House of Commons Hansard #214 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was families.

Topics

The EnvironmentOral Questions

May 14th, 2015 / 3:05 p.m.

Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, we will submit Canada's greenhouse gas emission targets this month. Greenhouse gas emission targets will reflect actions by all levels of government, so we are seeking additional information from the jurisdictions, the provinces and the territories, about how they intend to meet their targets.

Our Conservative government is the first government in Canadian history that has reduced greenhouse gas emissions. We will continue to take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without introducing a job-killing carbon tax.

TaxationOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Independent

Sana Hassainia Independent Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was surprised to learn from the papers yesterday morning that the Canada Revenue Agency had refused to co-operate with a Montreal police service investigation into contraband wine, even though the agency was among the victims of this fraudulent trade.

In fact, all the wine sold illegally did not produce the usual taxes that flow into the government's coffers. The Canadian and Quebec governments were deprived of about $14 million. In the end, Canadian taxpayers were fleeced.

How can the government justify this lack of co-operation and such arrogance on the part of the Canada Revenue Agency, which was even prepared to go to the Supreme Court to avoid co-operating?

TaxationOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Delta—Richmond East B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay ConservativeMinister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, all of the charges have been laid. I have directed the CRA to immediately share all of the information in question with provincial prosecutors. Our government will continue to assist all policing bodies in their ongoing work to keep Canadians and communities safe.

I emphasize that the opposition has opposed all of our measures to put criminals behind bars and keep our communities safe.

BarrieVacancyOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the representation, namely Mr. Brown, member for the electoral district of Barrie, by resignation effective, today, May 14, 2015.

Pursuant to paragraph 25(1)(b) of the Parliament of Canada Act, I have addressed my warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for the election of a member to fill this vacancy.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think we have a Thursday answer, and that is that the government is acknowledging the weakness of its own financial plan when the finance minister refuses to answer 12 questions asked by the opposition on finance, and will only answer questions that are directed from the Conservative backbench, the softball questions. That is showing huge disrespect for Parliament.

I have good news. Last week, Albertans voted for a stable, majority New Democrat government. That is very good news for Canadians.

Furthermore, the polls this week show that these trends are continuing. The NDP is leading provincially in British Columbia and Ontario, and also nationally. This means that two-thirds of Canadians want change and that the NDP will bring that change.

There are 158 days left until we elect a new Parliament. We will be sitting until June 23, and we will be working every day until June 23. That is what the New Democrats do.

I would like to ask my colleague, the government House leader, what the government will put on the agenda following the riding week next week.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we have no shortage of very important work to attend to.

This afternoon and tomorrow we will continue debating Bill C-59, economic action plan 2015 act, no. 1, to implement important measures from the spring's budget, such as the family tax cut, enhancements to the universal child care benefit and a reduction to the small business income tax.

The parties across the way have made no secret of their opposition to the excellent tax reduction measures we have proposed, and this week the hon. member for Papineau explained why. As he told the House on Tuesday, “benefiting every single family is not...fair”. Well, that is consistent with his approach to fiscal policy, that budgets balance themselves.

However, our budget implementation bill will deliver those benefits to every family, because that is the fair Canadian thing to do.

After our constituency week, on Monday, May 25, we will debate Bill S-6, the Yukon and Nunavut regulatory improvement act at report stage. This bill will improve opportunities for economic development north of 60.

After question period that same day, we will take up Bill C-42, the common sense firearms licensing act at report stage, and hopefully third reading. Unnecessary, cumbersome red tape facing law-abiding gun owners across Canada will be reduced, thanks to this legislation.

Also, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(a), I am appointing that day, Monday, May 25, as the day for consideration, in a committee of the whole, of all votes in the main estimates, for 2015-16, related to finance.

Tuesday, May 26, will be the fifth allotted day. We will debate a Liberal proposal. I expect the Liberal leader will explain why helping every family is not fair.

We will return to the third reading debate on Bill C-52, the Safe and Accountable Rail Act, on Wednesday, May 27, when I am hopeful that it will pass.

The following day, we will continue the third reading debate on Bill S-3, the Port State Measures Agreement Implementation Act. In debate last week, the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles said, “Soon, we will pass this bill”. I look forward to her NDP colleagues proving the hon. member right.

