Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have this opportunity to talk about Bill C-86.
Over the past three years, our government has been guided by the fundamental principle that real economic progress comes from carefully crafted, targeted investments in people and in communities, and not from austerity and cuts, as we saw in the previous government.
Bill C-86, also known as the budget implementation act, 2018, No. 2, or BIA, 2, is legislation that delivers the next phase of our government's commitment to invest in Canadians and build a vibrant and equitable economy that is fair to all.
Since 2015, we have already taken bold steps, and the impressive returns we are seeing on our investments in Canadians are clear evidence that our economic policies are working well and for the good of the many.
First, we started by asking the wealthiest to pay a little more, so we could lower taxes for the middle class. Today, this tax cut means that some nine million Canadians have more money in their pockets and good reasons to feel more confident about their financial situations.
We are also making significant investments in Canadian children through the new Canada child benefit, which helps Canadian families meet the high costs of raising their kids. This new benefit, or CCB, is tax free. Compared to the previous system of child benefits, the CCB is also simpler, more generous and better targeted to those who need it most. It has left nine out of 10 Canadian families better off.
In keeping with our commitment to reduce inequalities and to offer all Canadians equal opportunities to succeed, the Canada child benefit, or CCB, provides even more financial assistance to the low- and middle-income families who need it most. Roughly 65% of families receiving the maximum CCB amount are headed by single parents, of whom over 90% are single mothers.
Since July 2018, the Canada child benefit has been indexed to keep up with the cost of living. We implemented that measure two years ahead of schedule. Thanks to the middle-class tax cut and the Canada child benefit, by this time next year, a typical middle-class family of four will receive on average about $2,000 more each year. That is $2,000 more than they could expect to receive under the previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper.
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.
Through these measures, more families will be able to buy things such as healthy food, warm clothes or winter boots for their growing children. On average, families who receive the Canada child benefit get $6,800 every year. The CCB has helped lift more than 520,000 people out of poverty, including nearly 300,000 children.
That is not all. Salary increases for average Canadians are currently outpacing inflation. If the current trends hold, 2018 is on track to see some of the highest salary increases since the 2008-09 recession. Generally speaking, as we look at the legislative provisions to implement the measures in budget 2018, our economy is strong, healthy, and growing.
Since 2015, we have also been looking beyond our borders in order to reach new, modern trade agreements that will create jobs and help us be more competitive around the world. The fact that Canada is the only G7 country to have trade agreements with each of the other members of the G7 is a testament to the work we have done internationally. The recently negotiated USMCA will give the international business community the confidence it needs to continue investing in Canada.
The many innovative domestic and international economic measures we have put in place mean Canada's economy is strong and growing. Our economic growth rate of 3% in 2017 was the highest in the G7, and we expect to stay among the fastest-growing economies this year and next year.
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 rate to a 40-year low. For the average Canadian worker, wage growth is outpacing inflation. If current trends hold, 2018 could mark one of the strongest years of wage growth in almost a decade.
Confidence is nearing historic highs, both among consumers and business owners, and leading to business expansion and the hiring of new employees.
All hon. members know that small businesses are a key driver of Canada's economy and account for 70% of all private sector jobs. When small businesses succeed, Canada succeeds. That is why we cut the small business tax rate to 10% last January and will lower it to 9% effective January 1, 2019.
In 2019, the combined federal-provincial-territorial average income tax rate for small business will be 12.2%, by far the lowest in the G7. Several federal departments and agencies, including the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada, are working hard to help these important job creators succeed and thrive.
This overall positive outlooks reflects Canada's many competitive strengths, including a highly-skilled labour force, preferential access to global markets and a strong research and start-up capacity in emerging fields. We know that nurturing and expanding these competitive strengths demands policies that keep the focus on people and gives every Canadian the means to contribute fully to our society and our economy.
Wage growth is outpacing inflation for the average Canadian worker, as I mentioned, and we could see that growth mark one of the strongest years of wage growth in a decade.
Overall, as we consider this legislation that would implement measures from budget 2018, it is important to note that our economy is strong, healthy and growing.
I would like to briefly describe the essential pillars of Bill C-86.
The legislation includes an important measure to further stimulate economic growth, namely the new Canada workers benefit. The Canada workers benefit is an improved version of the current working income tax benefit. It is designed to encourage people to enter and stay in the workforce.
Under the Canada workers benefit, a low-income worker earning $15,000 annually could get almost $500 more in benefits in 2019 than he or she would get this year. In addition, the Canada workers benefit's expanded eligible income range would ensure that more workers would be entitled to it.
The new CWB would also be more accessible than the benefit it replaces. The legislation includes amendments that would allow the Canada Revenue Agency to calculate the benefit amount for all eligible tax filers, even if they do not claim it. These improvements to ensure access to the new benefit could be particularly useful for people with limited mobility, those who live far from points of service and those without Internet access.
The government estimates that, as a result of these changes, an additional 300,000 low-income workers in Canada will receive the Canada workers benefit for the 2019 tax year.
This is a major step forward in reducing inequality in Canada. What is more, it is estimated that the investments in the new Canada workers benefit will help lift roughly 70,000 Canadians out of poverty.
Another important aspect is addressing gender inequality, which is a vital component of the bill. Canadian women are among the most educated in the world, but they are less likely to participate in the labour force than men and are more likely to work part-time. Canadian women are too often working in unpaid jobs, which prevents them pursuing the opportunities that would help them reach their full potential.
