Madam Speaker, I want to thank the Conservative opposition for giving me and other members the opportunity to highlight the two different approaches that are before Canadians, between the Liberal government and the Conservative opposition.
There are two different opportunities for the future. One is from the opposition where the government would take a step back, leaving Canadians without a real plan to deal with climate change or the rising cost of living. The second opportunity is where the government would take a step up, becoming a leader in both supporting affordability for the middle class and protecting our environment.
As members have heard today and in the last couple of months, Conservatives want to make pollution free again and make life less affordable for Canadians. They want to take money away from their constituents. However, we are fighting climate change and making life more affordable for Canadians.
I want to be clear that affordability is at the forefront of everything that our government does and has done, from the middle-class tax cut to the Canada child benefit, to the CPP expansion and new benefits for seniors and working Canadians. Our focus is always on creating more jobs and helping Canadians save and spend on the things they care about.
The motion put forward today shows us that the opposition does not care about our environment and has no plan to confront the very real dangers that climate change poses to Canadians' future, nor do they want to show any attention to middle-class Canadians, just like they failed to do during the decade they were in power. Instead, they want to block the plan that our government has put together, which is a plan that will protect Canadians, our economy and future generations.
Where the opposition's motion is blind to the effects of climate change, we are not, and Canadians definitely are not, because they see these effects every day. They see them when extreme weather events threaten their safety or their family's safety and when their business or livelihoods are at stake. We just have to look at what happened this past week in Ontario and Quebec where flooding has forced people from their homes and businesses.
Canadians are already paying the high price of pollution in structural repairs, lower property values and insurance premiums, not to mention the cost in emergency services. In fact, climate change is expected to cost Canada's economy $5 billion every year by 2020. We do not think that Canadians should be faced with these costs. However, we cannot wait. It has been over a year since the party opposite promised a climate plan, which they still have not delivered, yet it is now that we need action.
Our plan to put a price on pollution and give the money back to Canadians is based on scientific consensus and the advice of Nobel Prize-winning economists. It is based on an agreement with our international partners and years of co-operation in building the foundations for an effective and coordinated global approach to stopping climate change before it is too late.
There is consensus that carbon pollution pricing is the most effective and economically efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with climate change. It is why many provinces and territories have already implemented or are on track to implement a carbon pollution pricing system. However, in communities that do not have a system that meets the federal standard, we are not turning our backs on those Canadians. We are discouraging pollution in the place they call home and reinvesting all the money collected back into their province. Canadians can then use this money to make cleaner and more environmentally sustainable spending choices.
As we have been saying from the very beginning, this is not just the right thing to do for our future, but it is the right thing to do for our economy. Our plan is not just the right thing for the future for the environment, but as was so eloquently mentioned by my NDP colleague from British Columbia, in the provinces that have had a price on pollution for some time now—in the case of B.C. since 2008 and Quebec since 2013—those economies have been growing steadily. Life has not been made less affordable because of it. Under the federal backstop, I would argue it makes life even more affordable for 80% of Canadians, as the PBO has reported, and it also helps to fight climate change.
Putting a price on carbon pollution signals to big business that it is time to innovate. It is time to invest in clean technologies and long-term growth opportunities that will pay off. As more and more countries realize that climate change is real, man-made and is happening now, we want them to turn to Canada to find the tools, the talent and the ideas they need to transform their own economies.
Already the global market for low-carbon goods and services is estimated to be worth $5.8 trillion. That is a lot of potential for Canada, but only if we can help businesses to make the smart investments now. For Canadians, we are taking the same approach. We are giving every dollar collected through the price on pollution back to Canadians, encouraging them to use that money to make more sustainable purchases.
Middle-class Canadians will get more money back through the climate action incentive rebate each year than they would ever have to pay. This is something that the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed in his latest report, as I have mentioned.
Rather than telling Canadians how to spend their money to reduce emissions, the carbon price allows them to make those decisions in a manner than best suits their needs. That will lead to more demand for sustainable alternatives, turning into even more profits and incentives for companies and entrepreneurs developing new ways to produce goods or provide services at reduced emissions. Helping Canadian businesses stay competitive has always been in mind when we designed our plan to fight climate change.
It is why in provinces that do not have their own plan for reducing carbon pollution, we are giving a portion of the funds raised to businesses. That is on top of the steps we have already taken to reduce the small business tax rate and help businesses of all sizes write off capital investments faster.
When we took office, it was our firm intention to help hard-working Canadians tap the benefits of a strong and growing economy. That is exactly what we have done. For a decade, this country's prosperity was not inclusive, but now it is.
We asked the wealthiest 1% of Canadians to pay a little more so that we could give the middle class a tax break. That tax break is helping over nine million Canadians.