Later that Thursday, we will start the report stage for Bill S-7, the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, which will re-affirm this Parliament’s ongoing efforts to end violence against women and girls.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-59, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 21, 2015 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Richmond Hill Ontario

Conservative

Costas Menegakis ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to say that I will be splitting my time today with my colleague, the hard-working member for Red Deer.

I am very pleased today to rise and be given this opportunity to speak to the economic action plan 2015 act, no. 1.

As we all know in this House, the economic action plan is an important blueprint that would deliver more tax relief to individuals and small businesses; invest in communities; fund research, innovation, and skills training; help our most vulnerable; and maintain Canada's future as a world economic leader. It delivers on the priorities of Canadians, including my constituents in the great riding of Richmond Hill and throughout York Region, the region that I live in, and I am pleased today to highlight a few of the very important measures in the economic action plan 2015 act, no. 1, that would benefit all Canadians.

The first section I would like to speak about today deals with infrastructure.

Infrastructure is a major priority for residents of Richmond Hill and York Region, and indeed across the country. We know that our ability to compete in the global economy depends in part on the reliability of quality public infrastructure. That is why our government spearheaded the largest long-term federal commitment toward infrastructure in Canada's history, the new Building Canada fund. This plan would dedicate a historic $53 billion over the next 10 years for infrastructure. In fact, the annual federal support for infrastructure has increased from some $571 million in 2004 to an estimated $4.85 billion in 2015. That is a 750% increase. This is a very significant investment, and it is precisely why Canada has led the entire G7 in public investment growth over the last decade.

In Richmond Hill, we see the results of our infrastructure investments in every corner of the municipality. They include recreational facilities such as the Oak Ridges Community Centre, a new community centre funded in part from federal money coming through the gas tax fund. About $2.4 million went into this state-of-the-art facility, which is serving Oak Ridges, a growing community in York Region and a key component of the great town of Richmond Hill. There is the Elvis Stojko Arena, to which hundreds of families, if not thousands, bring their children to participate in skating activities. They come not only from Richmond Hill but from the entire York Region area.

We also have Viva and rapid transit buses, and there is a new transit facility in Richmond Hills' Headford Business Park. Federal dollars have helped build the infrastructure my residents have come to depend on every single day.

I need to highlight that York Region is growing in leaps and bounds. It is a region that today numbers more than 1.2 million people. In fact, a lot has been said by members in the House about the fact that this year is an election year and that we will return to find 338 seats in this place. Three of the new seats created in this country are in York Region. It is growing in leaps and bounds, and our government is doing a lot for the families that call York Region their home. That includes great towns like Aurora, Richmond Hill, the city of Markham, the city of Vaughan, and the town of Stouffville. We are doing many things and we are planning to do still more.

Economic action plan 2015 would build on this funding by providing $750 million over two years and $1 billion each year thereafter for a dedicated public transit fund. We are also investing $5.8 billion over six years to build and renew federal infrastructure assets, including Canadian Armed Forces facilities and on-reserve schools. All of these investments will ensure that Richmond Hill, York Region, Ontario, and all of the provinces and territories across Canada will continue to benefit from world-class infrastructure.

The second area I want to touch upon has to do with the folks who have put their lives on the line for the rights and privileges that so many of us take for granted: freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. I am speaking, of course, about our veterans.

We owe a great deal to our veterans and their families. As a proud member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 375 in Richmond Hill and as a frequent visitor to Branch 385 in Aurora, I know our government is working hard to deliver the services and benefits they deserve. That is why I am proud to tell our Legions in York Region that economic action plan 2015 includes many improvements for veterans, such as enhanced benefits for severely disabled and part-time reserve force veterans and increased support for family caregivers. It includes a new critical injury benefit to compensate eligible Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans for the immediate consequences of very severe and traumatic injuries sustained in the line of duty.

We also propose to expand life benefits to veterans to compensate for the loss of employment potential and career advancement opportunities caused by disabilities suffered while serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. Economic action plan 2015 would improve the ratio of case managers and veterans to 30 to 1 so that veterans would receive the level of individualized care they need and deserve.

