Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise today to comment on this budget implementation act.
Canada is a country built upon optimism, often in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. However, this promise of a better life has been eroding in recent decades. The reality is that many middle-class Canadians have had their confidence shaken. While our economy continues to grow, middle-class Canadians are struggling. Many Canadians are working harder and longer as the cost of living continues to rise. Middle-class Canadians just do not feel as though they are getting ahead.
It is time to recapture the hope and optimism for the future that existed in previous generations. We must embrace the spirit of those early founders and build upon their legacy by providing the same opportunities for advancement and mobility they once unlocked. We already possess the keys to this future.
Canadians are among the most highly educated people in the world, ranking among the top of all members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. More than half of Canadians have a post-secondary degree. We are world-renowned for scientific research and discovery, and can often be found on the cutting edge of the clean technologies emerging right now on the world stage. We have abundant natural resources, outmatched only by the resourcefulness and diversity of our people.
With interest rates at record lows, now is the time to make the investments that will invigorate the heart of our Canadian economy, our middle class and those working hard to join it.
This is no small undertaking. The challenges this budget identified cannot be solved in one year, but we can and must take the next steps that will focus on growing the economy for the long term, in ways that will benefit every Canadian. The legislation we are debating today, budget implementation act, 2016, No. 2 will complete the measures we introduced in budget 2016.
This is a budget that offers a fresh boost to the core of Canada's economy, Canada's middle class. The bill we are debating today will build a strong economy for Canada, and it will give the middle class and those working hard to join it more money in their pockets to save, invest, and grow the economy.
This bill includes measures that build on Canada's economic and fiscal strength. It offers help for the middle class. It includes measures that protect consumers. It ensures tax fairness and integrity.
I would also like to discuss Canada's economic and fiscal strength. As I mentioned, many middle class and other Canadians are working harder but not getting ahead. There is a growing consensus in Canada and globally that governments need to invest, not only to boost economic growth in the short term but also to set the stage for long-term growth as well.
Canada has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio of any G7 country, and interest rates are at historic lows. Now is the ideal time for Canada to invest in its future success.
I also want to talk about what this budget does to help the middle class. Obviously we can all agree, I would hope, that a strong economy starts with a strong middle class. When middle-class Canadians have more money to save, to invest, and to spend, everyone benefits. A strengthened middle class means that hard-working Canadians can look forward to a good standard of living and better prospects for their kids and grandchildren. When we have an economy that works for the middle class, we have a country that works for everyone. We must do for our kids and grandkids what our parents and grandparents did for us.
Also important when it comes to growing the middle class is making sure that we help young Canadians succeed. Budget 2016 makes post-secondary education more affordable for students from low and middle-income families and will make it easier for students to repay student debt. It will also help young Canadians gain the much-needed experience and income they need, and to be in a position to find good jobs after graduation.
Now more than ever, it is important that post-secondary education remains affordable and accessible. Young Canadians must have access to meaningful work at the beginning of their careers and must not be burdened by increasing student debt. Budget 2016 will address these concerns.
Budget 2016 also improves the employment insurance regime. Canada's employment insurance program provides economic security to Canadians when they need it most. Whatever the circumstances, no Canadian should struggle to get the assistance they need. To make sure that Canadians get the help when they need it, several changes are being proposed to the EI system. Changes to eligibility rules will make it easier for new workers and those re-entering the workforce to claim benefits. The waiting period will also be reduced from two weeks to one week, providing unemployed workers with hundreds of dollars more at the time they need it most.
Budget 2016 will also improve the quality of life of seniors. The government, through budget 2016, will make significant new investments to support seniors in their retirement years. Increased benefits will ensure that Canadian seniors have a dignified, comfortable, and secure retirement.
Budget 2016 also has measures to support Canada's veterans. The Government of Canada has a social covenant with veterans and their families. It is a sacred obligation that we must meet with respect and gratitude. Our veterans have dedicated their lives to the defence of our country and they deserve our unwavering support, as I am sure all members of the House agree.
The government will give back to veterans who have given so much in service to all Canadians. Canada will restore critical access to services for veterans and ensure the long-term financial security of disabled veterans. Canada's veterans will receive more local, in-person government services, as well as better access to case managers. Our veterans deserve nothing less.
Budget 2016 also includes many measures to help protect consumers. Canadians deserve financial consumer protection in banking that keeps pace with their needs. In line with this, budget 2016 contains plans to strengthen and modernize the financial consumer protection framework, by proposing to amend the Bank Act.
Canada's financial sector was resilient enough to weather the 2008 financial crisis, and 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. What this legislation proposes to do is consolidate and streamline existing consumer provisions into one new chapter of the Bank Act, and to introduce amendments to the Bank Act to enhance consumer protection in the areas of access to basic banking services, business practices, disclosure, complaint handling, as well as corporate governance and complaints and accountability.
