Mr. Speaker, as this is my first opportunity to rise in this House, I would like to thank the good people of Kelowna—Lake Country, British Columbia, for the opportunity to speak on their behalf. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the large group of volunteers who worked tirelessly to make this possible.
Let me begin today's debate by quoting the Minister of Finance directly when he announced the middle-class tax cut earlier:
On October 19th, Canadians gave us a strong mandate to take a new approach. We promised to strengthen the middle class and put more money in their pockets to save, invest and grow the economy. Fundamental to that plan was greater tax fairness for the people who need it most—the middle class.
I could not agree more.
One of the most important components to this tax cut is restoring middle-class economic progress, which is the backbone of our economy. That is why the government tabled a notice of the ways and means motion to cut taxes for the middle class in December. This was the right thing to do and a smart thing for our economy.
The proposed middle-class tax cut and accompanying proposals would help make the tax system fairer so that all Canadians can have an opportunity to succeed and prosper.
The bill specifically proposes to reduce the second personal income tax rate from 22% to 20.5%, to introduce a 33% personal income tax rate on individual income tax that exceeds $200,000, and to return the tax-free savings account annual contribution of $5,500 from $10,000 and reinstate indexation of the TFSA annual contribution limit.
Let me quickly expand on these three points.
First, the personal income tax rate changes are proposed to take effect on January 1. It is expected that nine million Canadians would benefit from this measure in 2016. Single individuals would see an average tax reduction of $330 per year, and couples would see an average reduction of $540 per year.
Second, the government is proposing to introduce a new personal income tax rate of 33% that would apply to individual taxable income rates in excess of $200,000. This means that only Canada's top income earners would be expected to pay more as a result of the government's proposed changes to personal income tax rates. As with other bracketed thresholds, the $200,000 threshold would be indexed to inflation.
Third, the government is proposing to return the tax-free savings account, the TFSA, annual contribution limit to $5,500 from $10,000, effective January 1, 2016. Let me reassure this House that the change would not be retroactive. The TFSA annual contribution limit for 2015 would remain at $10,000. Returning the TFSA annual contribution limit to $5,500 is consistent with the government's objective of making the tax system fairer and helping those who need it the most. When combined with other registered savings plans, a $5,500 TFSA annual contribution limit would permit most individuals to meet their ongoing savings needs in a tax-efficient manner. The indexation of the TFSA annual contribution limit would be reinstated so that the annual limit maintains its real value over time.
The previous government's plan to nearly double the contribution limit to the TFSA could have helped Canada's wealthiest save more while costing the federal treasury several hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years, and some tens of billions of dollars over the long term.
We know that only 6.7% of Canadians eligible for a TFSA contributed the maximum in 2013. Doubling the annual maximum does nothing for the 93.3% of Canadians who do not max out their TFSA contributions at the existing limit of $5,500 per year. That is the real point here. We have talked about this almost exhaustively all day, that very few Canadians take advantage of this, so raising it makes no sense.
Our government is committed to making the tax system fairer and finding ways to support those who need it most.
Finally, I would like to highlight some of the other measures that are included in today's legislation. Today's bill proposes to change the current flat top rate taxation rules applicable to trusts to use the new rate of 33%.
The bill proposes to set the tax on split incomes at the new rate of 33%.
It would amend the charitable donation tax credit to allow higher-income donors to claim a 33% tax credit on the portion of donations made from income that is subject to the 33% marginal tax rate. It would also increase the special refundable tax and the related refund rate imposed on investment income of private corporations to reflect the proposed new 33% personal income tax rate.
Going forward, the government will introduce proposals in the budget to create a new Canada child benefit. Payments under the new Canada child benefit would begin in July 2016.
In addition to replacing the universal child care benefit under the previous government, which is not tied to income, the proposed Canada child benefit would simplify and consolidate existing child benefits while ensuring that help is better targeted to those who need it the most. Hundreds of thousands of children would be lifted out of poverty and nearly nine out of ten Canadian families would be better off than they were before.
Before I conclude, I would like to very quickly highlight the government's pre-budget consultations, which took place recently and continue.
When we set out to do consultations, we wanted to do a couple of things. The government wanted to involve as many Canadians as possible, and we wanted to do things differently. The numbers really do tell the story. To date, the combined total number of Canadians reached through channels is up to tens of thousands, the highest turnout on record for pre-budget consultations. For example, we opened up the online consultation on January 6. We have already received more than 67,000 web views and more than 3,500 separate submissions from Canadians, individuals, and groups.
The Minister of Finance had three separate live chats with university students, which gave the government valuable insight into the concerns of young Canadians from across Canada. Apparently, in the Dalhousie University Facebook live event alone, the number of people who logged in reached almost 8,000 and since then many more have replayed it online. At the second Facebook live event in Calgary, the government had more than 70,000 people tuning in live. The pre-budget consultation hashtag, #pbc16, is being used widely by Canadians who have great ideas on how to implement our plan to grow the economy and by commentators and MPs from across the political spectrum.
I want to take this opportunity as a member of the government to express many thanks to everyone who has taken the time out of their day to meet with the Minister of Finance and his parliamentary secretary and to share their ideas. It has been a privilege of the government to hear from Canadians directly, and I can assure them it has had a very profound effect.
To conclude, I believe our program of tax cuts for the middle class is an investment that would lead to a more prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable economic future. Economic growth requires giving everyone a real and fair chance to succeed. We will continue to work with Canadians to implement our platform for real change, which includes investing in our economy, our communities, and Canadians themselves. That means transformative investment in infrastructure and a plan for a strong middle class.