moved that Bill C-86, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2018 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, hon. members, I am pleased to rise in this august chamber to speak to Bill C-86, the second act to implement this year's budget.
This bill represents the next step in the government's plan to strengthen the middle class and to help those working hard to join it so that every Canadian has real and equal opportunities to succeed.
From the beginning of its mandate, our government has rejected austerity measures and cuts. Instead, we implemented a long-term plan with targeted investments that create the conditions for economic growth that benefits everyone. These investments are making a difference and will continue to do so. They will result in better opportunities for our children to achieve their dreams, find good jobs and give back to their community.
Before I speak about the budget implementation bill, I would like to point out some of the government's main achievements to date.
We instituted a new support system to help Canadian families with the high cost of raising children. The Canada child benefit is simpler, more generous, tax-free and better targeted than the former benefit system, and it has helped nine out of 10 families get ahead.
The Canada child benefit provides even more financial assistance to the low- and middle-income families who need it most, which is in line with our commitment to offer all Canadians equal opportunities to succeed. Single-parent families account for about 65% of recipients who receive the maximum Canada child benefit amount, and over 90% of these families are led by single mothers.
I calculated what my mother would have received when she was raising me and my brother as a single mother, and it would have made her cry to see how generous the benefit was and to see what an incredible difference it would have made in our lives, in the same way it is making a huge difference in the lives of many Canadians. The difference is noticeable in my riding and in local Saint Vincent de Paul shops, because our approach is much more progressive than the former government's program, which sent cheques to millionaires' families.
In budget 2018, the government also introduced measures to index the Canada child benefit to the cost of living as of July 2018, two years earlier than planned.
From day one, our focus has been on strengthening the middle class and economic growth. To help Canadians keep more of their hard-earned money and use it as they see fit, one of the first things the government did upon taking office was cut taxes for the middle class, a move that is helping over nine million Canadians.
A typical middle-class family of four will receive about $2,000 more each year as a result of the middle-class tax cut and the Canada child benefit.
For single-parent average-income households with two children, or for families with two children where only one parent is earning an average income, the benefits are even more significant. When the tax-free Canada child benefit and other benefits are added to family income, those families pay effective personal tax rates of less than 2%, which means they keep more than 98% of what they earn.
Because of these changes, more families will be able to pay for things like healthy food, back-to-school clothes and new winter boots for growing kids.
These are changes that will actually improve the lives of children and parents across the country.
Since 2015, the government has made historic investments to support our communities in infrastructure, innovation, science and research.
The government has also secured new and modernized trade agreements. In fact, we are the only G7 country to have trade agreements with every other G7 country. The recently negotiated United States-Mexico-Canada agreement, UMCA, will give those in the business community the confidence they need to continue to invest in Canada. They can rest assured that this critically vital trading relationship is safe and secure.
With all of these measures in place, it is no wonder that the economic picture at home is encouraging. Our economy is strong and growing. Our economic growth, which stood at 3% in 2017, was the highest in the G7, and we expect to stay among the fastest-growing economies this year and next.
On another good news front, thanks to the hard work of Canadians, the past three years have seen the creation of more than half a million new full-time jobs. These new jobs have pushed the unemployment rates to nearly 40-year lows.
There is yet more good news on wage growth. For the average Canadian worker, wage growth is outpacing inflation. In fact, if current trends hold, 2018 could mark one of the strongest years of wage growth since the great recession of 2008-2009.
With more money in their pockets, Canadian consumers have a reason to feel confident about their financial situation. Consumer confidence is near historic highs. This is not only the case with individual Canadians, but also for the companies they run.
After-tax profits for Canadian businesses have nearly doubled since 2015. This means that companies have more money available to invest, to create good new jobs and to spur economic growth.
This positive outlook reflects Canada's many competitive strengths. Some of these strengths are our highly-skilled labour force, preferential access to global markets and a strong research and start-up capacity in emerging fields. We know that keeping and expending these strength demands government policies that keep the focus squarely on people and give every Canadians the means to contribute fully to our society and our economy.
The second budget implementation act before us is intended to implement items from budget 2018 that put people first. By passing the measures in this bill, we will take further steps to invest in Canadians, grow the middle class and help those working hard to join it. Through this bill, more people will have an opportunity to succeed.
This bill includes an important measure to stimulate economic growth, namely the new Canada workers benefit, or CWB.
Starting in 2019, the new CWB will represent an improved version of the current working income tax benefit. The CWB is designed to encourage more people to enter the workforce and to help more than two million Canadians who are working hard to join the middle class.
With increased maximum benefits, the new CWB will provide even more support to the people who receive it. In addition, the CWB's expanded eligible income range will ensure that more workers are entitled to it.
Under the new CWB, a low-income worker who earns $15,000 annually could get almost $500 more in benefits in 2019 than she is getting this year. That amount of money can really change things for many Canadians.
Starting in 2019, the government also plans to improve how this support is distributed by allowing the Canada Revenue Agency to calculate the benefit amount for all tax filers who did not apply for the benefit. Automatic payment of the benefit to eligible tax filers is a measure that would be particularly useful for people with limited mobility, those who live far from points of service and those who do not have Internet access.
It is estimated that, as a result of this measure, an additional 300,000 low-income workers will receive the new CWB for the 2019 tax year. Overall, improvements to the new CWB will lift approximately 70,000 Canadians out of poverty by 2020.
I would now like to talk about another main component of this bill, and that is greater equality. Although Canadian women are among the most educated in the world, they are less likely to participate in the labour force than men and are more likely to work part time. Canadian women are often called upon to meet unpaid work demands, which prevents them from pursuing opportunities that would help them reach their full potential.
