Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure to rise this morning at third reading of the budget implementation act, no. 2.
This is an act that is going to be transformational for our nation. I am pleased to be speaking this morning to all of my colleagues to ensure their support of this important act, which would put budget 2016 in place.
I am very pleased to rise in the House this morning to talk about the investments the Government of Canada is making to ensure vigorous growth, over the long term, of course, for the benefit of Canada and Canadians.
The Government of Canada's primary goal is not only to ensure economic growth, but to ensure that families, workers, and the most vulnerable in our society benefit from it. We cannot claim to be making progress unless everyone is prospering from what we are creating together in Canada.
There is no doubt that this is a global challenge, one to which Canada must rise with distinction. Unfortunately, hard work is not always synonymous with progress. That is the problem Canadians have asked us to address and that is what we are trying to do with measures like the ones in the budget implementation bill we are looking at today.
Let me elaborate on some of the Government of Canada's first steps. Canada has been one of the first countries in the world to put into practice the idea that when we have an economy that works for the middle class, we indeed have a country that works for everyone. With budget 2016, growing the middle class, and with the recent fall economic statement, the Government of Canada has taken important steps toward restoring the confidence of Canadian families in order to drive our economy forward.
We took a big first step by introducing a middle-class tax cut and raising taxes on the wealthiest 1% to help pay for it.
Thanks to our Canada child benefit, nine out of 10 Canadians families are getting more benefits for their children. On average, they will get almost $2,300 more for the 2016-2017 benefit year. It is helping hundreds of thousands of children get out of poverty. For some families, it could mean more money to spend on skates this winter, or gifts for Christmas. For others, it could mean paying down debt, or saving a little more. That is real progress.
We have also improved retirement security for workers today and for future generations, including signing a historic agreement with the provinces to strengthen the Canada pension plan. We have kept the promises we made to seniors by strengthening the retirement income system. We restored the age of eligibility for the old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits to 65. We also increased the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit for single seniors.
We made it easier for young people from low and middle-income families to go to university or college by boosting Canada student grants, and recent grads now get a break on paying back their Canada student loans until they are earning at least $25,000 per year.
We have also immediately begun investing in our future. The investment we made in the infrastructure needs of our cities and communities creates jobs today, while building Canada's economy for the future. We intend to build on this momentum.
This second budget implementation bill would implement outstanding measures from the government's first budget entitled “Growing the Middle Class”.
The government is very proud of its first budget. This budget makes historic investments that put Canadian families first and represent a vital step in the growth of the middle class.
This is the first step in the long-term plan that will restore hope and revitalize the economy, which will benefit all Canadians.
As already mentioned, this budget, this plan, has been well received by Canadians and is receiving international recognition. The Financial Times called Canada “a glimmer of light”. The Wall Street Journal called Canada the poster child for the IMF's global growth strategy. The managing director of the International Monetary fund, Christine Lagarde, praised the merits of our approach. During the fall meetings of the IMF, Ms. Lagarde stated that all countries could follow Canada's example and mobilize all possible levers to truly tip the scales in the right direction and foster more growth, the type of growth that will benefit all Canadians.
Our budget has been given the thumbs-up because our efforts focus on the right things, which will ensure the growth of Canada's economy.
I will now move to the help we have provided to seniors. This budget implementation act supports our seniors by helping them to retire in more comfort and with dignity, and we are very proud of that. This is what we wish for all of our seniors. This will continue to be a significant priority in our aging society. Canada's retirement income system has been successful in reducing the incidence of poverty among Canadian seniors. However, some seniors continue to be at a heightened risk of living with low income. In particular, single seniors are nearly three times more likely to live with low income than seniors generally. Budget 2016 helps seniors retire comfortably and with dignity by making significant new investments that will support them in their retirement years. This is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.
In budget 2016, we have repealed the provision in the Old Age Security Act that had increased the age of eligibility for the old age security and the guaranteed income supplement benefits from 65 to 67, and for the allowance benefits from 60 to 62 over the 2023-29 period. By reducing the age of eligibility, we have made sure that fewer seniors will retire in poverty. Returning the age of eligibility for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement benefits to 65 years old will put thousands of dollars back into the pockets of Canadians as they age and look to retire.
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 will help those seniors who rely almost exclusively on the old age security and the guaranteed income supplement benefits and who may therefore be at risk of experiencing financial difficulties.
As members can see, we are taking care of seniors, and the most vulnerable seniors in our society in particular. This enhancement more than doubles the current maximum guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit and represents a 10% increase in the total maximum guaranteed income supplement benefits available to the lowest income single seniors. I know that all members of the House recognize this is helping seniors in their own communities. I am sure that every member of the House has met single seniors who will benefit from this measure, and I hope they will support it, because I know that working for single seniors and for seniors generally is one of the top priorities of every member of the House.
This measure represents an investment of over $670 million per year and will improve the financial security of about 900,000 single seniors across Canada. Some 900,000 single seniors will be better off.
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. The second budget implementation bill amends the Old Age Security Act to make the program more flexible.