Our government will continue to stand up for veterans and provide them and their families the much-needed services and assistance they need. Now that they have completed their service to our country, it is time for us to provide the services to them that they deserve.

I want to speak a little about expanding new markets.

International trade and investment are vital to the continued growth of the Canadian economy and the prosperity of people and businesses across Canada. Access to foreign markets and the reduction of trade barriers are essential to helping Canadian exporters grow. That is why we have worked hard since taking office in 2006 to conclude free trade agreements with 38 countries, bringing Canada's total to 43. Before our Conservative government and the leadership of our Prime Minister, there were only five. Now there are 43 trade agreements with countries around the world.

The Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement, for example, would provide preferred access to the world's largest and most lucrative market of more than 500 million consumers in 28 countries. It would provide access to a market of $17 trillion, adding $12 billion to Canada's GDP and potentially creating 80,000 additional Canadian jobs. In fact, because of our government's determined actions, Canada has preferential access to more than half of the world's markets.

To assist Canadian companies to take advantage of these new global opportunities, economic action plan 2015 would provide $152 million in trade promotion investments. This money would be used to create a new export market development program and support Canadian firms with on-the-ground intelligence and practical advice on foreign markets. These investments would help the businesses in my riding and businesses across the country take advantage of these new and exciting trade opportunities.

We know that a safe and clean environment supports a high quality of life and contributes to a strong economy. That is why our government has taken significant action to protect the environment. Specific proposals include $75 million for the Species at Risk Act, $2 million to protect salmon habitat, $30 million to extend the recreational fisheries conservation program, $34 million to support weather warning services in the Arctic, $491.8 million to assess and manage risks to human health, and so forth.

The Oak Ridges Moraine is an ecologically significant land form that runs through 32 municipalities, including Aurora, Oak Ridges and Richmond Hill, and nine conservation authorities. Often referred to as the “rain barrel of southern Ontario”, it forms the headwaters of 65 streams, and directly and indirectly delivers clean drinking water to millions of people.

I could go on and on about the many measures in the budget pertaining to our environment and the measures to enhance our national security, but in the interests of time I would be pleased to field questions from the hon. members here.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, here he is, trying to say that this would be the best budget ever. Well, let us be very clear: over and over again, we have seen the government put through omnibus budgets containing items that do not even belong in a budget bill.

I am from Ontario and I can say that what we see for Ontario in this budget once again demonstrates that the Conservatives just do not understand the priorities of Ontario. Hundreds of thousands of good manufacturing jobs have disappeared. During question period we indicated how many more have disappeared under the current government's watch, yet the Conservatives have offered the barest minimum of support for manufacturing and have failed to build a balanced economy.

We heard the Conservatives saying during question period that they are the protectors of jobs and job creators. If that is the case, why are we losing so many jobs in Canada under their watch?

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member was not listening to the answers in question period. If she had been, she would have heard that we have created over 1.2 million jobs since the depth of the global economic downturn. I might add that 80% of those jobs are full time, of which two-thirds are in high-wage sectors.

Like her, I am also a member of Parliament from Ontario. In fact, there are 76 Conservative members of Parliament from Ontario. We are here and we are fighting hard for our constituents every single day.

I want to bring to the member's attention page 379 of the budget document that every member of Parliament was given the day the hon. Minister of Finance presented it to the House. If the member looked there, she would see the four major transfers to the provinces. This is a key point for my hon. colleague from Ontario opposite. The transfers will amount to almost $68 billion in 2015-16. In fact, I will inform the hon. member that the federal transfers to the Province of Ontario have increased from $10.8 billion in 2006, when the Conservative Party took over as government of this country, to over $20 billion this year.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, this Conservative budget will go down in history as one of those budgets that truly favours Canada's wealthy, at a great cost to the middle class of Canada and those aspiring to become a part of Canada's middle class.

The best example that comes to mind offhand has to be income splitting. Less than 15% of Canada's population would benefit from it, and that 15% are Canada's wealthiest.

Let us contrast that to the Liberal plan, which proposes a 7% tax cut across the board for Canada's middle class. We would argue that even the wealthiest Canadians recognize that at times we need to assist our middle class by giving them a tax break. A healthy middle class means a strong, healthy economy. Would the member not agree?

