Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and an honour for me to speak to Bill C-74, the budget implementation act, which is important for us and will implement measures that we believe will have a positive impact on Canadians.
This bill continues our government's efforts to reduce inequality and stimulate growth, in particular through the Canada workers benefit, which was revised in budget 2018. This benefit will give more money to those who need it most, that is, low-income workers. We will ultimately increase the benefit by 175%. We are investing $1.75 billion in the Canada workers benefit.
This measure is consistent with the Canada child benefit, which was introduced in budget 2016. As many MPs know, nine out of 10 Canadian families have benefited and received an additional tax-free $2,300. This deserves to be known. We are indexing this benefit two years earlier than planned to keep pace with higher family expenses and needs, and to help as many families as possible. We know the impact of such a measure and I can tell you about it.
All I have to do is visit the food banks in my riding, talk to volunteers at the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, or stand outside of grocery stores, as I often do on weekends to meet my constituents. They often tell me about how this measure has had a positive impact on their lives.
Here is how this benefit came to be. We looked at how the former government administrated family assistance. We implemented a more progressive system that provides assistance based on families' incomes. We stopped sending Canada child benefit cheques to families with over $150,000 in annual income, so that we can give more to those who need it most.
The Canada workers benefit follows the same logic. We believe that Canada's prosperity must be inclusive and help as many people as possible.
This is one thing I think is important in the budget implementation bill, but it is not the only thing. There is also the price on carbon pollution, a commitment we made during the election campaign. Climate change is having a serious impact on all Canadians and on future generations. Climate change also has an impact on our economy.
Take, for example, the claims submitted to insurance companies for damage caused by natural disasters. A few years ago, such claims totalled a few million dollars. Now, that number has increased to over $1 billion per year, and we expect it to continue to rise. For us, climate change is very real, and we have to deal with it.
By putting a price on carbon pollution, as proposed in the budget implementation bill, we are giving Canada a real opportunity to meet its climate change targets and be a responsible global citizen. The carbon tax will also allow us to mitigate and reverse the effects of climate change as much as possible. Those are two very important aspects of the budget implementation bill.
We also ultimately lowered the small business tax rate to 9%. We know how crucial Canada's SMEs are. They help drive our economy and create a large number of jobs in Canada. It goes without saying that we need to support our job creators and SMEs, which day after day, week after week, contribute to Canada's prosperity. We are taking that important step by lowering taxes for SMEs.
I would like to come back to something that I mentioned earlier, and that is the importance of having measures to reduce inequality. We also need to review certain measures that benefit the wealthiest members of society in order to have better targeted measures, such as the Canada workers benefit, and help those who need it most.
This could mean up to $170 a year for an unattached low-income worker. That is more money every paycheque. For a couple, the amount is even higher, of course.
Providing access to this benefit and increasing it is one thing, but we also want to make it automatic. In budget 2018, we announced that we will be implementing automatic enrolment so that every eligible worker receives the benefit without needing to file a claim. This issue is important to us, and I believe it is a positive aspect of Bill C-74, the budget implementation bill we are studying today.
Our government's goal is really to ensure that our growth benefits as many Canadians as possible and that our prosperity is inclusive. We have observed that the countries that have experienced significant economic growth in the decades since the Second World War are often those where inequality is lower and gaps have not been allowed to widen. In particular, I am thinking of Scandinavian countries, which have fascinating models. We have seen that reducing inequality boosts economic performance.
This is where initiatives like the middle-class tax cut for the $45,000 to $90,000 income bracket come in. This is where the Canada child benefit comes in, by giving more money to those who need it the most. We know that this money stays in the Canadian economy and is reinvested very locally, and we know that this has an impact on growth. I can confirm that under the leadership of the Minister of Finance, we fight for every decimal point of growth. That is why I strongly support initiatives to index the Canada child benefit sooner than expected, to make the Canada workers benefit automatic, and to enhance it.
This is where I see broader initiatives putting more money in people's pockets. While these initiatives are perhaps less direct, they are still very useful to people and are helping reduce inequalities. One example that comes to mind is the national housing strategy, where we are investing $40 billion over 10 years, I believe. This really confirms the federal government's commitments regarding community and social housing. Since the 1990s, the federal government has been backing away from its responsibilities with regard to community housing, and this is true of both Conservative and Liberal governments. One only needs to talk to organizations working on the ground to get a sense of how thrilled they are that the federal government is finally re-engaging and investing in community housing and social housing though our ambitious plan. The goal of our plan is to reduce chronic homelessness by 50%, renovate 300,000 housing units and build another 100,000 for those in need. That is one example.
Another area is public transit. We want high-quality, reliable, and efficient public transit systems at the lowest possible cost, systems that are so efficient that some some families can do without a car, or at least reduce their reliance on cars. These savings add up at the end of the day, but good public transit also improves quality of life and is good for the environment. These are all very positive initiatives.