When couples who are receiving the guaranteed income supplement and spouse's allowance have to live apart for reasons beyond their control, each 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 dignity in retirement.
The Government of Canada has also reached a historic agreement with the provincial governments to enhance the Canada pension plan. This plays a key part in our provision of support for the middle class. The Department of Finance has examined whether families nearing retirement are adequately prepared. We have found that about one in four Canadian families approaching retirement, some 1.1 million families, are at risk of not saving enough to maintain their current standard of living when they retire. The risk is highest for middle-income families. Families without workplace pensions are at an even greater risk of under-saving for retirement. In fact, one-third of these families are at risk.
We are aware of the need to help Canadians save more and that is why we are acting. Saving more will mean they will be more confident about their future and their ability to secure a dignified retirement.
There is a particular concern regarding younger Canadians, who tend to have higher debts than previous generations and who, in most cases, will live longer than previous generations. They face the challenge of securing adequate retirement savings at a time when fewer can expect to work in jobs that include a workplace pension plan. That is why the measures in this law are going to help our younger generation. We talked about seniors and now we are talking about youth. I know that members of the House are very concerned about making sure that our youth can retire in dignity as well.
Let me move now to the protection of consumers in the Bank Act.
Canadians deserve financial consumer protection that keeps pace with their needs. In line with this, the second budget implementation bill would amend the Bank Act in order to strengthen and modernize the financial consumer protection framework. That is a very good thing. It is great news for Canadian consumers. The financial sector plays an important role in supporting Canada's economic growth.
Each day, the nation's financial institutions meet the financial needs of consumers and large and small businesses and make payments and financial transactions possible. They form the infrastructure of our market system. 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 globalization.
Budget 2016 proposes to modernize the financial consumer protection framework by clarifying and enhancing consumer protection in the Bank Act, and we will work with stakeholders to support the implementation of a national framework. The bill proposes to do exactly that. It proposes to consolidate and streamline existing consumer provisions in one new chapter of the Bank Act, 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. That is what consumers want. They want the protection that will be afforded by these new provisions.
The federal government is exercising leadership by taking targeted steps to strengthen financial consumer protection. That is what Canadians have told us. That is what we are doing. These reforms will reaffirm the federal 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. Wherever consumers are and will be during their careers across Canada, they will always find this government on their side to protect their consumer rights.
Let me move to the Canada child benefit.
One of the foundations of our plan to strengthen the middle class is also a foundation of our first budget. In budget 2016, we brought forward 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 child benefit plan that it is replacing. It is also completely tax-free.
Furthermore, it is better targeted to help those who most need it. As I mentioned at the beginning of my presentation, the Canada child benefit will help bring hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty in 2017, compared with 2014. Since the benefit was implemented in July, nine families out of ten are receiving more money than they did under the previous child benefit system. I know that all the parliamentarians here in the House know at least one family in their riding that is going to benefit from the new system. Indeed I think they know hundreds, if not thousands of families, who are going to benefit from it in their ridings. By voting for this bill at third reading, they will be voting to help families in their ridings all across the country.
Whether this extra money is used to buy school supplies, to help pay grocery bills, or to buy warm winter coats, the benefit will help parents all over the country to cover the high costs of raising their children.
Allow me to explain how this benefit will be helping Canadian families. The parents of children under 18 will be receiving up to $6,400 annually for each child under the age of six, and up to $5,400 per child between the ages of six and 17. In supporting this budget implementation act, my esteemed colleagues will be helping to ensure that the Canada child benefit is indexed to inflation starting in 2020, so that families can count on this additional assistance for many years more.
I hope that all parliamentarians in the House will vote in favour of this bill because it is precisely the families in their ridings, the people who sent them to Ottawa, who are going to benefit from it. Whether it is our seniors, our youth or our families, the people who sent them to Ottawa are the people who will be helped thanks to this bill.
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. I know members want to invest in the future and put people first, because those are the same people who sent them to Ottawa.
With these investments, inspired by a sense of fairness, we would ensure that Canada's best days lie ahead. Fairness is about everything we stand for. As government and as all parliamentarians, I am sure, we want to do what is fair for all Canadians: Canadian families, seniors, and youth in each of our ridings. Our plan is about creating the necessary conditions to ensure that hope and hard work will not be wasted but rewarded. I am sure every member believes that is true. People working hard in our country should be rewarded. Growth should be inclusive. This is about inclusive growth.
The measures we present in this bill are about inclusive growth, and I do not believe any member in the House would disagree with inclusive growth in our country, investing in families, in seniors, and in youth, and making sure that when people retire, they can retire with dignity. Those are beliefs and values that I am sure are shared by all members in the House. Our children and grandchildren will remember this historic moment. When they vote, they will remember what was done for them, whether it was investments for their future or inclusive growth in our country. The Government of Canada is focused on the larger picture of ensuring prosperity for Canadians well beyond its 150th birthday.
I will finish by saying that I encourage all members in the House to support this bill, not just because it is the smart thing but because it is the right thing to do for the people who sent them to Ottawa. Their voices are those of families, youth, and seniors who sent them to Ottawa to work for them.