Mr. Speaker, in continuing to address Bill C-15, it is not every day that I begin by speaking about feminine hygiene products. However, the redressing of unequal taxation of essential goods is an important issue for all Canadians. Currently, feminine hygiene products are subject to GST and HST as goods that are considered to be non-essential. I think we can all agree that this is a misguided policy, and if not sexist, it at least is based entirely outside the experience of Canadians. I am proud to say that Bill C-15 would rectify this disproportionate taxation of women by removing the GST-HST on feminine hygiene products.
The next measure of budget 2016 that I will address is division 2 at part 4, which amends the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act. I wish to highlight five key improvements.
First, the bill would replace the permanent impairment allowance with the career impact allowance to better support veterans who have had their career options limited by a service-related illness or injury.
Second, it would increase the percentage in the formula used to calculate the earnings loss benefit. This benefit would provide income replacement of 90% of gross pre-release military salary for injured veterans who are participating in a Veterans Affairs Canada rehabilitation or vocational assistance program for those who have injuries preventing them from suitable and gainful employment. The benefit would also keep up with inflation and not be capped at 2% indexation.
Third, the act would specify when a disability award becomes payable and clarify the formula used to calculate the amount of a disability award.
Fourth, the disability award would be indexed to inflation, in line with other new veterans charter benefits, and higher awards would be paid retroactively to all veterans who have received an award since the introduction of the new veterans charter in 2006.
Fifth, the act would also improve the Last Post Fund to provide financial assistance to the estates of eligible deceased veterans toward the cost of burial and funeral services. The estate exemption for families of low-income veterans would also be increased from roughly $12,000 to $35,000.
Canada's veterans deserve our care, compassion, and respect. The above measures would greatly improve income support to disabled veterans, including both veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce and those with injuries preventing them from suitable and gainful employment.
However, our government's support for veterans does not stop there. Over the next year, in consultation with the veterans community, the government will work to find a way to better streamline and simplify the system of financial support programs currently offered by Veterans Affairs Canada and National Defence for veterans and their families.
In addition to helping young Canadians, middle-class families, and our respected veterans, the government is committed to supporting Canada's seniors.
Single seniors are at nearly three times the risk of living at a lower income than seniors generally, which is why budget 2016 aims to increase the single rate of the guaranteed income supplement for the lowest-income pensioners by up to $947 annually. This enhancement would more than double the current maximum guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit and would represent a 10% increase in the total maximum guaranteed income supplement benefits available to the lowest-income single seniors.
Additionally, budget 2016 will repeal section 2.2 of the Old Age Security Act, which increases the age of eligibility to receive old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits from 65 to 67. This is a good move.
Budget 2016 also addresses a concern that some of my constituents have brought forward, which is additional support for senior couples living apart. Many times senior couples have to live apart for reasons beyond their control, including long-term health care, which results in higher costs of living and an increased risk of living in poverty. The current system provides recipients with guaranteed income supplement benefits based on their individual incomes. However, budget 2016 would extend this treatment so that couples also receive allowance benefits.
Budget 2016 puts people first and delivers the help that Canadians need now, not a decade from now. It is an essential step to restoring prosperity to the middle class. When we have an economy that works for the middle class, we have a country that works for everyone.
Budget 2016 reflects a new approach for the government, one that offers immediate help to those who need it most and sets the course for growth for all Canadians. With the implementation of budget 2016, the Government of Canada is investing for the years and decades to come. We are investing for our seniors, our veterans, our children, and grandchildren, so that we all may enjoy a more prosperous and hopeful Canada.