That this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to table the budget documents for 2018, including the notices of ways and means motions.
The details of the measure are included in these documents and I am requesting that an order of the day be designated for consideration of these motions. I also wish to announce that the government will introduce legislation to implement the measures in this budget.
Last week I spent some time with a couple of grade six classes from Rose Avenue Junior Public School in downtown Toronto. It is an extraordinary school. More than 85% of the students have English as their second language. They are bright, curious, and hard-working.
When they had the chance to ask me about today's budget, well, they would have made all members of the House proud. These 10 and 11-year-old students wanted to know what our government was doing for indigenous peoples. They asked about science and discovery, about supporting seniors, protecting nature, increasing immigration, and helping the homeless. They even asked me about Canada-U.S. relations. What impressed me most was how forward-looking each of the questions were.
The children at Rose Avenue School and at schools all across the country care about the future. They understand that the decisions we make today will transform the world that they will grow up in.
They are looking at us to make good decisions, smart decisions, so they can have a better opportunity to follow their dreams, find good jobs, and give back to their community.
This budget is all about that. It is a plan that puts people first. It invests in the things that matter most to Canadians. It builds on their hard work and it keeps us squarely focused on their future.
Budget 2018 is also a plan that respects the choice that Canadians made a little over two years ago. At that time, Canadians had the opportunity to stay the course. They could stick with a government that favoured cuts and a set of failed policies that produced stubborn unemployment and the worst decade of economic growth since the Great Depression, or they could choose a more ambitious and confident approach.
Canadians chose the latter. They put their trust in a new government, because they knew that we put our trust in them. We took that trust, balanced it with sound fiscal management that includes a declining debt-to-GDP ratio, and gave Canadians the tools they need to succeed.
Starting with raising taxes on the wealthiest, so we could lower them for the middle class.
After that, we introduced the Canada child benefit, to put more money in the pockets of low- and middle-income parents every month to help with the cost of raising kids. This summer, two years ahead of schedule, we will ensure that the benefit increases along with the cost of living. The Canada child benefit means that on average, families get $6,800 a year, tax-free, for books, hockey lessons or warm clothes for winter. It means that today, about 300,000 fewer children live below the poverty line, down 40% from what it was in 2013.
To help Canadians feel more confident about their future, we strengthened the Canada pension plan to help workers today and for generations to come.
Thanks to the trust that Canadians placed in us, we are able to help 900,000 seniors, through increases to the guaranteed income supplement. We helped students get ahead with increases to Canada student grants. We cut taxes for small businesses, while ensuring the wealthiest paid their fair share.
We are helping more people find a safe and affordable place to call home with the first-ever national housing strategy. We are working with the provinces, territories, and cities to ensure a stable housing market.
We are giving more children the best possible start in life through investments in early learning and child care. We now have agreements in place with nine provinces and territories to help create more of the high-quality affordable child care spaces we know Canadian families need, tailored to their local realities.
We think about the fact that the vast majority of single moms receiving the Canada child benefit make less than $60,000 a year and now get an average of about $9,000 in total benefits, tax free, each year.
Over the last year, we have really seen these investments pay off. The Canadian economy is doing remarkably well. Over the last two years, hard-working Canadians have created nearly 600,000 new jobs, most of them full time. Unemployment rates are near the lowest we have seen them in 40 years. Our plan is working because Canadians are working.
Today, Canada leads all the other G7 countries in economic growth and Canadians are feeling confident about the future, whether their plan is to pay down debt, save for a first home, or go back to school to train for a new job.
That is why we are able to invest in the things that matter to Canadians, while making steady improvements to our bottom line.
We know there are challenges in the immediate term and we are responding to those challenges. We know businesses are concerned about the outcome of NAFTA talks and tax changes in the United States. We will be vigilant in ensuring that Canada remains a great place to invest, create jobs, and do business. We will do this in a responsible way, carefully, letting evidence and not emotion guide our decisions.
At the same time, we need to stay focused on our long-term goal of building an economy that works for everyone. With a strong and growing economy in place, we believe that now is the right time to focus on the deeper challenges that hold our economy and our people back. That means ensuring that every Canadian has a real and fair chance to work, to contribute to our economy, and to succeed. It is important not just as a matter of fairness, but as a way to ensure Canada's long-term growth.
For the first time in our history, there are now more Canadians aged 65 and older than there are people under the age of 15. That presents a real challenge. As seniors leave the workforce, we need to think about who will fill the gap. We believe that Canada's future success rests on ensuring that every Canadian has an opportunity to work and to earn a good living from that work. That includes Canada's talented, ambitious, and hard-working women.
I would like to tell a story about one such woman. Her name is Joan. I met Joan a few weeks ago at Algonquin College.