What is more, the under-representation of women in leadership positions remains a reality. The vast majority of Canadian businesses are run by men. It goes without saying that our economy is not operating at full capacity when the women who want to participate in it and hold leadership positions cannot do so.
For us, it is clear that gender equality would benefit everyone. The participation of women in the labour market has been one of the strongest sources of economic growth in recent decades. Over the past 40 years, the increased number of women in the labour market accounted for approximately one-third of real per capita GDP growth in Canada. Higher female workforce participation rates have also increased household incomes and helped families move into the middle class.
However, there are still far too many missed opportunities because of the gender gap. There are many factors that contribute to that gap, but taking action to close it is not just the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do to strengthen the middle class and grow Canada's economy.
According to RBC Economics, if the labour force participation rates of women and men were equal, Canada's GDP could see a boost of as much as 4%. That would be enough to partially offset the impacts of an aging population.
Our government recognizes the essential role of gender equality in building a strong economy that benefits everyone. That is why we are committed to developing budgets taking into account the fact that the choices made and policies adopted affect different people in different ways. Reviewing proposed budget measures from a gendered lens is one way to ensure a more equitable and efficient use of government resources.
In order to ensure that this is achieved immediately, the bill before us today enacts legislation to promote gender budgeting. This measure will ensure that government policies to advance gender equality and inclusion are not just an option but rather a requirement in the preparation of future federal budgets. Since rules are not enough to bring about real change, this legislation also introduces reporting requirements to ensure proper accountability.
There is also another way in which this bill would foster opportunities for women and men and help all Canadians realize their potential and fully participate in the economy. For most Canadians, the best time to start a family coincides with the parents' prime career-building years. Right now, new parents can use EI benefits to ensure their financial security while they are taking time off from work to care for their children. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that the burden of child care still falls disproportionately on women. We know that women and families are better off when parental responsibilities are divided more equally. That is why the government wants to make the EI system more flexible and encourage a more balanced sharing of responsibilities, so that both parents get to spend time with their young children while pursuing careers.
To support young families and promote gender equality at work and at home, the act proposes a new EI parental sharing benefit that will encourage a more balanced sharing of family and work responsibilities by providing five additional weeks of benefits in cases where both parents agree to share their parental leave. This period will be extended to eight weeks if the parents opt for extended parental benefits. This optional incentive will encourage the second parent in two-parent families to share equally in parenting responsibilities. New mothers will have more flexibility to return to work sooner if they wish. Equitable parental leave could lead to fairer hiring practices, which would reduce conscious or unconscious discrimination against women by employers.
In budget 2018, the government took an innovative approach to the systemic undervaluation of women by announcing legislation to reduce the gender wage gap in federally-regulated workplaces. This legislation is included in the bill we are debating today. Requiring equal pay for work of equal value is an effective means of reducing the gender wage gap, promoting an improvement in women's gains and increasing women's contribution to the economy. That is why the government is now introducing pay equity legislation for federally-regulated sectors.
The new pay equity act, which will apply to approximately 1.2 million Canadian employees, requires federal public and private sector employers that have 10 or more employees to establish and maintain a pay equity plan. This plan would identify and correct differences in compensation between men and women for work of equal value. The legislation also establishes a pay equity commissioner who will report annually to Parliament on the administration of the act to ensure it has a real impact. The commissioner's role in facilitating dispute resolution, conducting compliance audits and imposing monetary penalties for violations of the act will ensure enforcement and proper accountability.
A last major aspect of the second budget implementation act is the steps it takes to protect our environment. Canadians know that polluting is not free. Costs are paid with droughts, floods, wildfires and our health. Canadians expect polluters to pay, because it is the right thing to do for future generations.
Climate change is expected to cost our economy $5 billion a year by 2020. Simply put, if we are to reduce the greenhouse gases causing climate change, pollution can no longer be free in this country. To act otherwise would be a betrayal of our responsibilities as federal lawmakers and a betrayal of future generations of Canadians, and I would argue, of my generation.
Putting a price on pollution is central to the government's plan to fight climate change while growing the economy and building a brighter future for all Canadians. Pricing pollution is the most effective way to reduce emissions, because it creates incentives for businesses and households to make cleaner choices and find innovative solutions.
This act legislates a pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution with the aim of having pollution pricing in place in all provinces and territories in 2019. As part of this plan, the government has established a Canada-wide federal standard for reducing pollution and has given provinces and territories the flexibility to choose a system that meets this standard and that works best for them.
Furthermore, all proceeds from pollution pricing from jurisdictions that have signed on to the federal system will be returned directly to the government of these jurisdictions. In provinces that have not committed to pricing carbon pollution, the federal government will return the bulk of direct proceeds directly to individuals and families residing in those provinces through climate action incentive payments. For most households, these payments will help offset or exceed their increased costs related to pollution pricing. The remaining proceeds that are not returned directly to households will go towards providing support to sectors within these provinces that will be particularly affected by pollution pricing.
The government is serious about addressing the costs of pollution and is taking concrete steps to back its commitments. This is the only responsible course of action to take as we see increasing signs of climate change all around us, and we have stepped up to that responsibility.
This government is advancing its plans to create a better future for all Canadians by investing in people and in communities. We are building on Canada's economic strengths and advancing our competitiveness by seizing opportunities in global markets. This second budget implementation act contains essential measures to achieve these goals, and I urge all hon. members to support it.