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will not contrast a balanced budget that is delivering to every single family in this country from coast to coast to coast with a Liberal plan that is not balanced and not costed and has a $3 billion hole in it. It is a wishy little pre-election document that the Liberals are promising people over just a couple of months. They have had four years to talk in this House about the things that could be done. Now they have brought out a plan that is not balanced and they expect us to contrast it with something that has delivered proven results for Canadians.

I would say this to the member. This budget will go down in history, but it will go down in history for helping families and communities prosper. We propose to increase the tax-free savings account annual contribution to $10,000, and 11 million Canadians have already availed themselves of this important program.

I also want to mention family support. The member spoke about income splitting, which would help families in which one parent is not earning as much money as the other. They can save up to $2,000 on their taxes. Every single family with children will benefit—not some, as would happen under the Liberals' convoluted plan. Every family with children under the age of six would receive $1,920 per year, and every family with children between the ages of six to 17 would receive $720.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to outline some of the reasons I will be supporting our government's budget and its budget implementation bill, Bill C-59.

Before I go into the details about the new investments and the tax relief the budget proposes and how Bill C-59 would make this happen, I want to stress how important it is that our government has had all of these significant achievements while balancing the budget. An election promise made is an election promise kept.

As a result of our government's fiscal management, our country emerged from the recession faster and stronger than virtually any other advanced economy. When the recession ended, we charted a course to a balanced budget, but not by following the Liberal approach to budget management of making drastic, sudden cuts to social and health care transfers, or by raising taxes. Instead, we did the opposite, increasing provincial transfers to record levels to help the provinces get their fiscal houses in order and lowering taxes to put money back into the pockets of families and small businesses.

To the first point, Alberta alone would receive $5.5 billion in transfers this year, which would be an increase of 145% over those of the previous Liberal government.

We then focused on controlling operating expenses for federal departments by reviewing all spending to make government operations more efficient. Using this approach, since the height of the great recession the deficit has been reduced from $55.6 billion to a surplus of $1.4 billion for 2015-16.

Due to the growth in Canada's economy and the elimination of the deficit, our total government net debt burden is the lowest of any G7 nation and among the lowest of the advanced G20 countries.

As a result of our efforts, our government has been able to cut taxes 180 times, resulting in our country's lowest tax burden since the 1950s.

To ensure that Canada keeps its fiscal house in order, economic action plan 2015 includes a number of important measures to help Canada stay on the right track, most notably through balanced budget legislation.

Part 3, on page 38 of Bill C-59, presents the framework for this balanced budget legislation by mandating that should Canada again enter into deficit, the finance minister would be required to testify before the House of Commons Committee on Finance within 30 days and present a plan, with concrete timelines, to return to balanced budgets.

Moreover, should the deficit be due to a recession or other extraordinary circumstances, operating spending would be frozen, as would the salaries of cabinet ministers and deputy ministers government-wide.

If, on the other hand, the deficit was due to mismanagement, operating budgets would be frozen automatically, and the salaries of cabinet ministers and deputy ministers alike would be reduced by 5%.

This approach would ensure that increases in spending that might be required to respond to a recession, war, or some natural disaster would be temporary, targeted, and timely.

In central Alberta, one of the key pillars of our local economy is agriculture. This budget, like previous ones, would continue to support agriculture and farmers in our great region and throughout all of Canada.

Agriculture is truly the backbone of our nation. As a farmer, I understand the difficulties individuals in the agriculture sector face. Economic action plan 2015 would embrace the economic importance of agriculture by increasing the lifetime capital gains exemption to $1 million for farmers and fishermen, allowing them to keep more of their lifelong earnings for retirement.

Additionally, this budget would provide funding to the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Market Access Secretariat, allowing the agriculture sector to take advantage of new free trade deals to expand and diversify into new markets.

The economic action plan of 2015 would build upon previous support for farmers and agriculture, including over $3 billion in investment, including provincial and territorial contributions, toward innovation, competitiveness, and market development for Canada's agricultural sector under Growing Forward 2.

