Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for moving this motion today.
I am pleased to address the issue raised by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. I would like to state unequivocally that the Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that the tax system is fair to the middle class. We believe that Canadians must pay their fair share of taxes. That is why, after our government came into office in fall 2015, one of our first actions was to increase taxes for the wealthiest Canadians in order to reduce taxes for the middle class.
Specifically, the government reduced the second personal income tax rate to 20.5% from 22%. In addition, only those individuals earning the highest incomes in Canada, or the richest 1%, should pay more taxes after the introduction of the new 33% tax rate for individuals earning over $200,000. Since January 1, 2016, nearly nine million Canadians have seen more money in their pockets as a result of the middle-class tax cut. Not only was this a good thing to do, but it was also the intelligent thing to do for our economy.
The tax cut for the middle class and the measures that go with it have helped make the tax system fairer to ensure that Canadians can succeed and prosper in their lives. Single individuals who benefit from the reduced second personal income tax rate will see an average tax reduction of $330 per year, while couples will see an average tax reduction of $540 per year.
At the same time, the government returned the tax-free savings account, or TFSA, annual contribution limit to $5,500 from $10,000, effective January 1, 2016. Returning the TFSA annual contribution limit to $5,500 was in line with the government’s objective of making the tax system fairer and helping those who need it the most.
When other registered savings plans are taken into account, the $5,500 contribution limit will enable most taxpayers to meet their ongoing savings needs in a tax-efficient manner. Furthermore, indexation of the TFSA annual contribution limit was reinstated so that the amount will retain its real value over time.
We have also taken action to improve the child benefit that Canadians receive. In our 2016 budget, we implemented the Canada child benefit, which is completely tax-free, in addition to being simpler and more generous than the old benefit system it replaced.
It also does a better job than the previous system of targeting the people who most need it. I firmly believe that the many parents who receive this greatly needed assistance agree with me. Thanks to the introduction of a much better-targeted Canada child benefit, about 300,000 fewer children will be living in poverty in 2017, as compared to 2014. This represents a nearly 40% drop in the child poverty rate since 2014.
Since the Canada child benefit was introduced in July 2016, nine out of ten families are now receiving more money than they did under the previous system, or nearly $2,300 more on average in 2016-17. Parents with children under 18 will receive annually up to $6,400 more per child under age 6 and $5,400 more per child aged 6 to 17.
Whether these additional funds are used for things like buying school supplies, covering part of the family grocery bill, or buying warm coats for winter, the Canada child benefit helps parents cover the high cost of raising their children.
As announced in budget 2016, the government is currently conducting a comprehensive review of the federal tax expenditures. It is doing so in recognition of concerns that have been expressed regarding the efficiency, fairness, and complexity of the tax system. The objective of this review is to ensure that federal tax expenditures are fair for Canadians, efficient, and fiscally responsible for all. External experts have been engaged to provide advice to the Department of Finance. This approach ensures the review is informed by a range of perspectives.
I can assure all hon. members that the government remains committed to ensuring federal tax expenditures are doing what they are meant to do and that they are doing it to help middle-class Canadians. In addition, the government is committed to strengthening efforts to combat international tax evasion and avoidance, and we have taken, and will continue to take, this important step and actions to do so.
These efforts help protect the revenues base and give Canadians greater confidence that the system is fair for everyone. Canadians work hard for their money, and the majority of Canadians pay their fair share of taxes. However, some wealthy individuals participate in complex tax schemes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. This is unacceptable, and it needs to change.
The Government of Canada is working hard to crack down on offshore tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance in order to ensure a tax system that is fair and responsive for all Canadians. In budget 2016, we invested $444 million over five years for the Canada Revenue Agency, better known as the CRA, to crack down on international tax evasion and combat tax avoidance.
These investments by the government are enabling the CRA to hire additional auditors, develop robust business intelligence infrastructure, increase verification activities, and improve the quality of its investigative work. These new investments to support the CRA's effort to crack down on tax evasion and combat tax avoidance are expected to generate around $2.6 billion in taxes over the next five years.
In April 2016, the offshore compliance advisory committee was created to advise the Minister of National Revenue and the CRA on strategies to combat offshore tax evasion and avoidance. However, we also recognize that assessing tax revenues alone is not enough. Once we do an assessment, we need to be able to collect the unpaid amounts. That is why budget 2016 invests an additional $351.6 million over five years to improve CRA's ability to collect these outstanding tax debts.
Canada has been a very active participant in international efforts to address tax evasion. Canada is an active member of the Global Forum which was established to ensure that high standards of transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes are in place around the world. Canada has developed an extensive network of bilateral tax treaties and tax information exchange agreements which provide for the exchange of information that could be extremely critical in investigation processes.
