Madam Speaker, it has been just over a year since the previous federal election, and I think we would all agree it has been a tremendous year for all of us in this House. Twelve months ago, many felt the momentum building throughout the country. We were confident in our vision for Canada, and, as it turns out, so were Canadians.
In this past year, especially as a first-time MP, I have been thrilled to be working on behalf of Canadians, helping to impact their lives for the better. It is a pleasure for me to rise in this chamber and speak about the investments that the Government of Canada will be making to keep Canada and its people strong and growing for the long term.
Canada is one of the first countries in the world to put into practice the idea that when you have an economy that works for the middle class, you have a country that works for everyone.
In the last year we took some important steps towards helping families regain the confidence they will need to drive our economy forward. We cut taxes for close to nine million Canadians, and we introduced the Canada child benefit, which puts more money in the pockets of nine out of ten families with children.
We increased Canada student grants for students from low- and middle-income families and for part-time students. We increased monthly payments for the most vulnerable seniors. We signed an agreement with the provinces to enhance the Canada pension plan to provide young people and future generations of workers with a stable, dignified retirement.
We have also begun making unprecedented investments that will help the middle class grow and prosper today, while delivering economic growth for years to come.
We will continue to build on this momentum.
This second budget implementation act proposes items that will complete the implementation of outstanding measures from the Government of Canada's first budget, growing the middle class.
As a government, we are particularly proud of our first budget. This is a budget that puts people and family first. It introduces investments that take an essential step to growing the middle class. It is the first step of a long-term plan to restore hope and revitalize the economy for the benefit of all Canadians. This is a budget and a plan that is not only resonating with Canadians, but is gathering international praise around the world as well.
The Financial Times called Canada's approach a glimmer of light. The Wall Street Journal called our finance minister “the poster child” for the International Monetary Fund's global growth strategy. Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, praised our approach as well. At the recent IMF annual meetings, Madame Lagarde said, “Look at Canada.... They're using all possible levers to move the needle towards positive and more growth”. That is what all countries can do.”
Our budget earned these endorsements. I firmly believe that we as a government are focused on exactly the right things: on people, and on growing the economy for the long term in a way that will benefit all Canadians.
The bill before us today, budget implementation act, 2016, No. 2, completes the implementation of the measures we introduced in budget 2016. It provides additional assistance to the people who are the heart of our economy, Canada's middle class.
The bill we are debating today will help foster a strong Canadian economy and will enable Canadians in the middle class and those working hard to join it to keep more of their money to save, invest, and ensure economic growth.
This bill includes measures that will help families, give seniors a little more flexibility, protect consumers, and improve the quality and integrity of our country's tax system.
One of the cornerstones of our plan to strengthen the middle class is also a cornerstone of our first budget. In budget 2016, we introduced the new Canada child benefit. This benefit will help parents better support what is most precious to them, their children.
The Canada child benefit is simpler and more generous than the benefits it is replacing. It is also tax free and better targeted to help those who need it most in our society.
The Canada child benefit will lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty in Canada. That is because since the benefit was first rolled out in July, nine out of ten families are now receiving more money than they did under the previous system.
Whether that extra money is being used to buy school supplies, groceries, or warm coats for the winter, the Canada child benefit will help parents cover the growing cost of raising their children.
Let me explain how this benefit will help Canadian families. Parents of children under 18 will receive a maximum annual benefit of $6,400 per child under six and $5,400 per child aged six through 17.
Supporting this budget implementation bill will help ensure that the Canada child benefit will be indexed to inflation, so that families can count on this extra assistance today and for years to come.
This budget implementation act would also support seniors by helping them to retire in more comfort and with dignity. Canada's retirement income system has been successful in reducing the incidence of poverty among Canadian seniors. However, some seniors continue to be at heightened risk of living with low income. In particular, single seniors are nearly three times more likely to live with low incomes than seniors generally. Budget 2016 would help seniors retire comfortably and with dignity by making significant new investments that support them in their retirement years.
In budget 2016, we repealed the provision of the Old Age Security Act that increased the age of eligibility for old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits from 65 to 67 years of age and allowance benefits from 60 to 62 over the 2023 to 2029 period. Restoring the eligibility age for old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits to 65 will put thousands of dollars back into the pockets of Canadians as they become seniors and look to retire. That is the right thing to do.
Budget 2016 also increased the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit by up to $947 annually for the most vulnerable single seniors, starting in July 2016. This is helping those seniors who rely almost exclusively on old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits, and may therefore be at risk of experiencing financial difficulties.
