Mr. Speaker, I am indeed pleased to rise today to respond to the motion by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. This debate is really about how our government is responding to the needs and aspirations of Canadian families. The impression put before the House is that this government is not doing enough. That is simply dead wrong, and I welcome the opportunity today to set the record straight.
The Government of Canada believes that the most important way to raise the incomes of Canadians and improve their standard of living is to grow the economy as a whole. That is why, since 2006, our top priorities have been creating jobs, fostering economic growth, and building for long-term prosperity. To achieve these goals, our government is taking a wide-ranging and comprehensive approach. We are cutting taxes, increasing support for hard-working Canadian families, promoting trade and investment, supporting key economic sectors, making education accessible and affordable, reducing barriers to labour market participation, and being responsible fiscal managers. Our policies are working.
Canada's economy is making a good recovery from the most recent worldwide recession. For example, Canada is among the G7 leaders in job creation, with over 1.2 million net new jobs created since the recovery. Canadians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. The low income rate in Canada has been declining and it now sits at an all-time low.
Canadian families in all income groups have seen increases of about 10% or more in their take-home incomes since 2006. The federal tax burden is at the lowest it has been in 50 years. Our government has cut taxes 180 times, saving close to $3,400 a year for an average Canadian family of four. These tax reductions give parents greater flexibility to make the choices that are right for them and help build a solid foundation for future economic growth, more jobs, and a higher standard of living for themselves and their children.
Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from tax relief, with low- and middle-income Canadians receiving proportionately greater benefit. More than one million low-income Canadians have been removed from the federal tax rolls altogether. And since 2006, our government has also steadily lowered taxes on businesses.
Today, Canada's total business tax costs are the lowest in the G7 and more than 40% lower than those in the United States. Thanks to our low taxes, more businesses will want to invest and set up shop in Canada, and that will generate more jobs. It is important to note that we have cut taxes without reducing transfers to Canadians and other levels of government. In fact, we have increased our cash transfers to the provinces and territories in support of health and social services to all-time record highs. This fiscal year, the provinces and territories will receive almost $65 billion through the major transfers, an increase of $3 billion over 2013-14.
It is clear to me that supporting strong families and preparing Canadians for jobs go hand in hand. Keeping taxes low for families means that parents have more to invest in their children's futures.
Because it is important to ensure that all children get the best possible start and have the opportunity to reach their full potential, we have also provided over $6.5 billion in 2013-14 to support early childhood development and child care, through transfers to the provinces and territories, direct spending, and tax measures for families. This is the largest investment in early childhood development and early learning and child care in the history of Canada.
We are also making work pay. We often hear about the dilemma of the working poor, who cannot make ends meet, even when they have full-time jobs. To make work pay, in 2007 we introduced the working income tax benefit, or WITB. This is a refundable tax credit that supplements the earnings of low-income workers to ensure they are financially better off when they are employed. Up to 1.5 million working individuals and their families receive assistance through the WITB.
More people working means more people who can support themselves and their families. Of course, more people working in better-paid jobs means more equality in our society. One of the best ways to reduce inequality, of course, is through education first, and we are funding programs like Pathways to Education Canada that encourage secondary school students in low-income communities to stay in school.
Our government also makes significant investments to ensure that students and their families can afford post-secondary education. We offer incentives to help families save for their children's educations; subsidized loans and grants to help students cover both education and living expenses; and tax credits for tuition and books.
We have also taken significant action to make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable and to help students make informed career decisions in line with labour market needs. Young people, however, often feel that they are not getting a fair chance in the labour market. It is true that their unemployment rate is higher than the national average, and that is certainly a cause of inequality. Our government invests, however, more than $330 million a year in the youth employment strategy to help young people between the ages of 15 and 30 gain the skills and work experience they need to make a successful transition to the labour market.
We are also encouraging Canadians to go into the skilled trades, where they can make excellent wages. We now offer both grants and loans to help apprentices complete their training in Red Seal trades. For example, in January, we officially launched the Canada apprentice loan. The loan will provide apprentices with interest-free loans of up to $4,000 to complete their technical training in a Red Seal trade. Anyone pursuing one of the 57 categories of designated Red Seal trades, from electrician to sheet metal worker, can apply. This initiative will assist more apprentices in completing their training and encourage more Canadians to consider a career in the skilled trades, and we expect that 26,000 apprentices per year will benefit from $100 million in loans.
The Government of Canada offers several other existing supports for apprentices. The apprenticeship incentive grant provides $1,000 to apprentices who have completed their first and/or second year or level, up to $2,000. The apprenticeship completion grant provides an additional $2,000 to apprentices who have completed their training and obtained their journeyman certification. In total, an apprentice can receive $4,000 from our government with these two grants. To date, our government has already provided over 500,000 apprenticeship grants.
There is no doubt, though, that too many people in our society are still out of a job and left on the sidelines. That is why our government offers a number of targeted training and employment programs for vulnerable and under-represented groups, such as aboriginal people, youth, people with disabilities and newcomers.
Canada's economy has demonstrated the capacity to create jobs, setting the conditions for Canadians and their families to be successful. A recent Statistics Canada study found that the median net worth of Canadian families was up by 44.5% from 2005. Our government's economic strategy has a direct and positive impact on Canadian families and children each and every day, at the dinner table, paying the rent or the mortgage, shopping for winter clothes and in so many other areas.
We believe that families are the building block of our society and are critical to Canada's long-term prosperity. That is why the government takes a direct role in supporting a number of initiatives that offer help to millions of families across this country.
The universal child care plan respects the role of parents in determining how to best care for their children, and recognizes the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments for the delivery of child care services.
In addition, there are existing measures in place as part of the employment insurance program that support low-income families and individuals. For example, the family supplement allows low-income families with children to receive up to 80% of their insured earnings, higher than the normal rate of 55%.
In 2011-12, low-income families received $112.6 million in additional benefits through the family supplement. The program also offers a premium refund to low-income workers. Individuals with less than $2,000 of insured earnings are eligible to have their EI premiums refunded after having completed their personal income tax forms.
Our government also recognizes the emotional and financial challenges faced by parents when a child has a life-threatening illness or injury and the important role parents play in that child's recovery. As part of the Helping Families in Need Act, the parents of critically ill children EI special benefit provides income support for up to 35 weeks to parents or legal guardians of children under 18 years of age with a life-threatening illness or injury.
As all members know, young children need stability in the home, but they also need better access to education as they move into their teen years and eventually into the workforce. Through the Canada education savings program, the government encourages families to start saving early for their children's education.
Modest-income families benefit from the Canada learning bond. The Canada learning bond is $500 that the federal government deposits into a registered education savings plan, or RESP. A child may be eligible for another $100 per year, up to a maximum of $2,000.
Most important, parents or primary caregivers do not have to contribute any of their own money to receive the Canada learning bond. When we open an RESP, we can also receive the Canada education savings grant. The federal government adds between 20% and 40% of contributions to the RESP, depending on income, with a lifetime maximum of $7,200 per child.
We truly believe the most effective approach to raising the incomes of Canadians and their families is to keep growing this economy and help ensure that Canadians are well equipped with the skills required to obtain and keep the well-paying jobs available today and in the future. That is why our government's top priorities remain creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity.
We on this side of the House are very proud of the progress we have made over the past few years in improving the lives of families and children. We will continue to support these initiatives and look for even better ways to meet our future challenges.