Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to be here today to speak to the 2015 budget. I have been a member of Parliament now for 22 years, and I have spoken to a lot of budgets, first from the point of view of the opposition and for the past nine years from the government side. I want to say that I really prefer the budgets from the government side. I have enjoyed speaking to them and pointing out to Canadians the benefits and changes that have been presented not only in the 2015 budget but in a series of budgets leading to a long-term plan to help make our country better.
Canada, as we all know, is a marvellous country. It is truly the best country in the world in which to live, but when we were elected as the government almost 10 years ago, there was a need for a change in direction. I would argue that the country had been going the wrong way for a number of years, with increased taxation, more interference in business, more red tape, and less freedom all around.
I am proud to be a member of Parliament in this Conservative political party, which has done a lot over these 10 years to make Canada a much better place.
I am here today to speak to budget 2015. We only have a little time to speak to the budget, but I want to take my time to focus on two topics, and they would be seniors, who are extremely important in every constituency, and as time allows, some of the changes for small business.
Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Calgary Centre.
Since 2006, our government has strengthened the retirement income system and has increased direct support for seniors to address their changing needs. In fact, actions taken by this government have substantially increased the income seniors can earn before they are required to pay income tax.
In 2015, a single senior could claim income of $20,368 before paying any tax at all. I remember what that number was when we got into government nine years ago, and it was considerably lower.
For a couple, it would be $40,720 before they would pay a penny in income tax. That is a remarkable transformation for seniors across this country.
However, that is only one area we have worked on. In the budget there are changes that would add to the benefits seniors see. Economic action plan 2015 continues in this direction by proposing a reduction in minimum withdrawals from registered retirement income funds, RRIFs, and the creation of a home accessibility tax credit.
The reduction in the minimum withdrawal factor takes into account the longer lifespans of Canadians. We all know that we are living longer. For RRIFs, we are requiring now that Canadians take less money out so they can stretch that capital for a longer period of time so that they are far less likely to run out of retirement income before their lives end.
The minimum withdrawal factor for registered retirement income funds is determined by percentage factors, which are on a particular rate of return and indexing assumptions. For example, currently, a senior must withdraw 7.38% of the RRIF in the year he or she is age 71. The new factors proposed will reduce that minimum withdrawal to 5.28% at age 71. By permitting more capital preservation, the new factors will help reduce the risk of outliving one's savings while ensuring that the tax deferral provided on registered retirement savings plans continues to serve into retirement.
The proposed measures would benefit seniors by allowing them to preserve up to 60% more of their registered retirement income funds by age 95, if they so choose. Of course, that is a decision each senior and each couple can make.
The new RRIF withdrawal rates would apply for 2015 and subsequent years. RRIF holders who at any time in 2015 withdraw more than the reduced 2015 minimum amount would be permitted to re-contribute the excess, up to the amount of the proposed reduction in the minimum withdrawal limit, to their RRIFs. Re-contributions would be permitted until February 29, 2016 and would be deductible for the 2015 tax year, reducing the registered retirement income funds minimum withdrawal requirement.
The second change is the introduction of the home accessibility tax credit. A similar measure our government put in a few years ago seemed to be very successful. We would put in place a home accessibility tax credit that would apply to seniors.
Making improvements to improve safety, access, and functionality of a dwelling for seniors and persons with disabilities can be costly. In recognition of this, and of the additional benefits of independent living, economic action plan 2015 proposes a new, permanent home accessibility tax credit. The proposed 15% non-refundable income tax credit would apply to up to $10,000 in eligible home renovation expenditures per year, providing up to $1,500 in tax relief. For some seniors in particular, that is significant. Eligible expenditures would be for improvements that would allow seniors or persons who are eligible for the disability tax credit to be safer and more mobile and to function better in their homes. These are changes that would make a real improvement in the lives of many seniors.
Some people, as well as some in this House, talk about seniors as though they are all low-income wage earners. The reality is that a lot of the personal wealth of the nation is in the hands of seniors. We have a wide range in seniors' incomes. We have seniors who are barely getting by living on the Canada pension plan and perhaps old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. We certainly have that group. However, too often politicians forget about others, such as people who have retired with quite a substantial retirement income, such as a teacher with teacher's income, a nurse with a nurse's income, or someone with a public service pension plan or a private pension plan, on top of the Canada pension plan. I would say that there are a lot of people in that mid range who are doing quite well. For them, of course, the pension income-splitting change we put in place a few years ago for retirement income for seniors is extremely helpful. It saves some seniors a substantial amount of money and allows them to live a lot better in retirement.
The measures in the 2015 economic action plan are on top of a wide range of other changes we have made before.
Of course, there are also a lot of seniors who are in the high-income bracket. The benefits from lowering the federal income tax rate from 11% to 9% in the next few years will help all seniors and all Canadians.
Seniors are extremely important people and are well worth government consideration because of what they have done to build our country. We should thank them on a daily basis for what they have done to build this truly wonderful country of Canada.