These enhancements more than double the current maximum guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit and represent a 10% increase in the total maximum guaranteed income supplement benefits available to the lowest income single seniors in our country. This measure represents an investment of over $670 million per year and will improve the financial security of about 900,000 single seniors across our nation.
In this second budget implementation bill, we are delivering on the promise we made in budget 2016 to support senior couples who face higher costs of living and are at an increased risk of poverty because they must live apart.
This second budget implementation bill amends the Old Age Security Act in order to make the program more flexible. When couples who are receiving the guaranteed income supplement and the spouse's allowance have to live apart for reasons beyond their control, each of them will receive benefits based on their individual income.
By extending this treatment to couples receiving the guaranteed income supplement and spouse's allowance, the government is improving fairness for seniors and helping them live with the dignity they deserve and need in retirement.
Canadians deserve financial consumer protection that keeps pace with people's needs. In line with this, budget 2016 contains plans to strengthen and modernize the financial consumer protection framework.
Budget implementation act, 2016, No. 2 would amend the Bank Act in order to strengthen and modernize the financial consumer protection framework in our country. The financial sector plays an important role in supporting economic growth in this nation. Each day, the nation's financial institutions support the financial needs of consumers and large and small businesses, and enable payments and transactions. They form the infrastructure of our market system.
Canada's financial sector weathered the 2008 financial crisis well. We are seeking to build on this strength. We want to make sure that the financial sector is able to adapt to new trends, including emerging financial innovation and technologies that will challenge existing business models, evolving consumer preferences and customer relationships, changing demographics, and continuing globalization.
Budget 2016 proposes to modernize the financial consumer protection framework by clarifying and enhancing consumer protection in the Bank Act, and working with stakeholders to support the implementation of the framework. This legislation proposes to consolidate and streamline existing consumer provisions into one chapter of the Bank Act, and introduce amendments to the Bank Act to enhance consumer protection in the areas of access to basic banking services' business practices, disclosure, complaints handling, as well as corporate governance and accountability.
The federal government is showing leadership by implementing targeted measures to better protect consumers of financial products and services in Canada. These measures include improving access to basic banking services, setting limits on certain business practices, and improving disclosure of information to make it easier for consumers to make informed choices. These reforms reiterate the federal government's intent to have a system of exclusive consumer protection rules to ensure an efficient national banking system across the country.
Fairness is one of Canadians' fundamental values. That is why the government of Canada committed to implement an action plan to combat international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance that contains new measures and builds on the efforts that are currently being made both here in Canada and abroad. This work will help protect the tax base and boost Canadians' confidence in the fairness of a system that ensures that everyone pays their fair share of the tax burden.
As part of an international effort to combat tax evasion, budget 2016 confirms the government's intention to implement the common reporting standard developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD. Under the common reporting standard, Canadian financial institutions will be expected to have procedures in place to identify accounts held by non-residents and to report information on those accounts to the Canada Revenue Agency.
Tax administrations in foreign jurisdictions will likewise collect information from their financial institutions about accounts held by residents of other countries, including Canada. The CRA will formalize exchange arrangements with foreign jurisdictions, having verified that each jurisdiction has appropriate capacity and safeguards in place. Then the financial account information will begin to be exchanged on a reciprocal bilateral basis.
The introduction of the common reporting standard is an important global development, which will help enhance tax compliance and eliminate opportunities for tax evasion in our country. Canada intends to implement the standard consistent with our commitment to the G-20 and similar commitments by more than 100 other jurisdictions.
The budget also announced plans to implement a new requirement for country-by-country reporting. This is an initiative agreed to under the G20/0ECD project to address tax avoidance by multinational enterprises through base erosion and profit shifting.
Under these new rules, large multinational enterprises will be required to file information with tax authorities providing a high-level profile of their activities in each jurisdiction in which they operate. These reports will enhance transparency and assist tax administrations in performing effective risk assessments.
Going forward, Canada will continue to work with the international community to ensure a coherent and consistent response to tax avoidance. In addition to these new legislative tools, budget 2016 also announced $444 million in new resources for the Canada Revenue Agency to address offshore tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.
In conclusion, budget 2016 represents a giant step forward in our plan to put people first and to deliver the help they need now while investing for the years and decades to come. With these investments, and inspired by a sense of fairness, we are ensuring that Canada's best days lie ahead. Our plan is about creating the necessary conditions to ensure that hope and hard work will not be wasted but will be rewarded in this country where our children and our grandchildren can flourish.
The Government of Canada is focused on the larger picture of ensuring prosperity for Canadians well beyond its 150th birthday. I therefore encourage all members in the House to support the bill. This is right for Canada. This is right for families. This is right for the middle class.