Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to respond to the speech from the Leader of the Opposition.
One of the things we have listened to and heard from Canadians over the past number of months of the election campaign and subsequently is the need for us to collaborate in the House, a need for us to work together. One element of that will involve actually listening to each other in the House.
My team gave me an excellent speech to read in response to the Leader of the Opposition's speech, but this morning, I am choosing not to read it because it was written yesterday. I want to take the time to really listen to the Leader of the Opposition, who shared his thoughts on the work this Parliament will be doing and his vision for the best way to help Canadians across the country.
This is indicative of the new approach we need to take. Instead of merely reading a speech that itemizes everything we have done and everything we want to do, a speech that brings together all the elements in the excellent throne speech delivered yesterday, I would rather respond to the Leader of the Opposition's speech by addressing each of his points individually.
Unfortunately, as I go through the elements that the hon. Leader of the Opposition laid out in his speech, I will have to stray a bit from them. There are some really important issues that matter to this country and to Canadians that he did not develop, dwell on or share his perspective on. First and foremost is on issue of indigenous reconciliation.
We are gathered here today, and every day, on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. As we move forward as a country, we have to include every Canadian and ensure they have a real and fair chance to succeed. For far too long in these houses of Parliament, we have not properly walked the road of reconciliation, which is a difficult road to be sure. It is one that will have setbacks and challenges as we walk it, but one on which we can make real progress, not just for indigenous Canadians but for all Canadians, as all Canadians have asked us repeatedly in recent elections to do. To continue to step up on indigenous reconciliation is something that we on this side of the House will do. I am sure it was a simple oversight on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition. I know that many people on the other side very much want us to work in partnership and in respect with indigenous peoples in the country.
He also did not touch on the health challenges and health opportunities we have as a country, to move forward on the big things that will make a real difference for Canadians, whether they be national universal pharmacare, ensuring that every Canadian can access a family doctor or ensuring that there are clear outcomes and expectations on mental health care right across the country. These are the things, along with home and palliative care, on which we intend to work.
We understand they are elements we will need to work on with the provinces, in respect and in partnership, because of provincial jurisdiction. That is why I am pleased to have begun some of those conversations already. I am very pleased to have an outstanding health minister and team, along with our deputy prime minister, who will engage directly with the premiers of provinces and territories across the country to move forward on keeping Canadians healthy.
Now the challenge for me is to respond to the Leader of the Opposition's speech, so I will go over his list of priorities for Canadians.
I do not think any Canadian anywhere in this country will be surprised to hear me say that, aside from those omissions, we agree with what he identified as Canadians' top concerns: the cost of living, affordability, the safety of Canadians abroad, ensuring the availability of good jobs for Canadians, fighting climate change and, lastly, national unity.
I think it is worth taking a look at each of those issues as well as some of the points he made and how he thinks we can address those issues. I want to show not only that we know how to listen, but also that we want to work with all parties in the House of Commons.
I will first address the question of affordability.
The Leader of the Opposition recognized that many Canadians are feeling anxious about their personal finances, about the path forward for themselves to retirement and about the path forward for their children to getting good jobs in the future. There are concerns about the rising costs of living. Questions of day-to-day expenses, the costs of housing and everyday purchases keep Canadians anxious. We agree entirely. That is why the Liberal Party set out four years ago to focus on the middle class and the people working hard to join it. What we proposed in this Speech from the Throne, and in this mandate as we move forward, is to respond to that in concrete and tangible ways.
A number of the initiatives we put forward in our first mandate have started to have significant positive effects on Canadians, but we know there is much more to do. The very first thing we did in the last Parliament was put forward a tax cut for the middle class by raising taxes on the wealthiest 1%. We knew that lowering taxes for Canadians was something that would make a difference in their lives and would demonstrate that we understand the anxiety people are feeling. That is the very first thing we moved forward with. We propose, in this 43rd Parliament, that the very first thing we do once again is lower taxes for Canadians.
We are planning on putting forward very shortly a proposal to raise the basic minimum exemption that people pay on their taxes to $15,000. That means that thousands of Canadians will no longer have to pay taxes at all, because they make less than $15,000. Many more will see their tax burdens decrease significantly. If we are looking for common ground in this House of Commons, as we are, this proposal significantly resembles the proposal put forward by the leader of the official opposition to help at the lowest levels of our tax system.
