Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss Bill C-31 at report stage. The bill proposes to implement certain measures from economic action plan 2014.
Today's bill focuses on the drivers of growth and job creation, which are innovation, education, skills and communities. They are underpinned by our ongoing commitment to keep taxes low and returning to a balanced budget by 2015.
In an uncertain global economy, our government's top priority is creating jobs and economic growth by building on our economic action plan, a plan that has worked and served Canadians well.
Evidence of that success is all around us. Since we introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, Canada has recovered more than all of the output in all of the jobs lost during the recession.
The Canadian economy has posted one of the strongest job creation records in the G7 over the recovery. With more than one million jobs created since July, 2009, most have been full-time jobs.
Canada's GDP is now 7.6% above our pre-recession peak. Not only that, but the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirms that our government has put $30 billion in tax relief back into Canadian pockets, benefiting low-middle income families the most.
The middle class has particularly benefited from a reduction in the GST, which we cut from 7% to 6% to 5%. Under our Conservative government, the average family of four will save nearly $3,400 in taxes this year.
It is clear that Canadian families are benefiting from our low-tax plan, with their net worth up over 44%. Even The New York Times says that Canada has the most affluent middle class in the world.
This economic resilience reflects the actions that our government took before the global crisis by lowering taxes, paying down debt, reducing red tape and promoting free trade and innovation. However, this is still an uncertain global economic environment, and it is crucial that we strengthen Canada's economic action plan. That is exactly what we would do with today's legislation.
First, Bill C-31 proposes to increase existing tax support for Canadians who take on the responsibility of adopting a child. As a parent, I believe there is no higher calling than raising a child, and no reward is equal. Canadians who have children deserve the government's full support, particularly when it comes to recognizing some of the additional costs borne by adoptive parents.
While all parents incur costs in raising children, there are additional expenses that adoptive parents face, including travel, adoption agency fees and legal fees. These charges can be significant, especially in the case of children who are adopted from outside of Canada. As a result, adopting a child can be a long and costly process.
While an adoption expense tax credit has existed for a while, some new and future parents were telling us that it did not cover enough of the expenses. We heard their concern. That is why our government, through economic action plan 2014, acted by proposing to enhance the tax credit to support these parents even more.
To provide further tax recognition of adoption-related expenses, Bill C-31 proposes to increase the maximum amount of the adoption expense tax credit from $11,774 to $15,000 in expenses per child for 2014. This amount will continue to be indexed for inflation for subsequent years.
My colleague from Essex did a lot of hard work on this initiative in our budget. He has adopted two children himself. As a grandfather of two boys who my oldest daughter adopted from Haiti, I wish this had been in place when she adopted our two 11-year-old grandsons. It would have been a great benefit to them, because it is a costly process.
Our Conservative government is listening to Canadians who want to have children but, unfortunately, are unable to. We are accommodating them and making it easier for them.
At the same time, our government is committed to ensuring that the tax system reflects the evolving nature of the health care system and the health care needs of Canadians. We all use the health care system, and we want it to remain strong and sustainable so that it is there for Canadians when they need it.
In fact, under our government, health care transfers are at an all-time high of over $20 billion from when we formed government, and over $32 billion this year and growing. Unlike the old Liberal government, we have not cut funding to provinces for health care. Under our funding formula, health care transfers will grow, but in a sensible and sustainable way. We will keep growing health care funding to ensure Canadian families can depend on our health care system today and in the future.
Moreover, we recognize that there are external costs, like out-of-pocket health care costs that Canadians have been paying for, such as for service animals. That is why in Bill C-31 we have proposed to expand the list of eligible expenses under the medical expense tax credit. The expanded list would include costs associated with service animals specially trained to assist individuals with severe diabetes, such as diabetes alert dogs.
Not only that, today's legislation also focuses on connecting Canadians with available jobs by helping them to acquire the skills that will get them hired or help to get them better jobs. By ensuring that federal funding responds to the hiring needs of employers and by giving them the opportunity to participate meaningfully as partners in skills training, the Canada job grant would transform skills and training in Canada. The greatest resource in any country is its people, and we recognize that. We are continuing to help people be all that they can be and to contribute to the economy of this country.
The Canadian job grant could provide up to $15,000 per person for training costs, including tuition and training materials, which includes up to $10,000 in federal contributions with employers contributing, on average, one-third of the total cost of training. After consulting extensively with employers and provinces on the design of the grant, Canadians would be able to take advantage of it by July 1 of this year. It would offer them real support toward improved employment and earning prospects.
As important as this milestone is, economic action plan went one step further by creating the Canada apprentice loan to help registered apprentices with the cost of their training. It would do so by expanding the Canada student loans program to provide apprentices registered in Red Seal trades with access to over $100 million in interest-free loans each year.
Economic action plan 2014 also introduces the flexibility and innovation in the apprenticeship technical training pilot project to expand the use of innovative approaches to apprentice technical training. With this initiative, we are continuing to work with provinces and territories to harmonize apprenticeship systems and to reduce barriers to certification in the skilled trades so that apprentices can more easily work and train where the jobs are.
In conclusion, I trust that my comments have convinced hon. members that these measures from economic action plan contained in this bill meet the government's goal of not only improving the quality of life for Canadians, but also creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
It also proves, in some of the measures that I have mentioned, that this bill has a heart to help those families in Canada to have children and to be all that they can be in the future. I trust that all members in this House will quickly pass this bill.