Housing is an issue that is close to my heart. When I was young, I lived in a subsidized housing unit. I know how much of a burden it took off my mother's shoulders. I will never forget the day we got the call from the municipal housing bureau telling us that our application had been accepted. We were on a waiting list, and I know that it was a major change for my mother because she did not have to be afraid to get evicted at the end of the month anymore.
I am heartened to see the housing initiatives taken by our government. I am sure that they will have a similar effect on hundreds of thousands of Canadian families. In a way, it makes me glad that I am paying taxes, because I know that they are put to good use to increase social mobility, strengthen the social safety net and make sure people have access to basic necessities. Housing is a right. The most vulnerable in our society must have that right too, and the federal government needs to be active on that front.
Our government's focus is reflected in the measures we announced in budget 2018, but also since budget 2016. We are striving for a society that is more fair, more compassionate and more efficient, but we also want to create wealth. Indeed, to redistribute wealth, we have to create it first.
We also need to innovate and create a business-friendly climate, which will help fill federal coffers and create jobs. I would remind the House that 600,000 jobs have been created over the past two years. We recorded the strongest GDP growth in the G7 by far during that same period. That is what we need for inclusive prosperity. If we want to invest in useful and generous social programs, we need that prosperity. That is a crucial factor in the creation of a just society. It is important to have both, and we think the two go hand in hand.
When I examined budget 2018, what stood out for me and, I suspect, for many of my constituents, was the historic investments we made in science, especially basic science. Funding bodies across the country were pleased and applauded our initiative. For a decade, their budgets were frozen or slashed. Scientists were even muzzled. Canada fell behind. Anyone who stands still while the world moves forward falls behind.
Canada fell behind in terms of investment in basic research, which is crucial to future innovation, that is, in 5, 10, or 15 years. This is about more than just drugs in the future; it also has to do with innovation and businesses that could emerge as a result of ideas developed in university laboratories.
The Quebec City region is home to many, many businesses that emerged from basic research conducted at Laval University. It is always done by the brilliant researchers I am lucky to represent in my riding who eventually manage to commercialize this research and turn it into businesses that benefit our economy and the other businesses in our region. This helps them innovate and offer technological benefits in health, pharmaceuticals, and technology. This has an impact on people's day-to-day lives and also creates jobs.
There is a reason why the Quebec City region is doing so well. If we consider the research being done and how that is translating into jobs, businesses, and innovation, it is no surprise that the unemployment rate in Quebec City is 3.8%. That is practically full employment and, in practical terms, it is.
This creates another challenge that our region is currently facing, namely, recruiting and attracting a labour force. I hear about this everywhere I go in the riding when I meet with entrepreneurs.
The budget 2018 investments in basic research are historic because they are higher than any previous federal investments in research. We must provide for long-term prosperity. We do not want to stifle innovation in Canada; we want to promote and encourage it, and this is why we are making these investments.
We want to make sure that Canada stays at the forefront of technological advances and science. It goes without saying that investing in science is a long-term investment in our economy and our collective prosperity.
Similarly, putting a price on carbon pollution is a long-term investment in a healthier environment. We will be creating a liveable country and planet, where we have drinking water and as little pollution as possible, and therefore without all the health problems this pollution would cause, like respiratory problems.
The price on carbon pollution clearly shows that we want to develop the economy, which is very important, but at the same time we want to protect the environment, which is just as important. This leaves us with the third option, which is a fair, balanced, and responsible approach. You sometimes hear people say that it must be one or the other. We chose to adopt a more balanced approach.
I want to add that, if you look at the jurisdictions that have put a price on carbon pollution, this measure encourages innovation and reduces the greenhouse gas emissions that the most innovative companies will produce. This is also the objective.
Let us not forget that certain jurisdictions have already put a price on carbon pollution. British Columbia, for example, did so a number of years ago and its economic record is one of the most impressive in Canada. It is the same thing with Quebec and Ontario, two provinces with remarkable economic performances who have put a price on carbon. We think that both can definitely go hand in hand. It leads to a more innovative, responsible and green economy. That is how the transition has to occur.
We know that the transition will not happen overnight, but we know that it can happen gradually. It will need incentives to succeed. For example, putting a price on carbon pollution is an incentive for innovation. Investments in public transit are incentives for people to change the way they commute because they have better options. I am also thinking of tax breaks and support for green energy. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in green and renewable energy. A broad range of measures that ensure both our economic prosperity and the protection of our environment and allow for a gradual and thoughtful transition have been implemented. That is where people expect the Liberal government to be responsible.
I know that my colleague from Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs likes the idea that environmental protection and economic growth can and must go hand in hand. That is our approach. In Bill C-74, pricing carbon pollution fosters innovation and better choices, makes our economy more innovative and responsible, and protects the environment. I think that that idea is what is driving my colleague from Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs and most members on this side of the House.
We believe that economic development and prosperity are important, but that protecting our environment is equally important. We believe that both go hand in hand and that the resulting prosperity should be inclusive.