We have also fully delivered on our government's commitment to marketing freedom by increasing marketing choice for western Canadian grain farmers by facilitating the commercialization of the Canadian Wheat Board, which will ensure a strong and competitive grain handling and shipping network across Canada.

Another major issue that is quite close to my heart is, of course, our government's support for seniors. Through this budget, our government has proposed a number of changes to help make seniors' lives better and to help them stay in their homes longer.

Having just a small amount of time, I can only focus on a few of the many policy initiatives our government has proposed. The first I would like to speak to is the increase in the tax-free savings account.

Seniors have embraced the tax-free savings account for their saving needs. This budget, through the BIA, proposes to increase the annual contribution limit to $10,000. This, coupled with changes to RRSP withdrawal amounts, would provide seniors with even greater opportunities to manage their life savings.

As of the end of 2013, nearly 11 million individuals had opened TFSAs, and the total value of assets held in TFSAs was nearly $120 billion. While the opposition continues to spread misinformation that the TFSA accounts are only for the rich, the facts cannot be overlooked. In the income category of $20,000 to $25,000, over 124,000 Canadians maxed out their limit. Of those who have maxed out their TFSAs, 60% earn less than $60,000. Some 856,000 Canadians aged 65 and over have maxed out their contributions, and another 1.3 million 55 and older have done the same. Close to 2. 7 million seniors had TFSAs by the end of 2013, and 60% of seniors who had TFSAs earned less than $40,000.

I think this is clear proof of how tax-free savings accounts are beneficial for all Canadians and are especially embraced by seniors and middle- to low-income individuals.

The second major policy change to support seniors I want to focus on is one that would help seniors stay in their homes longer. This is important and much needed, because as seniors age, their homes become increasingly less accessible, and they are often forced to move into more accessible housing, such as retirement and nursing homes. This can be incredibly difficult and stressful.

Our government recognizes the challenges seniors face in remaining mobile and independent and as a result has introduced a new home accessibility tax credit. This proposed tax credit would be for home improvements that would allow a senior or a person eligible for a disability tax credit to be more mobile, safe, and functional within his or her own home. This 15% non-refundable income tax credit would apply to up to $10,000 in eligible home renovation expenditures, providing up to $1,500 in tax relief. Through the home accessibility tax credit, Canadian seniors would be able to stay in their homes longer, I cannot stress enough how important that is.

The last initiative I want to talk about is the extension of the employment insurance compassionate care benefit from six weeks to six months. This is important to all Canadians, because from time to time, a large number of Canadians are forced to leave their jobs to take care of their loved ones. This can put a huge financial stress on families. Our government has recognized this problem, and through economic action plan 2015, an allocation of up to $37 million has been made annually to extend employment insurance compassionate care benefits. This would help reduce the stress at a very stressful time and help families help themselves.

In summary, it is clear that our government's economic action plan of 2015 and this budget implementation act, which sets the framework for legislative change, would be beneficial for all Canadians.

Our expanded limit for tax-free savings accounts of $10,000 would allow hard-working Canadians to save more.

Farmers throughout Canada would continue to benefit from our aggressive trade policy, which has opened up new markets that will help grow our agriculture sector and our economy as a whole. The increase in the lifetime capital gains exemption would give farmers and fisherman more money they can use for retirement.

Through our balanced budget legislation, future generations would not live in fear of being saddled with irresponsible spending and mountains of debt.

All in all, this entire budget is something to be proud of, and I encourage members of the opposition to join me in supporting it.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I am always surprised to hear members on the government side brag about so-called family measures. I would like to draw my colleague's attention to two regular columnists for Les Affaires, a very reputable business newspaper in Quebec. These columnists are both tax experts. Dany Provost's editorial was called “Conservative budget: nothing impressive”. He warned families that there were pitfalls associated with the new universal child care benefit, the UCCB. He told people not to spend the cheque coming in July on their summer vacation since they will have to pay a big chunk come tax time next year. Josée Jeffrey, a tax expert and financial auditor, said that the UCCB was all smoke and mirrors. I would like to know whether my colleague agrees with the opinions of these financial planning and tax experts.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not agree with their comments. Of course, I do not mean the opposition's comments particularly but the comments of the person the member was quoting. I have heard it mentioned by the Liberals that if we give people money, they are going to spend it on popcorn and beer. I have heard that, but I have not seen that from any credible source anywhere else.

