Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour and a pleasure to have the opportunity to rise in the House, and this is no exception. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer, and I appreciate the opportunity to do so.
First, I completely share the commitment to fairness that is at the heart of today's motion for debate. I also believe our government has illustrated, in the clearest possible terms, through its actions, that it is committed to a fair system. Shortly after coming to office in 2015, the government took decisive, immediate action to begin the process of restoring fairness.
We raised taxes on the wealthiest 1% in order to cut taxes for the middle class, benefiting nine million Canadians. We did this, because over the past 30 years, the median real wage income of Canadians had barely risen, leaving many concerned about their future. At the same time, the after-tax incomes of the wealthiest .01% of Canadians had risen dramatically. Individuals earning more than $1.8 million per year had seen, on average, their income rise by nearly 156%, or 3.1% per year on average, after inflation..
Canadians want a country where hard work is rewarded with greater opportunities and a real chance at success. We have been taking action to make this a reality.
I do not disagree. In fact, I would submit that no member in the House disagrees with the sentiment that every Canadian deserves a fair chance at success, with the sentiment that there should be a level playing field, that Canadians from coast to coast to coast should have the same opportunities, regardless of their lot in life, regardless of what their parents did before them, regardless of where in the country they live, and regardless of where they came from.
The sense of inclusion is so important to the essence of what it means to be Canadian. I think we all share this fair and level playing field commitment. No young Canadian should feel that they do not have the same chances, that they do not have the same opportunities as their neighbours.
This is how Canadians thrive, how Canadians see themselves, proud of our country, proud of its people, and proud of the opportunities we offer to everybody. The sense of inclusion is not a sense monopolizing Canada or only in Canadians, but it is the sense of how do we get there, how do we get there fairly, and how do we include everyone in our society.
This notion of inclusion has been around as a human notion perhaps from time immemorial. In the 1960s and 1970s, that notion of inclusion had more to do with ensuring everyone had equality and everyone had the same rights. As our economy is modernizing and as the global economy is changing, this notion of inclusion has become an economic notion.
GDP growth, of course, is laudable. GDP growth is something every nation wants. However, if that growth does not include everybody, if that growth is not distributed fairly, if that growth leaves large parts of the population behind, then we have let society down. We cannot have a society where a smaller and smaller percentage of the population gets more and more of the benefits of the economy. That is not fair, that is not right, and that is unjust.
That is the essence that underlies this motion, and it is a laudable motion.
As a federal government, we need to ensure we create a fair system. This is all about fairness of opportunity, and of course the tax system. The tax system is one tool that our federal government has at its disposal. There are others, but today we are focusing on that system. Building a tax system that supports fairness and opportunity has been fundamental to everything this government has done.
In our 2016 budget, this government replaced the previous child benefit system with the Canada child benefit. That CCB is simpler, more generous, and better targeted to those who need it the most.
During the first year, over 3.3 million families received more than $23 billion in CCB payments. Nine out of 10 families are better off under the CCB than they were under the previous system. In my riding of Newmarket—Aurora alone, over 13,000 families are receiving nearly $5,500 for a combined investment, because that is what it is, in our families and our people of $70 million.
This is one tool that helps create fairness. It is lifting children out of poverty. It is allowing families to let their children participate in extracurricular activities that perhaps they could not afford. It is helping offset the high costs of day care in my part of the world.
This is what a federal government should do. This is how the tax system can work fairly. I am proud to be part of a government that implemented this fundamental change.
In October, we also announced a reduction in the small business tax rate to 10% effective January 1 of this year, and to 9% next year. For the average small business, this will leave an additional $1,600 a year for it to reinvest in its business. Small businesses in many ridings, including my own, are the engine of growth. Any extra tax room they have is reinvested in their business, which of course helps grow the business, which then creates the middle-class jobs.
Those are two examples of the ways the tax system is being used to benefit Canadians and to help ensure that level playing field, that equal chance at opportunity that every Canadian deserves.
This is an economic reality. The global market is changing. The world economy is changing. There will be a premium on innovation. There will be a premium on skilled labour. We need to create a society that puts a premium and important value on innovation and skilled labour. This is how our economy will grow. We cannot be lackadaisical in these efforts. We must always remain vigilant that the growth Canada has been blessed with is shared equally by all.
This economic reality can quickly become a social issue if growth is not inclusive. If chunks of the population feel left behind, if they feel there is no chance or opportunity for them, if they feel the economy does not work for them, they will conclude that society does not work for them. We cannot leave chunks of our population behind. As the economy changes, we have to ensure we lever the opportunity as a nation. However, we have to ensure the rewards of those opportunities are shared by all. I do not think any member in the House would disagree with that sentiment.
It is clear that our government is delivering a fair tax system. I can assure hon. members that our work will continue. Going forward, we must remain vigilant and address inconsistencies and unfairness in the tax system. This is so important because fairness is at the heart of our government's plan for long-term sustainable economic growth.