will be returning to balanced budgets in 2015.
Since we introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, Canada has recovered more than all of the output and all of the jobs lost during the recession. Real GDP is significantly above pre-recession levels, which is the best performance in the G7. Canada has weathered the economic storm, and the world has noticed.
Both the IMF and the OECD expect Canada to be among the strongest-growing economies in the G7 over this year and next, with the strong fundamentals in place to perform well for the next 50 years.
For the sixth year in a row, the World Economic Forum has rated Canada's banking system the world's soundest, and KPMG's “Competitive Alternatives 2014” study ranked Canada the most competitive mature market country for business. Moody's, Fitch, and Standard & Poor's have all reaffirmed their top ratings for Canada, and it is expected that Canada will maintain its AAA rating in the year ahead. Canada has leapt from sixth to second place in Bloomberg's ranking of the most attractive countries for business to grow.
Here is an important fact. Did members know that our government is also recognized internationally for increasing the wealth of middle-class earners? According to a major study conducted by The New York Times, Canada now has the richest middle class in the world. For the first time in history, Canadian middle-class families are better off than those in the United States. The study found that median after-tax income in Canada has never been higher and was higher than any of the other countries surveyed, including France, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Even if the Liberal leader chooses to ignore the obvious, the facts are clear, and the evidence is overwhelming. Canadian families are better off today under our Conservative government than they were under the previous Liberal governments. Today middle-income earners have more money in their pockets, where it belongs. Millions of Canadians who elected this strong, stable, national Conservative majority government did not just make a smart political choice; they made an informed financial decision, and that decision is paying off.
According to Statistics Canada, Canadian families in all income groups have seen increases of about 10% or more in their take-home pay since our government took power. Statistics Canada data also shows how Canadians' wealth has increased dramatically under the leadership of our Prime Minister. The median net worth of Canadian families has increased by a whopping 44% since 2005. This increase has been led by the middle class.
Why are middle-class income earners doing so well under our Conservative government? One of the biggest reasons is our historic tax relief.
As we all know, the man we know as the world's greatest finance minister, the late Jim Flaherty, delivered historic tax relief for all Canadians. In fact, under his steady hand, our government cut taxes for Canadians 180 times, so the federal tax burden is now the lowest it has been in over 50 years.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer reports that we delivered $30 billion in tax relief, benefiting low- and middle-income Canadians the most. The average family of four will pay nearly $3,400 less in taxes in 2014.
To the NDP members and the Liberals who scoff at this, for some middle-income families that could mean car payments for an entire year. That is right. We have made life more affordable for middle-income families, and the opposition parties have fought us tooth and nail on every proposal our government has put forward to put more money in the hands of middle-income families.
I remember the Liberal leader telling Canadians that budgets just balance themselves. I guess no tough choices, no discipline, and no savings are required for the Liberal leader. Instead, he believes in reckless spending and higher taxes that would eliminate jobs, stall our economic growth, and make it harder for families to get by.
We have done the exact opposite. Since day one we have helped families and kept taxes low. Not only did we lower taxes for families but we cut taxes in each and every way the government collects them, whether personal, consumption, or excise and business taxes. Our tax relief included a reduction in the GST from 7% to 5%. It increased the amount that all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax and reduced the lowest personal income tax rate to 15% from 16%. The TFSA represents the most important savings vehicle since the introduction of the RRSP. Due to popular demand, we even increased the amounts Canadians can save with their TFSA. More than nine million Canadians have taken advantage of opening up a TFSA account.
I am also pleased to note that last month the finance minister successfully secured commitments from Canada's largest banks to offer no-cost accounts for financially vulnerable Canadians. No-cost accounts will be available to youth, students, seniors qualifying for the GIS, and registered disability savings plan beneficiaries. This fulfills a 2013 Speech from the Throne commitment to expand no-cost basic banking services and to end pay-to-pay policies. This will benefit seven million Canadians.
We have supported financially vulnerable Canadians. We have undertaken unprecedented action to benefit Canadian seniors. We have cut taxes for seniors and pensioners by over $2 billion annually. We introduced pension income splitting and pooled registered pension plans, and launched consultations on a new target benefit pension plan. Our actions have helped remove over 380,000 seniors from the tax rolls. In 2014, a single senior can earn at least $20,000, and a senior couple at least $40,000 before paying any federal income tax.
Our government has also introduced a number of other targeted tax reduction measures. For example, we have helped families with children by introducing the child tax credit, the children's fitness tax credit, and the children's art tax credit. We have introduced the registered disability savings plan to help individuals with severe disabilities and their families save for long-term financial security. We have provided additional annual targeted tax relief for seniors and pensioners by increasing the age credit and pension income credit amounts, and raising the age limit for maturing savings and registered pension plans and registered retirement savings plans. We have introduced a public transit tax credit to encourage public transit use.
At the same time, we have increased and enhanced benefits for Canadian families by introducing the universal child care benefit, introducing and enhancing the working income tax benefit, increasing the amount of income families can earn before the national child benefit supplement is fully phased out and before the Canada child tax benefit base benefit begins to be phased out.
What do all of these measures have in common? The opposition voted against every single one of them.
As I have said, Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from tax relief introduced by our government with low and middle-income Canadians receiving proportionately greater relief. More than one million low-income Canadians have been fully removed from the tax rolls as a result of tax relief provided by our government.
Our recent budgets have built upon our record of supporting families and communities while establishing a path for returning to balanced budgets. Successive economic action plans have supported Canadian families by keeping taxes low, better recognizing the costs of adopting a child, helping to lower the prices of consumer goods, and better protecting financial consumers. The economic action plan continues on this track.
From Detroit to Greece, the dire consequences of ongoing and growing deficits are clear. This is one of the reasons why our government has reduced taxes, to keep more money in the pockets of Canadians. We are committed to reducing the tax burden on Canadians in our forthcoming budget.
Let me conclude by saying that I am optimistic about our prospects as a nation. The Canadian economy continues to expand, enjoying one of the strongest job creation records in the G7 over the period of the recovery. Over a million more Canadians are working now than during the depths of the recession, with the overwhelming majority of jobs being full time, high wage, and in the private sector.
While our jobs and growth performance is encouraging, we still have work to do. I am confident that economic action plan 2014 is the way to go. If we hold to the course we have chosen, our future looks bright.