It is rather important that people recognize some of the help that is going to be there for Canadians and certainly for families with children. One of the things we continue to hear, which I do not think people recognize, is that increasing the child care expense deduction dollar limit would allow more money to come into a family unit. If it was increased by $1,000 for every child, which is part of the budget implementation act, it would also help on the other side. The concept is that those who have less money would be taxed less, so there will be more dollars in their pockets.

I have trust in Canadians to handle their funds.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, maybe I could give the member a clear example of why the Conservative budget is unfair in its taxation policy.

Let us use the tax-free savings account as the example. Of people who make between $20,000 and $40,000 a year, between 5% and 6% would actually max out the benefits of that tax break. For people making over $200,000 a year, it would be well over 30% and would probably closer to about 36%. What they are doing is providing a tax break that the wealthiest in Canada are going to be able to take advantage of. Not very many of the constituents I represent have an extra $10,000 kicking around the house that they can invest in a TFSA. That is where Canadians sense that the government of Canada is not being fair.

I am wondering if the member can explain to my constituents and Canadians why he believes that what I just said is wrong, because it is true.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the member opposite, it is not true.

Those who do not have a lot money also do not have a lot of opportunities or a lot of instruments for saving. This is one they can look at and deal with. We can see that it happens. When seniors are being forced to take money out of other various financial instruments, they want some place to put it. They are not necessarily going to be spending it all at that point, so they need to have that type of flexibility. It is important to recognize that.

All one has to do is go through the numbers. I went through that. I said that of the total number of people who have maxed out their TFSAs, 60% earned less than $60,000. That is $5,500 per year they have been putting in maxing out their TFSAs. There are lots of other opportunities for investments for some of his friends, I guess, who are in that $200,000-plus club, but they will not be using a TFSA as their main instrument for investment.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Consular

Mr. Speaker, many of us have come here on a commitment of fiscal management and we want to see government balance its books. It is important to us that the amount of income coming to the government is what it spends. I just want to take a minute and ask this for the member for Red Deer.

The member had outlined that our government achieved a balanced budget using a very different method from the one the previous Liberal government used. I wonder if he could explain a bit further what he meant by that.

In light of the comments of the Liberal member opposite here, I think the Liberals really have a hard time accepting the fact that they should allow Canadians to save their own money and spend their own money. They seem to want to claw that back from them. Does the member know anything about Liberal clawbacks and their trying to claw money back from Canadians?

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, sadly I know a lot of that, after having been a hospital board member and chairman for a number of years, back in the 1990s when the money was ripped out of the provincial coffers for social programs, as well as for health care. It was masterfully done, though, because if we ever listen to anybody at this point in time, they will say, “Remember how Ralph Klein destroyed the health care in Alberta”. It is not true. The dollars were taken away from the province by the Liberal government, and this is an issue that can never be let go.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-59 today, the Conservatives' latest omnibus budget bill.

Bill C-59 comes from an old tired government that has completely lost touch with Canadians.

It is clear that today, as I share my time with the member for Ottawa—Vanier, we both agree that the government has to do more to create jobs and growth.

This morning we received yet another reminder of that. Thousands of workers—in fact, 1,500—at Bombardier in Montreal and Toronto are to be let go. This is not an isolated incident. It is part of a long-term trend of stagnant economic growth and a flatlined labour market.

In fact, we have 169,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians today than in 2008. We have twice the number of long-term unemployed in Canada, the people who are unemployed for over a year. In fact, in my riding and part of the riding next door, Kings County, Hants County, and Annapolis County, in that Stats Canada catchment area, unemployment has gone from 4.8% in 2008 to 11.6% today. There are 10,000 fewer jobs in Kings County, Hants County, and Annapolis County than in 2008.

Too many Canadians have been laid off or face having to replace full-time work with part-time jobs. This legislation does next to nothing to help those Canadians. Canada needs a government with a plan to help create jobs and growth. The Canadian economy has not just stalled; it is in reverse. According to Stats Canada, our economy has actually been shrinking in 2015.