Encouraged by her daughter, Joan went back to school after raising her family. When she first enrolled in school, she thought that she was going to study event planning. However, when she got there, she changed her mind because she wanted to pursue a trade. She now wanted to become an apprentice plumber. Joan did not start off seeing herself in the trades, and she would be the first person to say that her choice took some of her friends by surprise, but she also felt it was her true calling. It is work that she is good at, it is work that she wants to do, and she has never looked back.
I mention Joan because it is people like her who have the courage to try new things, to forge new paths, and make our economy strong and guarantee its future.
Over the last 40 years, the rising number of women participating in our workforce has accounted for about a third of our economic growth. That means a better standard of living for all Canadians, thanks to the hard work of women like Joan who entered or re-entered the workforce.
Thanks to these women and their contribution to the economy, family incomes are now higher, fewer children live in poverty, and all Canadians are better off.
At the same time, for as much progress as we have seen, there continue to be persistent barriers that hold too many women back. A few weeks ago, the Prime Minister issued a challenge to the world’s business leaders to hire, promote, and retain more women. As he said, it is not just the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do.
We just need to do the math. On average, women earn just 69 cents for every dollar earned by men, even though about three-quarters of young women have a post-secondary certificate or degree. Even women who graduate from high-demand fields like science, technology, engineering, and math earn about $9,000 less per year than their male peers. It is an important issue that we need to get at. It is not right, and it is not smart, either.
We know that diversity in the workforce boosts productivity and profitability, and studies have shown that increasing gender diversity alone leads to more growth. According to the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a 1% increase in gender diversity means about 3.5% bump in revenue for those companies that actively seek to hire more women. The results are even better when women are in leadership positions. When women hold leadership positions, companies see stronger financial results, more innovation, and more effective decision-making at the board level.
I can tell the hon. members from personal experience that our cabinet is stronger, our government is stronger, and Canadians are better served because half of the cabinet ministers we have, the people around the table, are strong, intelligent, and effective women.
That is why the House has passed amendments that would require federally incorporated corporations to make annual disclosures about the diversity of their senior management teams and boards of directors. We need to think about what equality can mean for Canada.
The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by taking steps to advance women's equality, such as employing more women in technology and boosting women’s participation in the workforce, Canada could add about $150 billion to its economy by 2026. RBC estimates that if Canada had a completely equal representation of women and men in our workforce, we could have increased the size of the economy by 4% last year. When I draft budgets, I fight for every decimal point of growth. Even reaching half that goal, boosting our economy by 2%, would be hugely significant. It would mean more middle-class jobs, and more Canadians who have money to pay their bills or save for retirement.
What are we going to do about it, then? How are we going to make sure that more women and girls can be self-reliant and help their families, while helping to grow our economy?
First, we can do this by making progress when it comes to equal pay for work of equal value. In this budget, the government is taking a historic and meaningful step by moving forward with proactive pay equity legislation in federally regulated sectors. We know that we cannot make this necessary change happen for all Canadian women overnight. What we can do is lead by example, trying to encourage all employers to reflect on the way in which work done by women has been too often undervalued, take action to close the gender wage gap, and improve their business prospects.
Second, we need to recognize that some of this gap is due to the fact that child care and caregiving duties in general fall disproportionately on women. In this budget, we are offering a “use it or lose it” incentive to encourage both parents in a two-parent family to share equally in the work of raising their children. With the EI parental sharing benefit, two-parent families who agree to share parental leave could receive an additional five weeks of leave, making it easier for women to return to work sooner, if they so choose. When that precious time runs out, we know that families need greater access to affordable, quality child care, which is why we have already invested more than $7.5 billion in early learning and child care, which would create up to 40,000 new subsidized spaces over the next three years while making existing spaces more affordable.
Third, we need to do more to support greater numbers of women in management and leadership positions.
We are answering the call from members of the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders and taking a comprehensive approach to helping women entrepreneurs so that they can scale up their businesses, create jobs, and access the mentorship and the capital they need to take their businesses to the next level.
Finally, we know that we cannot push for equality without confronting some difficult truths. Movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp have shed light on disturbing situations and behaviours that too often go unreported. To better support those who have been victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, we will boost legal aid funding across the country so that victims can better understand their rights and get the help they need.
I would like to add that the work we are doing to increase the participation of women in our economy and our society can be seen across our entire budget. No budget decision was taken without being informed by what we call gender-based analysis plus, and I want to thank the Minister of Status of Women for her help in making this possible.
We believe firmly that this must not be a one-time event. It must be how all future budgets are made. We will be seeking to introduce new legislation to make this a permanent part of the federal budget-making process, and we are going to make status of women a full department of the Government of Canada.