Madam Speaker, the member for Louis-Hébert stated that Bill C-394 would not help mothers or fathers who had a small business. I assume he believes this because they may not pay into EI. However, to clarify, while the government is extending parental leave, those same parents who may own small businesses will not have the opportunity to use that benefit because they do not pay into EI.
I am happy to support Bill C-394, the supporting new parents act. I am always proud to stand and support families. They are the cornerstone of our society. When that foundation is strong, it is to everybody's benefit. Unfortunately, under the Liberal government, times right now are really tough for families.
It has been reported that on average middle-class Canadian families are paying more than $800 in additional taxes due to the Liberal government's policies. These are the very people the government claims it is still helping. For my constituents in Saskatchewan, there is a reality that the carbon tax will add significantly to the tax bill, which will be on top of the $800 more they are already paying under the Liberal government.
The Liberals are imposing a carbon tax on the provinces, and it will come at a significant cost to each and every person. In fact, Finance Canada has stated that the Liberals' carbon tax will cost an extra 11¢ per litre just in gasoline alone. When people live in rural Saskatchewan, they have long distances to drive to get just about anywhere, such as the grocery store, the midnight run to Walmart to get diapers, formula, or whatever the case may be. This carbon tax will add up very quickly.
While the government is raising the cost of living for Canadians, it is encouraging to consider the proposed legislation before us, legislation that would actually help new parents keep more of their hard-earned money. The supporting new parents act would deliver real support to families at a time when they need it the most.
The arrival of a child is a happy and exciting occasion for new parents. As a mother, I know this first-hand. My children are my greatest joys. I also know that this milestone comes with many additional costs. New parents will need everything from diapers to wipes to bottles to car seats to strollers to cribs, and that is just the beginning of the list. There is so much more. I have only named a few of the basics. A full list would almost be endless.
By removing the federal income tax from EI maternity and EI parental programs, the supporting new parents act would help alleviate the financial pressures of these additional costs. Certainly, the proposed legislation would be a welcomed relief. When parents can keep more of their take-home benefit, it gives them more choice in deciding whether to stay home with their baby.
Currently, EI maternity benefits are available to a birth mother for up to 15 weeks. Parental benefits are available for up to an additional 35 weeks. Now the parental benefits can be extended up to 61 weeks at a reduced wage replacement.
The opportunity to bond and care for a child in its infancy is so very valuable to mother, baby, and father. I cherished the time I had with both of my children. The existence of the El maternity and El parental programs makes that a possibility for so many Canadians.
When we consider this legislation and the price tag that comes with becoming a new parent, it is important for us all to remember that El benefits are not equal to a person's regular pay. The basic benefit rate is 55% of his or her average weekly pay. That is only a little more than half of a person's regular pay. For parents who choose to extend their parental benefits to the maximum of 61 weeks under the new regulations, their benefit rate is reduced to 33% from 55%.
This means that while new parents are incurring new and additional costs, they are taking home less pay. Then, of the benefits that they do receive, they do not get to keep all of it. As it stands, every Canadian who collects benefits through these programs pays federal taxes on them. Their take-home benefit is being taxed. Some parents are also slapped with a tax bill when they file their taxes.
The parental EI program has some new flexibility, in that parents can choose to extend the length of their parental leave. For many parents this is positive, and the option to stay at home with their child in these early years is preferred. However, this new flexibility has not provided more income to parents. Extended leave means that parents have even less income over an extended period of time. It is great that there is a desire to make these programs more flexible. What we cannot forget is that there are expenses at home regardless. For many parents, this choice may be unaffordable. If that is the case, then it really is not a choice that is available to them.
Rather than just making the parental leave longer, let us also remove the federal tax from these benefits. Let us take a real step to put more money back into the pockets of hard-working Canadians. Let us help offset the cost of a parent who decides to take leave from work to be with their infant. Let us not tax the dollars of taxpayers twice. That is not fair.
With the support of this House, this legislation could deliver significant support to Canadian parents of a newborn or an adopted child. To give an example of the support this legislation would deliver, a Canadian parent with an annual salary of $50,000 would be eligible for a tax credit of $4,000, and $4,000 can go a long way. Depending on where they shop, a box of 128 diapers will cost them, give or take, over $35. With $4,000 more in their pocket, they can buy a lot of diapers.
What this legislation is really offering Canadians is the ability to better meet their family's needs. It takes off some of the financial pressures of becoming a new parent and allows for more flexibility to spend precious bonding time with their children.
I am happy to stand up and support of this legislation. Conservatives are committed to delivering meaningful support to Canadian families. On this side of the House, we understand that the cost of raising a family can really add up and that for many Canadians it is not easy to make ends meet. We know that is particularly true for new parents who are facing new experiences and new expenses with less income.
The legislation we are considering today is an opportunity to support these new parents. It is a chance to strengthen families by giving them financial support when they need it most. When we put more of their hard-earned money back into their pockets, it means they have more money to spend on their priorities. They do not need the government to spend it on their behalf.
We have seen the Liberal government's reckless spending. It only ends up costing Canadian taxpayers more and more. This money is better in the pockets of Canadians. Moms and dads work hard to make ends meet, and they know what their family's needs are. They deserve to keep more of their hard-earned money.
The supporting new parents bill would help a lot of Canadian families. I hope that it will find support on all sides of the House.