Unfortunately, this legislation does not have a plan for jobs and growth and does not do anything to strengthen Canada's struggling middle class. Instead, the Conservatives have bundled together a large number of unrelated measures that simply do not belong in a budget bill. I would like to give a few examples.

Bill C-59 makes retroactive changes to exempt long gun registry data from Canada's information and privacy laws. That seems like an odd provision in a budget bill. What is more worrisome is that this morning the Information Commissioner revealed the real reason behind this, that she has recommended laying charges against the RCMP, almost two months ago, for withholding and destroying data in the gun registry.

Apparently the RCMP jumped the gun and destroyed the data while legislation to repeal the registry was still before Parliament. That shows a shocking disregard for Parliament, but it is also against the law.

How did the Conservative government react? Richard Nixon would have been proud of the Prime Minister. Instead of listening to the Information Commissioner and laying charges, the Conservatives decided to retroactively rewrite the law. They are using Bill C-59 to go back in time and to make legal what was illegal. In the words of the Information Commissioner, Bill C-59 “sets a perilous precedent against Canadians' quasi-constitutional right to know”.

Bill C-59 also includes other measures that have no business being in a budget bill. It introduces new rules on the use of secret evidence in court as well as the use of biometric information in immigration applications. It establishes the parliamentary protective service and new security force on Parliament Hill. It makes piecemeal changes to the Copyright Act. None of these items belong in a budget bill. None of them have to do with the fiscal framework of the country.

The Conservatives have bundled them together in a single bill in order to limit scrutiny and ram these measures through Parliament in a matter of weeks. The process is sloppy. It leads to mistakes, and inevitably with the government, it will use another omnibus bill to correct the errors from the last omnibus bill. It is a never-ending cycle of Conservative incompetence and disrespect for Parliament.

One example is in the area of income splitting. Bill C-59 includes the Conservatives' fourth attempt at passing the correct income-splitting rules. Canadians already know that this income-splitting scheme is unnecessarily complex. Now we have to follow an 85-step process just to apply.

Now it turns out that the process is so confusing that even the tax experts writing the rules got them wrong the first three times they came to Parliament. On Monday night, a finance official admitted that there is an error in the income-splitting rules.

The Conservatives made a mistake that is shortchanging some families by as much as $750 on their 2014 tax return. It is affecting Canadian families that qualify for both income splitting and the tuition, education, and textbook tax credits.

This error was in the ways and means motion that the House of Commons passed last November. It was there again in the ways and means motion that the House passed on March 25. It showed up a third time in Bill C-57.

This budget bill represents the Conservative government's fourth attempt to get it right. This is the Conservatives' flagship policy. Income splitting is not just unnecessarily complex; it is also unfair, unreliable, and bad for growth. It is unfair because it excludes 85% of Canadian households from any benefit whatsoever. It does nothing to help some of Canada's most vulnerable parents, single parents, or low-income families.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer issued a report showing that high-income families are far more likely to qualify for income-splitting benefits. In fact, families in the top quintile of income are the most likely to qualify. The PBO's report also shows that the average benefits under income splitting rise with family income. Families earning at least $180,000 per year get the highest average benefit. Yet these are exactly the people who need the help the least.

Income splitting is also unreliable. Just because people qualify for it one year does not mean they will benefit the next. The benefit can vanish whenever circumstances change. For example, a family can become disqualified when primary earners lose their job or see their pay drop.

Finally, the PBO has shown that it would actually weaken Canada's economic growth rather than strengthen it. The PBO estimates that income splitting will lead to the equivalent of 7,000 fewer full-time jobs in the Canadian economy.

The Liberals, and the Liberal Party of Canada, have a plan that is fair, simple, and good for the economy. We would replace the Conservatives' income-splitting scheme and a complex array of benefits with a single tax-free monthly cheque that is easier to receive and means more money in the pockets of low- and middle-income families.

Under the Liberal plan for fairness, a typical two-parent family with two children, earning $90,000 per year would receive $490 every month, tax free. That is $2,500 more per year than under the current Conservative plan. A Liberal government would also make the tax system fairer and cut the middle class tax rate by 7%. That is a $3 billion tax cut for those who need it the most.