Another international development with regard to addressing tax evasion is the new common reporting standard developed by the OECD and endorsed by the G20 leaders. The standard provides a framework under which information on financial accounts in a country held by non-residents will be automatically shared with tax authorities of the jurisdiction in which the account holder is a resident. Legislation has now been adopted to implement the common reporting standard in Canada, starting July 1, 2017, joining more than 100 other countries.
With our partners in the G20 and the OECD, Canada has been an active participant in the multilateral project to address base erosion and profit shifting, BEPS. BEPS refers to aggressive international tax-planning arrangements undertaken by some multinational enterprises to inappropriately minimize their taxes. Budget 2016 announced a series of actions Canada is taking to implement recommendations from the BEPS project.
First, Canada has enacted new legislation to require country-by-country reporting for large multinational enterprises. Second, the CRA is applying revised international guidance on transfer pricing. Third, we participated in international work that developed a multilateral instrument to streamline the implementation of treaty-related BEPS recommendations, including addressing treaty abuse. Finally, the CRA is undertaking a spontaneous exchange with other jurisdictions of certain tax rulings.
Going forward, the government will continue to work with the international community to ensure a coherent and consistent response to the BEPS. The government is also taking action in other areas to protect the integrity of Canada's international tax rules. In particular, budget 2016 introduced measures to extend the application of the income tax back-to-back loan rule to royalty arrangements, and to prevent unintended tax-free cross-border distributions of capital to non-residents.
The government has also agreed to strong standards in support of corporate transparency in both the Financial Action Task Force and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes.
I would like to point out that the proceeds of crime—also known as money laundering—and terrorist financing regulations include requirements for the collection of information on beneficial owners of corporations. Furthermore, the government recently took action to enhance corporate transparency by prohibiting the use of bearer shares.
I would now like to draw attention to some of the government's investments that provide a great many Canadians with more equitable opportunities for success.
Last June, the government reached a historic agreement with the provincial governments to improve the Canada pension plan. This agreement followed a review conducted by the Department of Finance to determine whether families approaching retirement were adequately prepared for retirement.
Finance department officials found that around one in four families approaching retirement, namely 1.1 million families, may not save enough to maintain their current standard of living. This is very troubling. Middle-income families are the most at risk. Families with no workplace pension plans are at an even greater risk of not saving enough for retirement. In fact, a third of those families are at risk.
The government is aware of the need to help Canadians invest more. Armed with a higher level of savings, they would be able to more confidently envision their future and their ability to enjoy their retirement years with dignity.
Our government is particularly concerned about the situation of young Canadians, who are likely to be more exposed to market risks and, in most cases, will live longer than previous generations. Young people are faced with the challenge of trying to save enough money for retirement at a time when fewer of them can expect jobs that come with a workplace pension plan.
In short, the actions that our government has taken reflect our commitment to helping the middle class and those working very hard to join it.
In this context, the government firmly believes that the best way to increase prosperity for more Canadians is to invest in today's economy. This is why the government has made targeted investments totalling $50.2 billion over six years as part of budget 2016. These investments will ensure stronger growth right now and increase the long-term growth potential of the Canadian economy.
We have forged ahead in the knowledge that when Canadians achieve their full potential they can build a better life for themselves, their families, and entire communities. In doing so, they are building a better and stronger Canada for current and future generations.
As Canada's population ages, our prosperity will increasingly depend on young Canadians getting the education and training they need to prepare them for the jobs of today and tomorrow. That is why, in budget 2016, we increased the Canada student grant amounts for students from low- and middle-income families, as well as part-time students. As a result, more than 360,000 students across Canada will receive more assistance to pursue their education.
We are also working with provinces and territories to expand eligibility for Canada student grants, so that even more students can receive non-repayable assistance.
What is more, under the youth employment strategy, the government invests more than $330 million each year to help young people gain the skills and experience they require to find jobs. Our government has taken action to build on this investment and strengthen the youth employment strategy with an additional investment of $165.4 million in 2016 and 2017. These investments will increase the number of youth who can access the skills link program, which helps young Canadians overcome barriers to employment. It will also create new green jobs for youth and help support employment opportunities in the heritage sector.
Canadians are among the most highly educated people in the world, placing at the top of all members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for post-secondary education attainment. More than half of Canadian adults have a post-secondary degree.
We are world renowned for scientific research and discovery, and we can often be found on the cutting edge of clean technologies emerging right now on the world stage.
We have an abundance of natural resources, outmatched only by our greatest resource, and that is our people.
I hope I have made it clear that we are making effective, targeted investments that continue to unleash their full potential and, in turn, Canada's full potential.
We will continue to build on our success in budget 2017.