The Leader of the Opposition put forward a proposal that would help Canadians. We only have one small issue with it, which our proposal actually fixes, and I do not think it is a proposal that the Leader of the Opposition or his team will be preoccupied with. I think they can support it, because the change we made is to make sure that as we lower taxes for low-income Canadians and the middle class, we do not actually give any extra advantages to the wealthiest Canadians. The small hiccup in the proposal that the Leader of the Opposition put forward was that it would benefit someone making $400,000 a year than someone making $40,000 a year. We are ensuring that the help we are giving to Canadians by lowering taxes really goes to those who need it most. That will help with affordability.
The second big thing we did as a government four years ago was introduce the Canada child benefit. We stopped sending cheques to millionaire families like mine and that of my colleague, and we started giving more money to those who need it most: low-income and middle-class families. This measure has helped lift over 300,000 Canadian children out of poverty.
However, we recognize that more work needs to be done, and I do not want to use my time talking about what we have done over the past four years. I would rather talk about what we plan to do moving forward. We want to increase the Canada child benefit for families with children under the age of one. I think everyone here can get behind such a measure. As we know, it costs more to care for newborns than it does to raise children who are three or 13 years of age. This measure will truly help families, and we know it will help boost people's confidence in their future and in their children's future. This will also help reduce the anxieties that we know many Canadians experience.
We also acknowledge that housing is a concern for so many Canadians. That is why we recently developed a national housing strategy that will improve affordability and access to housing for Canadians. However, of course we recognize that we still have a lot of work to do.
We have worked with municipalities and provinces to respond to the very real need for housing. We recognize there is more to do and that is why we are continuing to invest in infrastructure. We look forward to bringing in the Canada housing benefit, which will be a portable benefit based on going to families rather than to a specific apartment or location. This will give families a broader range of choices in affording the housing they need in order to build a future for themselves and their families.
We also recognize that far too many young Canadians, far too many first-time homebuyers are seeing greater barriers to buying their first home as housing prices rise across the country. Even with economic growth and more jobs, we know that people are facing anxiety, and that any delays in millennials or others buying their first home ends up accumulating in missed opportunities to build the equity throughout their lives that would afford them a good retirement. That is why we put in place the first-time homebuyer initiative a number of years ago, which provides money to first-time homebuyers that lowers their mortgage costs and makes buying their first home more affordable. However, that is something we have done already.
What we are proposing to do as a next step around housing affordability is to make sure that people in high-cost markets, like Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, Victoria or the GTA, have a larger benefit. That would allow more people to buy their first home, even in places where the cost of housing is significantly higher than other places. Our focus on affordability and supporting the middle class , as well as the people working hard to join it, runs through everything we do.
What was interesting about the Leader of the Opposition's comments on this is that he talked about the carbon tax as being a significant cost for Canadians. If he is serious about reducing people's anxiety about the future and reassuring Canadians about their ability to tackle new challenges and support their families, it would be good if we were able to lay out the actual facts of what our plan of putting a price on pollution means for Canadians across the country.
First of all, to prevent pollution from being free anywhere in the country, we wanted to work with the provinces to ensure that they could create a price on pollution in a way that suited each province and its realities. That was the starting point. We would rather not have to bring in a federal backstop anywhere across the country, because we know that provinces have varied needs and perspectives and should be able to determine their own way of fighting climate change and putting a price on pollution to make sure it is not free anywhere in the country. However, we also need to make sure that everyone across the country is doing their part to prevent pollution from being free anywhere in the country, and that we have a level playing field. That is why, rightly, in our pan-Canadian framework to fight climate change, we expect a similar level of equivalency and stringency right across the country.
There are a number of provinces that do not believe it is important to fight climate change or to put a price on pollution. Therefore, we have to move forward in bringing in a backstop.
However, every single dollar collected from a particular province for the price on pollution will be returned to that province. Most important, average costs for an average family in that province will be less on the price on pollution we added than the climate action incentive we return to them at tax time before the full year is up. Therefore, very simply and clearly put, in the provinces in which there is a federal backstop, that is, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and soon Alberta and Manitoba, the average citizens of those provinces will be better off with this price on pollution than they would be had there been no price on pollution. Indeed, in a province like Saskatchewan, where the Leader of the Opposition is from, I can point out that families will be hundreds of dollars better off every year with this price on pollution. If one wanted to truly bring down the temperature and the anxiety in the west, pointing out that fact might actually help.
We recognize as well that fighting for better affordability for Canadians means fighting the challenges of poverty that far too many Canadians continue to face. That is why initiatives like the Canada child benefit and our fight against poverty have helped in lifting over 900,000 Canadians out of poverty over the past years. That is something on which we know there is much more work to be done. For every family we have seen lifted out of poverty, there are more families we need to help. That is what we are going to focus on in the coming years.