There is an under-representation of women in leadership positions and the vast majority of Canadian businesses are still run by men. No economy can claim to be operating at full capacity if women are not being offered the same opportunities, including at leadership levels. Gender equality benefits everyone and benefits the whole economy.
We know that the participation of women in the labour market has been one of the key drivers of our economic growth in recent decades. During the past four years, the increased number of women in the labour market accounted for about one-third of real per capita GDP growth in the country. Indeed, RBC Economics estimates that adding more women to the workforce could boost Canada's GDP by as much as 4%.
The increased presence of women on the labour market is increasing household income and making a big difference to hard-working families across the country.
We need to establish an economic climate that will give all Canadians, particularly women, the opportunity to succeed and be leaders.
That being said, the gender budgeting act, which is part of budget implementation act, 2018, no. 2, will make gender budgeting an integral and permanent part of the federal budget-making process.
The bill will also convert Status of Women Canada into a new department, the department of women and gender equality, which will be responsible for the advancement of equality in respect of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The gender gap remains too large and the evidence shows that taking steps to reduce that gap is not just the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do.
Finally, I would like to talk about the measures that we are taking to protect the environment, which are an essential component of Bill C-86. We believe that putting a price on pollution is the best way to reduce emissions because it will encourage businesses and households to make more environmentally friendly choices and find more innovative solutions.
It is clear to us that pollution should not be free. Canadians are aware that that is the reality and that this is the right thing to do. We can see the costs of polluting everywhere. All one has to do is watch the evening news or take a look at the paper to see that droughts, floods and forest fires are becoming regular occurrences. That is not to mention the effects of pollution on our physical and mental health.
By implementing these measures to protect our precious environment, which is under increasing threat, Canada joins 67 other jurisdictions that have already taken this important step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Together, these jurisdictions represent about half of the global economy and more than a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite efforts in some quarters to persuade Canadians otherwise, this is not an attempt to add to federal coffers. Provincial systems will apply in the several jurisdictions that are either already implementing their own carbon pollution pricing systems that meet the federal benchmark or are on track to do so.
The federal fuel charge will apply, starting in April 2019, in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick. Those governments have not developed a system to price carbon pollution that meets the federal benchmark.
In those four provinces, the federal government proposes to return the majority of direct proceeds from the fuel charge directly to individuals and families through climate action incentive payments, starting in early 2019. Every dollar will remain in the province of origin. For most households, these payments will help offset their increased costs related to pollution pricing and help them to make more energy efficient, greener choices. The remaining proceeds that are not returned directly to households will go toward providing support to sectors within these provinces that will be particularly affected.
We estimate that climate change will cost our economy $5 billion a year by 2020. If we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for climate change, we have to accept the fact that polluting our environment costs us dearly and that it is very logical that polluters pay for the damage they cause.
Canadians can rest assured that they do not have to convince this government to protect the environment because we truly believe that doing nothing would be a failure to live up to our responsibility as federal legislators and would also betray current and future generations of Canadians, who have the right to a healthy, peaceful and prosperous life in a healthy environment.
Our shared quality of life and our economic prosperity are closely linked to the environment we live in. That is why it makes sense to build an economy that benefits all Canadians while protecting our environment and seeking to repair the damage we have already caused.
We want Canadians to feel confident about the future, to be better prepared for what awaits them and not to be concerned about those elements that sustain life, namely, the air we breathe and the water we drink.
The essence of this bill is that we are investing in Canadians, we are sharing the fruits of our strong economy with all Canadians, and we refuse to renege on our environmental commitments. Budget 2018 will help make a better Canada for all Canadians.
For these reasons, I am very proud to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-86, the budget implementation bill, at third reading. I think it gives Canadians measures that will grow our economy, which has always been our goal, and also protect the environment. We believe that these two things go together.
We also think that a greener economy, a green shift towards renewable energy sources and more effective environmental decisions offer some worthwhile business prospects. As has been proven many times, this is also a major market.
Furthermore, we think that putting a price on pollution is the right thing to do. As I explained in my speech, more than half of world economies have put a price on pollution. Quebec has done so since 2013, and British Columbia has for many years. These two economies within Canada are seeing impressive growth records and have had economic success. This shows that the environment and the economy can and must go together.
Furthermore, a measure like the Canada workers benefit reflects another essential pillar of our goal, as a government, to reduce inequality. For too long, under the former government, our government lacked leadership on reducing inequalities. In fact, the previous government created more inequalities than it reduced.
The measures we have implemented since taking office prove that we are different. We raised taxes on the wealthiest 1% so we could reduce taxes for nine million middle-class Canadians. The previous government sent cheques to millionaires' families, but we put a stop to that with our Canada child benefit. We decided to make that system much more progressive so we could help those who needed it most, and that move is clearly having an impact.
That is one way our government's approach differs significantly from the approach taken by the previous government. We are absolutely committed to reducing inequality and poverty in this country by means of a very ambitious strategy spearheaded by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.
Another way we are different is our national housing strategy. Under the former government and some of its predecessors, the federal government stepped away from playing a role in social housing, but our government launched an ambitious $40-billion strategy. That is the kind of measure Canadians wanted to see, because they want a fairer country where economic growth and prosperity benefit everyone, a country where prosperity is inclusive. I think Bill C-86, the budget implementation bill before the House today, reflects that.