Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address this House on the aspirations of working-class families and building an economy where people who are struggling move into the middle class, and the middle class gets ahead.
Members of the high-tax parties believe that governments must run the lives and spend the money of struggling families, that they can reduce poverty by taking money from working families and spending it for them. Conservatives believe that the best social safety net is a strong family and that the best anti-poverty plan is a good job. That is why our low-tax plan helps families and creates jobs.
Members of the high-tax parties here today will tell us that they are more generous. The truth is that they are more generous with other people's money. They like to spend it on themselves. However, wealthy union bosses, well-paid lobbyists and lawyers who charge hundreds of dollars an hour to do so-called advocacy litigation have nothing to do with social justice. Despite all the high-minded rhetoric of the high-tax parties, the evidence is in. It shows that two things have happened since our government has taken office: one, families are moving out of poverty and into the middle class; and two, the middle class is getting ahead. In fact, it is ahead of any other middle class in any other country in the world.
Here are the facts. Between 2005 and 2011, during which time our government has been in office, take-home pay among low-income families is up by 14% after tax and inflation. Even Andrew Coyne, who endorsed the Liberals, wrote:
In 2011, the latest year for which StatsCan has figures, the proportion of the population living on low income—that is, with incomes below the agency’s Low Income Cut-off (LICO)--fell to its lowest level … well, ever. At just 8.8%, it beat the previous record of 9.0%, set in 2010. As recently as 1996, it was at 15.2%.
We have gone from 15.2% of families living in poverty to 8.8%, a cut of almost half in just two decades from when the Liberals were in power until we took office. That is an extraordinary phenomenon and there are other statistics to support that it is a sweeping phenomenon and not an isolated statistic.
Let me go on. Throughout the world, while the global recession came about between 2008 and roughly 2011, one would expect that child poverty would go up. Millions lose their jobs and have lower incomes and as a result more children are living below the line, but not in Canada. In fact, in Canada child poverty actually dropped by 180,000 children between 2008 and 2011. Was this the result of some expensive new government program? No, the evidence is clear that we reduced poverty by putting money back in the pockets of families.
David Morley of UNICEF said, “If Canada is faring better than other western democracies, it is due to measures that are favourable to families, like tax credits, fiscal measures and benefits that have been maintained or put in place to counter the effects of the global crisis.”
It is not hard to understand why. Let us look at the universal child-care benefit. Over 13 years, the Liberals spent billions of dollars trying to set up a government-run daycare program. Bureaucracies, government-funded lobbyists and researchers got all kinds of money, but in the end it did not create a single, solitary daycare space. The Liberals and the New Democrats, high in the ivory tower looking down, think modest families cannot be trusted to make their own decisions, that we need a bureaucracy to control every aspect of their lives and all of their money. I am proud to say we cancelled the Liberal bureaucracy. We divided up the savings and sent it to parents in cheques in the amount of $1,200 per child under the age of six. We called it the universal child care benefit.
I asked my officials what the impact is of this benefit on poverty. Very methodically they gave me an answer. First, we use the low-income cut-off lines, which take after-tax incomes of all families with children to determine how many are low-income. Second, we did the very same comparison but based on what a family's after-tax income would have been without the universal child care benefit. The answer showed that there are 41,000 kids whose families would be beneath the poverty line without the universal child care benefit, but are above it because that benefit exists.
That was not all. We increased the amount of money that families can earn before they start paying taxes and removed one million Canadians from the tax rolls altogether. Let me quote the Parliamentary Budget Officer on our tax reductions, because there has been a lot of misinformation about who benefits from those tax reductions. Let me quote his report:
In total, cumulative changes have reduced federal tax revenue by $30 billion, or 12 per cent. These changes have been progressive, overall. Low and middle income earners have benefited more, in relative terms, than higher income earners.
The report also points out that the highest 10% of income earners benefited the least with after tax gains of just 1.4%. The $30 billion in annual tax cuts sounds like an incomprehensibly large amount of money. It is; that is a lot of tax cuts. Let me say what it means for an average family. We have a country with 35 million people. Divide $30 billion by 35 million, we get $850 per person, per man, woman and child, in lower taxes. For a family of four that is $3,400. That might not sound like a lot of money to wealthy limousine Liberals or champagne socialists, but the reality is to an average family working hard to make ends meet and get ahead, that $3,400 can make the difference. That is why we are going to continue to reduce taxes for Canadian families.
I should emphasize that with regard to the $850 per person in tax relief that happens every year under our government, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said specifically that the money went disproportionately to low- and middle-income earners.
The reality is that when we put money back in the pockets of everyday people, they do the right thing with it. They lift themselves up and they do the same for their children. They give their kids a better start in life. We have to believe in families and in workers and in small business owners to trust them to keep their own money. We on this side of the House believe in Canadians and we trust them to keep their earnings.
It is not just the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report or data from StatsCan that shows we are getting better off in Canada, in fact even the liberal-leaning New York Times wrote, “Life in Canada, Home of the World's Most Affluent Middle Class”. It also compared the years when the Liberal Party was in power and found that after-tax middle-class incomes in Canada, substantially behind in 2000, now appear to be higher than in the United States.
Overall, since taking office, personal income taxes are down by 10% and take-home pay is up by 10%, on average across income levels. In fact, the lower quartile of income earners have actually benefited more than all others across the spectrum. The median net worth of Canadian families is up by 24% since 2005 when the Liberals were in power.