The federal government is exercising leadership by taking targeted steps to strengthen financial consumer protection. This includes measures to improve access to basic banking services, impose certain limits on business practices, and enhance disclosure to facilitate and inform the decisions being made by consumers. These reforms reaffirm our government's intent to have a system of exclusive rules for consumer protection to ensure an efficient national banking system from coast to coast to coast.
The budget also does much to ensure tax fairness and integrity. A fundamental Canadian value is one of fairness. This is why the Government of Canada is committed to a plan of action to combat international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance that strengthens existing efforts at home and abroad and includes new measures.
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 administration 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 the 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 to enhance tax compliance and eliminate the opportunities for tax evasion.
In addition to this new legislative tool, budget 2016 also announced $444 million in new resources for the Canada Revenue Agency to address tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.
Going forward, Canada will continue to work with the international community to ensure a coherent and consistent response to tax avoidance.
Budget 2016 and the budget implementation legislation are an important step, not only in the life of this government, but in growing Canada's economy, preparing the Canadian economy for the future. To do this, Canadians know that our government must invest in infrastructure and innovation, but, most importantly, invest in Canadians.
During the campaign, all of us were successful in being elected. Our success was due in part to listening to the voters in our own ridings; otherwise none of us, whatever side of the aisle we happen to be on, would be in the chamber today. We listened to Canadians. I certainly did.
In my riding of Newmarket—Aurora there was concern with what was happening. There was concern about whether or not people's children and grandchildren would have the same opportunities that we had. The budget clearly addresses many of those concerns.
Let us look for a minute at the Canada child benefit, which is an important social policy and also an important economic policy. There are nine out of ten Canadian families who are now receiving more through this child benefit than they were receiving previously. The effect that this has, among other things, is that 300,000 young Canadians will be lifted out of poverty. That is 300,000 young people with more hope for the future. That is 300,000 young people who can participate more fully in the lives of their communities. That is 300,000 more people who can participate in the opportunity that Canada offers to all of our young people. This is important, and it should not be overlooked.
There are people in my riding to this day who stop me and thank me for our government having taken this measure. I am fortunate to live in a riding that is relatively affluent, but, even among that affluence, there are pockets of need and pockets of want.
A few weeks ago, I was honoured to attend the opening of the Newmarket Food Pantry in my riding, and I was speaking with the executives and the great volunteers of that organization. They told me that even though it is located in the community of Newmarket, which has so much wealth and prosperity, more people use the Newmarket Food Pantry every month. The need continues to grow. None of us want that trend to continue. This is just one example of where some Canadians were feeling left out and left behind.
I was fortunate at that Newmarket Food Pantry to be asked to say a few words. I was a little overwhelmed by many of the clients at the food pantry. These are hard-working Canadians. These are Canadians who struggle. Many of them are single parents, many are single moms. I do not think anyone would not sympathize with people in this situation. The Canada child benefit helps the exact people that it is intended to help.
As I said, someone asked me to say a few words. I said that I would love to be around on the day that instead of celebrating the opening of the new expanded food pantry, we are celebrating the closing of the doors of the food pantry, not only in Newmarket, but in all of our communities, all food banks. Until that time, it is great to have volunteers and the great people who run these facilities. However, it would be much better to not need these facilities at all. I know everyone in the House agrees with that sentiment.
That is why the Canada child benefit is so important. It helps people who need it most. I can think of nothing more Canadian than that, and that is one facet of the budget that I am very proud of. We see it every day. However, the budget is just the first step in our plan. Of course, there is much more work to be done.
The other facet I am very eager about is the investment in infrastructure. The municipalities in my riding are growing very quickly, and they cannot keep up with the population surge. There is a gap in infrastructure needs, not only highways and sewers and waste water, but even things such as broadband. We have many small and medium enterprises, but even though we are half an hour or 45 minutes north of Toronto, we have issues with connectivity. That needs to be addressed, in all regions of the country. If we want to be part of the technological economy of the future, we have to make sure we invest now. There is also the infrastructure such as highways, transportation, sewage, and waste water, or any of these great infrastructure investments. Budget 2016 realizes that. There is much work to be done.
In the few minutes I have left, I want to discuss why this is a good time to invest. As I mentioned earlier, interest rates are at an all-time low. This is the time to borrow money, but it is not a time to spend recklessly. The borrowed money must be invested prudently, and it must be invested with the view to a return on that investment.
Many Canadians borrow money. Most Canadians borrow money to buy a house, a car. These are necessities. Therefore, taking on debt for important investments and expenses and the fundamental essentials of life is a prudent way of running one's household finances. The same applies to government.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with borrowing money to invest in important projects that are needed by Canadians and that are needed by the Canadian economy, especially when those investments will yield a return in the future. That is what a responsible government ought to do, and I am proud to be part of a government that is going to do just that. Investing now to build future prosperity for Canadians is something we should all be very proud of, and I know I certainly am.
Budget 2016 represents a strong first step 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. I therefore encourage all members in the House to support the bill.