We would ask the wealthiest Canadians to help, to pay a little more so the middle class can pay less. Canada's middle-class families are tapped out. They are struggling to make ends meet. They have not had a pay raise or a real tax cut to benefit their families in a long time.

Fairness means giving more to the middle class and those working hard to join it. The Conservatives, on the other hand, are only helping those who need the help the least.

Canadians now have two fundamentally different choices. The Conservatives offer tax breaks to the wealthy. We, as Liberals, believe in a country that works for everyone. We believe we can do more for those who need it the most by doing a little less for those who do not need the help.

The Conservatives are out of touch with the challenges faced by middle-class families. They are out of ideas on how to strengthen the economy. Canadians know it is time for change. It is time for a Liberal government with a plan for fairness for Canada's middle class. We will present to Canadians a plan for jobs and growth, investing in infrastructure, investing in people and skills for the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow.

Our priority is clear, we must strengthen those at the heart of our economy, middle-class Canadians who have not had a decent raise in 30 years. We cannot have a sustained long-term economic recovery without a strong middle class.

Liberals will continue to present solutions to grow our economy and to help Canada's struggling middle class. We will give Canadians a real choice for hope for a better future and a plan to actually lead us to that future in October when Canadians have an opportunity to choose a better government.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a little bit rich of the member to say that Canadians want a change and that they want to go back to a Liberal government. We know what the Liberals did when they were in government. We just have to look at all of the spending problems and the sponsorship, which is really not much different from what the Conservative government is doing in wasting taxpayers' dollars. It is in the budget. The Conservatives are increasing their expenses for advertising. That is quite problematic.

What is even more problematic is the fact that the Liberals, like the Conservatives, would put in a tax plan that would only benefit a certain portion of Canadians. Under the Liberal tax plan, somebody who makes $45,000 would get a total of $4.49, while someone making $150,000 would get $670.

I am just wondering if the member can tell me how fair that really is.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I urge the hon. member in her spare time to go to www.liberal.ca. It is our Liberal Party website. If she looks at the Liberal plan for fairness, she will see that a family with two children making a total income of $45,000 per year would receive $4,000 more every single year than they are receiving from the Conservative government right now.

I am not certain on what planet she is spending most of her time, but here on earth and here in Canada, $4,000 for a family making $45,000 a year with two children is a big benefit. I would urge her not just to rely on the NDP talking points, but to go to the source, the Liberal website, where she can see that we have a plan that would benefit low- and middle-income families.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, before I pose my question, I would like to make a comment to the NDP member. One has to be very careful if one throws stones in glass houses. After all, I suspect that more than 50% of her current caucus has allegedly spent tax dollars illegally, which is a very serious offence.

My question for the Liberal member is related to a statement that the leader of the Liberal Party has made in all regions of Canada. He said how important it is that we invest in our middle class, because by investing in our middle class, we are investing in our economy, and a healthy middle class means a healthy economy.

I wonder if the Liberal Party critic could pick up on that point and add some thoughts.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from my colleague from Winnipeg North. We do not hear from him enough in the House, so it is wonderful to hear his mellifluous voice.

It is an important question. The reality is that the leader of the Liberal Party, the member for Papineau, has, over the last three years, focused on Canada's middle class. He has made the challenges faced by Canada's middle class an important issue for debate as we lead up to an election. He was the one who put these issues on the radar of Canadian politics. He is also the first leader to actually present a real plan to help Canada's middle class.

By cutting middle-class taxes, by helping middle-class families with children, we are the only party that has a real plan for fairness and a real plan for jobs and growth. Helping the middle class is one of the best ways to create economic growth. Without a robust middle class, we cannot have a sustained economic recovery or a strong economy.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

4 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the question I have has to do with balancing the books and eliminating the deficit. The reason I am asking is because this is important to Canadians. As MPs, we are asking Canadians to balance their books. They want to see the government balance its books.

The Liberal track record is not a good track record. Just have a look at the Province of Ontario, and I think we will see how challenging it is for a Liberal government to balance the books.

I would like to ask the member if the Liberal Party will commit to having a zero deficit in its budgets, particularly when it is talking about delivering so-called benefits to Canadians. Will it maintain a balanced budget?