Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Mississauga—Lakeshore.
It is a privilege for me to be here to participate in this important debate on today's motion.
I would like to reassure my hon. colleague that we have complete confidence in the abilities of the dedicated officials at the Department of Finance, who are currently working on the 2016 budget.
I can say that our budget will flesh out our plan to grow the economy, a plan that has the support of the Canadians who gave us a majority mandate last fall.
First of all, the government believes that all Canadians should have real and equal opportunities to succeed. This will be achieved by strengthening and growing the middle class. That is what we said throughout our election campaign, and that is what we are offering Canadians.
It will come as no surprise when I say that Canada is going through tough economic times. Although the recent U.S. economic performance is encouraging, emerging economies, especially China, are cause for concern.
Many analysts were counting on emerging economies, such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, to help stimulate economic growth. We now know that this will unfortunately not be the case.
Canada's economic performance was weak in 2015, which can primarily be explained by last year's drop in the price of oil. Make no mistake about it, the Government of Canada will post a deficit for the 2015-16 fiscal year, and this deficit is the result of what the previous government did and did not do. That is a fact.
The previous Liberal government left a $13-billion surplus in 2006. The Conservative government wasted this surplus and racked up more than $150 billion in additional debt, all the while managing to achieve the worst growth record since the Great Depression. Those are facts.
Our colleagues have told us all kinds of tales this morning, but what I just said is the truth. All of that, with no plan to grow the middle class, no plan to invest, and no plan for growth. That is the Conservative government's disastrous record.
It is quite likely that the global economy will remain unfavourable in the future and that the price of commodities will remain low. There is no doubt that, as we begin to put our plan for economic growth and long-term prosperity into action, we are up against fierce headwinds.
However, in the face of this real challenge, there is also real opportunity to put in place the conditions to create long-term growth. This growth will create good jobs and help our middle class, the lifeblood of our economy, to prosper.
This is a good time to make targeted investments to support our country's economic growth. However, I want to be clear. We are going to focus on smart investments that promote economic growth while maintaining a commitment to fiscal responsibility.
We intend to focus on two particularly challenging issues. The first is restoring economic progress for the middle class, the backbone of our economy. We simply cannot claim that our country is prosperous if our middle class is having trouble making ends meet.
That is why the government followed through on its promise by making a tax cut for the middle class the first order of business on December 7, 2015. I am proud to say that, as of January 1, approximately nine million Canadians are receiving significant tax relief. This is a fair measure, and it is the smart thing to do for our economy.
In order to achieve this goal, we introduced Bill C-2, an act to amend the Income Tax Act.
This bill is merely the first step in our plan to grow the economy in the long term, create jobs, and help Canada's middle class prosper.
More specifically, Bill C-2 will cut the personal income tax rate, dropping it from 22% to 20.5%, and establish a 33% tax rate for individual taxable incomes above $200,000. We are asking the wealthiest Canadians to contribute a little more.
Lastly, we are lowering the annual contribution limit for tax-free savings accounts, TFSAs, from its current $10,000 back to its previous amount, which was $5,500, and we are also reinstating the indexation of that limit. Our middle-class tax cut and the accompanying changes will help make the tax system fairer. As I mentioned, this bill is just the beginning of our government's measures to grow the economy.
In the next budget, we will introduce the new Canada child tax benefit, another important measure that will provide increased support to the vast majority of Canadian families and help lift hundreds of thousands of children our of poverty. That is right, I said hundreds of thousands of children. Unlike the existing program, the Canada child tax benefit will be simpler, more generous and more targeted to those who need it most. Plus, it is tax free.
Together, these measures will help strengthen the middle class and help those who work hard to be a part of it. As a result of these measures, Canadians will have more money to save, invest, and help grow our economy. More generally, these measures will stimulate economic growth at a time when the global economy is cause for concern, to ensure that all Canadians will benefit.
The second challenge we are facing, and this may be the biggest one, has to do with creating the conditions for strong, long-term economic growth. Smart, targeted investments in infrastructure are essential to stimulating economic growth. Furthermore, now is the time to invest, while interest rates are at all-time lows.
Canadians made it clear that they want real change. They want their government to govern differently. They want to be able to trust their government and they want leadership that is focused on what is most important to them.
We are listening. Since early January, the Minister of Finance and I have been criss-crossing the country holding pre-budget consultations organized by the Department of Finance. We have gathered some very good ideas and excellent comments. Canadians have told us that they are concerned about the state of our infrastructure, including bridges, roads, public transit, sewers, and seniors' homes.
Canadian cities are growing rapidly, and all levels of government are facing the same challenge: making infrastructure investments that generate economic benefits for Canada and promote sustainable urban environments.
Over the next decade, we will invest $120 billion in public infrastructure. Our investments will focus on making life better for Canadians and developing more lucrative business opportunities for our exporters.
To ensure that we are making strategic investments, we will work with the provinces and territories to address their most urgent needs. That is what Canadians expect of us. They want us to work together to make progress and begin building a better Canada.
A number of initiatives are important to our government's growth strategy for Canada. First, environmental sustainability will be central to the development of our natural resources sector. Together with our North American partners, Canada can and should be one of the most efficient and responsible energy producers in the world.
We will also support growing businesses to help them attract the talent, capital, and innovation they need to capitalize on business opportunities in the global market.
We will work with the provinces to develop a skills and labour strategy that promotes greater participation of under-represented groups.
We will work with the provinces and territories to improve the Canada Pension Plan and help Canadians achieve their retirement income security goals.
These are important objectives that can have a significant impact on our long-term growth.
In closing, there is no quick and easy solution. We are lucky to live in such a diverse and prosperous country. However, the challenges we are facing today are real and to overcome them we must find common ground despite our different points of view. I can assure my colleagues that our government is prepared to meet these challenges.