Madam Speaker, I am very pleased. I was not looking at talking notes, but I was looking at the facts. Actually, we not only spoke, but we acted in the last budget. By enhancing the Canada student grants, we will have given $1.53 billion over five years to students and education. So this is the government that is acting, not talking.
I would like to speak on behalf of the government regarding Bill C-241. The bill would amend the excise tax to increase the goods and services tax, the GST, rebate for school authorities from 68% to 100%.
The Government of Canada believes that there is no clear rationale for increasing the rebate rate other than to provide financial assistance to primary and secondary schools, an area as I said before, of provincial jurisdiction.
We feel that there are much better means to support education in this country and that is why the bill may encroach on provinces.
Without a clear rationale, unintended consequences could arise from the other orders of government that do have jurisdiction in this area. That is why we respect the jurisdiction of provincial and territorial governments in this and many other important matters.
Furthermore, it is imprudent to make piecemeal changes to GST exemptions, especially in light of the government's tax review.
As part of our commitment to ensuring tax fairness in this country, the government announced in budget 2016 that it would be conducting a review of the tax system to ensure our measures are fair, efficient, and fiscally responsible.
The principle of fairness was applied when GST was introduced, and the rebates to public sectors, including school authorities, were designed to ensure fairness. If, as the bill proposes, the government were to arbitrarily adjust the GST rate for one public sector body, this fundamental principle would be undermined.
While the bill before us focuses on a narrow issue, we are instead focused, as they know well on the other side, on the big picture. This is why, in budget 2016, growing the middle class, we introduced several measures that provide benefits for a broad cross-section of Canadians.
The first one that I would like to bring to the attention of the House is the Canada child benefit. Compared to the existing system of child benefits, the new Canada child benefit would be simpler, tax-free, more generous, and better targeted to those who need it most. It would put more money in the pockets of nine out of 10 Canadian families, representing the most significant innovation in social policy in a generation. Let me repeat: the most significant innovation in social policy in a generation.
As well, the middle-class tax cut that the government introduced last fall is already benefiting nearly nine million Canadians. These are exactly the kinds of measures that demonstrate fairness and leadership. Through these measures, families will have more money to save, invest and grow the economy.
Returning, if l may, to the bill before us, I would like to provide some context to the House about the bill. When the GST was introduced, rebates were provided to certain public service bodies to ensure that their overall tax burden did not increase.
In 2004, when the rebate for municipalities was increased to 100%, this additional support was part of the plan to provide long-term funding to help municipalities participate in a larger infrastructure initiative. As such, this was viewed as an exceptional measure.
We also have other exceptional measures: the investments made in infrastructure through budget 2016. In addition to providing direct help to families, we are making strategic investments in order to grow the economy for the long term. This will help to better position Canada for the global economy of tomorrow.
Over the next 10 years, our government will implement a $120 billion infrastructure plan that will help reshape Canada in the 21st century.
Investing in infrastructure creates good, well-paying jobs that help the middle class grow and prosper. However, it does far more than that. Properly chosen and implemented, these projects can collectively improve Canada's fortunes. By working with our partners to develop world-class transit systems, improve and expand trade corridors, and reduce the carbon footprint of the national energy system, these investments will deliver cleaner growth, improve trade, and ensure the middle class can seize new economic opportunities.
Over the next two years, we will implement a plan to immediately invest in the infrastructure projects Canadians need most: modern and reliable public transit, water and waste water treatment systems, affordable housing, and retrofits and repairs to protect existing infrastructure.
Next, we will take a longer view that will also help support our ambitious vision of a modern, cleaner economy, and a more inclusive society that is better positioned to capitalize on global trade. The government believes that municipalities are best placed to make decisions about how to meet the needs of these respective communities. They will be our partners. Their involvement will not just ensure our collective economic success but also help to translate a broad vision into tangible change at the community level. We recognize that municipalities are already playing a significant role in federal efforts to upgrade and build infrastructure, but we want to work even closer with them to build our communities.
Our goal remains the same. We are committed to strong economic growth. We need the resolve to follow through on the sustained strategic investments, guided by a vision of the future in which all Canadians have a real and fair chance to succeed. This is our government's central mission. We are choosing to take advantage of a historic opportunity to invest in people and the economy and to prepare Canada for a brighter future.