Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Whitby—Oshawa.
I am dedicating the 10 minutes I have to speak to the budget today to my friend Darrel Wong, who passed away much too young on the weekend. Darrel was the very long-time president of the large International Woodworkers local in Courtenay, British Columbia, and subsequently the Steelworkers local after the unions merged.
We collaborated on many issues. Our goal was the same: to represent our constituents. He represented his membership at all times. Perhaps his greatest triumph was to negotiate the Coast Sustainability Trust, a $35 million fund to assist union and non-union members, their families and communities, including first nations communities on the coast.
I am reminded of our collaboration by the upcoming softwood lumber agreement anniversary in October, as 10 years ago, we held a series of joint press conferences in B.C. and Ottawa, pushing for free trade in lumber with the United States. Of course, two-thirds of our production is exported, and two-thirds of our export goes to the U.S. That was a very important measure.
Darrel was non-partisan because he wanted to work in the best interests of the larger community, and he succeeded. The proof was in the pudding, which is why he was re-elected so many times by the membership.
I am pleased to see in the budget that the forest sector, which contributes $21 billion to Canada's GDP, is recognized with a provision to extend for two years the innovation and expanding market opportunities programs.
The budget is a large document and it is of much interest. I can only touch on a piece of it during my speech. We all know that in the lead-up to the budget, there is much speculation. In the case of this year's budget, most of the speculation revolved around pre-election posturing. There was no speculation about new taxes. This is unlike speculation about new revenue sources, also known as tax increases, in previous federal administrations and as we just witnessed, in Alberta and Ontario. Governments in many jurisdictions continue to do exactly the things that got previous governments into trouble. I am very proud to be part of a government that is consistent and reliable, that displays respect for the taxpayer, and that is leading Canada in a direction that is responsible and increasingly is the envy of much of the world.
Canada's economic action plan is working. Our job creation record since the depths of the recession is the best in the G7. Our overall federal tax burden is at its lowest level in more than 50 years. Canada's net debt to GDP ratio is less than half of the G7 average. Since 2006, we have reduced greenhouse gases by almost 6% while growing the economy by 11%.
Former finance minister Jim Flaherty delivered great budgets before, during and after the global recession. His wish was to deliver a balanced budget post-recession, and he almost achieved it last year. Pre-recession, he paid down $37 billion in debt. Our current finance minister delivered a surplus budget on April 21, with the promise of growing surpluses in succeeding years. At the same time, the budget supports job-creating businesses, contributes to safe and healthy communities, supports families and seniors, and strengthens our security and enhances improvements to meet the needs of veterans.
I would like to talk about the doubling of the tax-free savings account contribution limit to $10,000. As the member of Parliament for Vancouver Island North and with a brother living and paying taxes in the U.S., I became intrigued by the tax-prepaid Roth, individual retirement accounts that the U.S. introduced in 1998.
Subsequently, I put forward a private member's motion in 2004 to urge the government of the day to initiate a tax-prepaid savings plan in Canada. I had heard that Paul Martin had thought about it. In 2005, at the Conservative national convention in Montreal, I brought my private member's motion as a Vancouver Island North constituency organization-backed resolution, and the party adopted it. This became the rationale for Jim Flaherty making it the centrepiece of the 2008 budget.
There are now 11 million Canadians with tax-free savings accounts, and 60% of tax-free savings account holders who max out their contribution earn less than $60,000 a year. Over half of those who have these accounts earn less than $42,000 a year. I am proud to have been part of this development. I do not understand the opposition stating that tax-free savings accounts only benefit the wealthy.
We have had much speculation about the tax-free savings accounts since the budget. I can quote a little from The Globe and Mail:
For retirees, the increased limit has placed a greater light on TFSAs being efficient tools to use in tax planning
We have another vehicle that is becoming much more useful with tax-free growth, and we are running the math and seeing that instead of waiting until someone is in their 70’s, we should be drawing out smaller amounts of money earlier than we historically would’ve but at a lower rate of tax over all and then shift it into the TFSA.
For young people buying their first house or condo in their 20s or early 30s, the advice we have been giving if you are in a lower tax bracket is don’t even contribute to an RRSP because chances are you will be in a higher bracket when you have to take it out.
Clients also have the added benefit of having a flexible repayment plan....as anything taken out of the TFSA will be added to your contribution room for the following year (unlike the home buyers' plan, which requires investors to start repaying the fund two years after the withdrawal).
This has changed many things in a positive direction.
I think I have a minute or two. The ground is shifting on the comprehension and understanding of the federal role in providing funding to the provinces for health care. I can quote from Maclean's magazine, Paul Wells, on April 20, and this has to do with health care transfers:
....the Conservatives have kept transfers to the provinces growing at six per cent a year for as long as they’ve been in office. But after 2017, that rate of growth will fall to somewhere between three per cent and six per cent, depending on how fast the general economy grows.
But something odd has happened. Growth in health spending has slowed right down, as provinces with very different governments decided, all by themselves, to curb this runaway budget line. In 2011-12, health spending grew by 6.2 per cent in British Columbia, six per cent in Alberta and 4.4 per cent in Ontario. This year it will grow by 2.9 per cent in B.C. and 1.8 per cent in Ontario. Alberta will cut health spending every year for the next three, then let it grow again at less than three per cent per year.
As we can see, the federal transfers are greater than what the provinces are currently budgeting. Therefore, what we are providing is leading to less provincial input into health care spending. That is an observation made by anyone who does the math.
I see my time has elapsed. We are moving in the right direction with budget 2015.