That brings me to the question before the House on the family tax cut and benefits that we recently instituted. I just finished talking about everything we have done in the past nine years. Now let us talk about the present.
In the fall, our Minister of Finance introduced the family tax cut and benefits for families, which did three things.
First, it allowed couples to split their income to save up $2,000 on their taxes. Therefore, if one spouse earns more than the other, the higher income earning spouse can give enough to the lower spouse to equalize that, which will reduce their tax burden and allow them to keep more of their money. This allows families to make choices about how they raise their children.
Second, we increased the universal child care benefit from $1,200 to $1,900 per preschool child, that great poverty-fighting, middle-class supporting benefit that I discussed earlier. We also extended it for children under the age of 18. Any child who is over the age of 6 and under 18 will be eligible for up to $720 per year.
Finally, we increased the daycare tax credit by $1,000 so families that put their kids in a local community daycare could claim more of those costs on their taxes.
What does this mean for a family? Let me provide a few scenarios.
For families with incomes of $95,000 and $25,000 with two kids, one under 6 and one between 6 to 17, the net federal benefit for the 2015 tax year as a result of these new tax breaks is $2,835.
Families where both mom and dad each earn $60,000, with two kids, one under the age of six and the other in the adolescent years, would save $875.
A single income couple making $60,000 with one parent in the home and two kids would have a $1,605 benefit.
The net benefit for a single parent with a modest income of $45,000 and a child under the age of six the net benefit for the 2015 tax year as a result of these new breaks we have brought in for families will be $402.
In fact, every family with kids is better off as a result of the family tax cut and benefits.
Through this motion today, the high-tax opposition parties have announced that if they ever get the chance to take office, they will take that money away. They will reach their hands into the pockets of hard-working families and take away these hard won gains. We will not let them.
As I said at the outset, the best social safety net is a strong family. That is why we are helping families with the family tax cut and benefits.
The best anti-poverty plan is a good job. That is why we have a low tax plan that creates jobs. It has created 1.2 million net new jobs, 85% of which are full time, 80% in the private sector, and two-thirds in high wage industries. That is the best relative job-creation record in the G7.
Let me quote the International Monetary Fund, which said:
Over the past several years, Canada has taken numerous steps to reduce the economy’s vulnerabilities through policies designed to keep financial institutions and the financial system as a whole safer.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer said, “The current system of taxes and transfers serves to increasingly equalize income as inequality increases”.
These improvements allow for a stable and strong economy that creates more jobs for Canadians.
Our job creation plan is widespread and sensible. It includes trade, tax cuts and training.
Let me talk for a moment about training. As we were growing up, we were told that the only way we could be a success was to go to university. University is great. I had the honour to attend the University of Calgary. However, there are also honourable and prosperous lives to be had in the trades. We wanted to reorient our training program to fill the one million skilled job vacancies that we expect will appear in Canada over the next decade.
We need more plumbers, electricians, carpenters, stonemasons, and I could name many more. Our government created the apprenticeship grants, which help those families that want to give their children a chance to learn these great trades so they can go on to high salaries and incomes in high demand fields.
I am thinking now of those families with working class backgrounds that struggle to get by. People know the types I am speaking of, those who scrimp and save and set aside every penny they can so their 18 and 19 year olds can go to college and get a certificate to practise in the trades. Some of them just do not quite make it. That is why we brought in this grant, so these families with these young people could get their shot. They can get their opportunity to make a good life and have a better future, literally building our country.
This year we went beyond the apprenticeship grant and brought in the apprenticeship loan. For those young people who do not quite have enough money to retool their skills, we will now give them an interest-free loan while they study so they build those skills and ultimately build a better life for themselves.
Already it is working. Half a million young people have benefited from our apprenticeship grants. Even though we just announced the loan at the beginning of January, we already have 2,000 young people who are benefiting from those loans. This is just the beginning.
We are going to reorient our economy. We are going to give the proper esteem to these important trades jobs, because trades are just as a good as professions, college is just as good as university, and a good blue collar job is just as beneficial to the Canadian economy as a white collar job. Working class Canadians deserve that respect, and they also deserve the same benefits and help as everyone else. We are going to ensure that they get it.
There is a difference between the high tax parties and our low tax government. The high tax parties are for union bosses; we are for workers. The high tax parties want to spend millions on a new office headed by a “children's commissioner”. We believe there are already eight million children's commissioners across country whose names are mom and dad.
The high tax parties want to turn workers against business owners; we want to turn workers into business owners. They want to make the rich poorer; we want to make the poor rich. They believe in a hand out; we believe in a hand up. They want a government that stands in the way; we want a government that stands by people's side.
We are going to continue to work to keep Canadians working. We have come so far. Working and middle-class families have made so much progress over the last 10 years. However, our work is not done. There is still more to do.
We need to put yet more money in the pockets of middle-class families so they can spend in their communities, start small businesses and save for their futures. We need to create yet more jobs; 1.2 million jobs is a lot but it still is not enough. We need more.
We are going to ensure that people have the skills they need for the jobs of today, and we are going to continue with our agenda of trade, training and tax cuts to take our country forward so families can secure and build on the gains they have already won, and build the dreams they envision for themselves.