Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to participate in the debate on Bill C-241, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act (school authorities).
The bill would increase the goods and services tax rebate rate for school authorities from 68% to 100%.
We oppose this bill for a number of reasons, the main one being that it would result in federal interference in an area under provincial jurisdiction.
If we use this tool to give money to schools, that could be perceived as money given directly to provincial institutions. Why those institutions and not others? How would we decide to whom this change would apply and to whom it would not? I am not saying it must never be done, but it is important to have an organized approach to making these choices rather than doing it randomly.
Furthermore, this bill would be costly: an estimated $190 million in 2016 rising to $220 million by 2021. When the GST was introduced, measures were put in place to ensure equal treatment across the public sector, and that includes school boards. Making arbitrary, unfounded changes to the GST could have unexpected consequences for other levels of government with responsibilities related to primary and secondary school funding.
I would add that the bill is not in line with our government's primary objective, which is to grow the middle class and the economy. Our government has a much more all-encompassing program to stimulate the economy and improve the lives of middle-class Canadian families.
I would like to share some examples of measures in budget 2016 that are already proving their worth.
The government introduced the Canada child benefit, which, I would remind the House, is the most significant social policy innovation in a generation. This benefit is providing families with up to $6,400 per year for each child under the age of six, and up to $5,400 for each child aged six to seventeen. Middle-class Canadian families can use that money to invest in their children's education and well-being. The fact is that nine out of ten families will receive more in child benefits, including 4,000 families in my riding. I would also like to point out that the Canada child benefit is not taxable, which is quite significant.
Another very important measure introduced by our government is the middle-class tax cut, which has helped nearly nine million Canadians.
Our tax cut and Canada child benefit truly are measures that will help the middle class and those working hard to join it by enabling them to save money, invest more, and stimulate the economy right now.
We believe that a strong economy starts with a strong middle class that has access to high-quality jobs. The government introduced additional measures to support that in budget 2016, with a focus on young Canadians and the middle class, who all want to secure sustainable employment, and rightly so.
Everyone agrees that young Canadians need to be adequately prepared to enter the job market today and in the future, and for that they need to have access to education and training.
That is why the government changed the Canada student grants program by increasing the amounts for students from low- to middle-income families. This increase also applies to part-time students. We also expanded the program in order to make more students eligible for it.
We can see the results, as more than 350,000 students will receive more money for their education. In addition to scholarships, many students are eligible for Canada student loans, but sometimes they worry about not being able to pay them back. We are injecting $131.4 million over five years into the repayment assistance plan so that students are not required to start repaying their loans until they are earning at least $25,000 a year.
Theses measures reduce the financial burden on young graduates and offer the future members of the middle class the peace of mind they need to take some time to find a good job.
To help young Canadians find rewarding work early in their career, we are helping them acquire work experience. How are we doing that? The government is creating up to 35,000 additional jobs over each of the next three years through the Canada summer jobs program. This investment will ensure that at least twice as many job opportunities are supported under the program.
Budget 2016 is about the middle class and those working hard to join it. As I said earlier, it includes measures for young people, as we just saw, but also for pensioners, as I will demonstrate shortly.
The government worked with the provinces to strengthen the Canada pension plan, the CPP, so that young people can retire with dignity when the time comes. This collaboration with the provinces resulted in an agreement for a more generous pension plan for Canadians.
CPP benefits will increase from one-quarter to one-third of eligible earnings. The maximum income covered by the CPP will also increase by 14%. This new system will be phased in over seven years, starting on January 1, 2019, so that the short-term impact is minimal and gradual.
In closing, I would say that the government has a comprehensive policy for middle-class Canadian families. The government is supporting the middle class with tax cuts and the Canada child benefit; it has taken many steps to help Canadians access suitable training and find good jobs; and it is ensuring that Canadians will have more money when they retire.
These are just a few of the social policies that the government is implementing to grow the economy and the middle class. The intention behind Bill C-241 is good. However, the bill does not align with the policy of growing the middle class that is the basis for our efforts to build a Canada that can face all the challenges of this century.