We created the Canada child benefit. This summer, it will be indexed two years ahead of schedule, as it was last summer. Compared to the previous child benefit, this one is simpler and more generous and targets the families that need it most. Unlike the former child benefit, this new benefit is tax-free.
With the Canada child benefit, nine out of 10 Canadian families are getting more in benefits than they did under the previous system, and Canadian children are better off as a result. The Canada child benefit has helped lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. A few weeks ago, Statistics Canada reported that, under our watch, overall poverty in this country has been reduced by 20%, and child poverty is down nearly 40%. All Canadians should be proud of that. It certainly would not have happened if the Stephen Harper government were still in power in this country. Reducing inequality was not particularly high on its list of priorities.
The additional support provided by the Canada child benefit is making a big difference for those working hard to make ends meet. This additional support helps pay for the things that can make a real difference in a child's future, like nutritious food, sports activities or lessons.
Yesterday we announced that we are increasing the Canada child benefit for the second time as of July 20, putting more money in the pockets of middle-class families.
Thanks to the tax cut and the Canada child benefit, a typical family of four receives, on average, around $2,000 more a year, according to the OECD. That money helps families provide for their children, save for the future, and grow our economy, which benefits everyone. These two measures help families across the country. A couple with two children and two incomes—one an average salary and the other two thirds of that salary—now gets to keep nearly 85% of their gross income. For a single mother or father earning an average income with two kids, or for families with two children where only one parent earns an average income, the benefits are even greater. These families pay an effective tax rate lower than 2%. That is how it should be. In other words, these families get to keep 98% of what they earn.
For Canadians working hard to join the middle class, we also replaced the working income tax benefit with the Canada worker benefit, which is more generous. The Canada worker benefit puts more money in the pockets of low-income workers by encouraging more people to enter the workforce and stay there, since it provides real help to more than two million workers across the country.
In addition to being more generous, the Canada worker benefit will be more accessible than the program it replaces, since the Canada Revenue Agency will be able to calculate the Canada worker benefit for anyone who did not apply for it in their tax return. Canadians will start receiving improved benefits under the new Canada worker benefit in early 2020, when they file their 2019 tax return.
That is what we have done for Canadians just through the tax system. We have also done much more to help Canadians keep more money in their pockets and especially to reduce inequality across the country, with the results we have seen.
We know, for example, that buying a house or a condo is probably the most important investment that most Canadians will make in their lifetime. Aside from the fiscal plan that we have put forward, this is where we have come a long way in helping Canadians who need it most. Unfortunately, for too many hard-working Canadians, especially young people, the current market makes them feel like home ownership is beyond their reach, especially in larger cities.
To help, budget 2019 builds on our national housing strategy with new actions to improve housing affordability, especially for first-time homebuyers. To start, we are creating the first-time homebuyer incentive to give first-time homebuyers greater flexibility, both in purchasing a home and in managing its ongoing costs. It would allow eligible first-time homebuyers to finance a portion of their home through a shared equity mortgage with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, CMHC. With a shared equity mortgage, first-time homebuyers would save money every month, leaving them with more money to pay down their traditional mortgage sooner or to spend on other priorities. All told, the first-time homebuyer incentive will help make the dream of owning a home a reality for many more Canadians and make the overall experience easier on the pocketbook.
Budget 2019 also plans to provide first-time homebuyers with greater access to their RRSP savings to buy a home, raising the withdrawal limit from $25,000 to $35,000, all while increasing housing supply by making significant investments in building and repairing homes across the country.
Our efforts to help Canadians with the cost of living do not stop there. As with housing, we know that the price of electricity is leaving less and less money in people's pockets. We see rates rising, outpacing salary increases, making it more and more difficult for many to make ends meet.
Our government believes that more needs to be done and can be done to make sure that hard-working families can afford their monthly electricity bills. That is why budget 2019 proposes to invest $1 billion to increase energy efficiency in residential, commercial and multi-unit buildings. This support would go a long way to making Canada's homes and buildings more energy efficient, which will help reduce Canadians' electricity bills, whether they are homeowners, renters or building operators. It is the sort of investment that pays dividends today and for the long term. Like carbon pollution pricing, these measures are the right thing to do for Canadians and for our economy. Even when you do not take into account all the benefits of a greener Canada, like healthier communities, better technology and protected wildlife, the economic benefits are expected to be significant.
The opposition would prefer to ignore the pollution problem and hope that it goes away. Canadians know where that approach leads, and they know that we do not have a choice at this point. We cannot ignore the problem anymore. We can pretend that pollution is free and climate change poses no threat to our health, our communities and our economy. However, we must face the problem in a way that not only creates a positive impact, but also creates jobs and grows the economy.
During the last election, Canadians chose between the Conservative plan for austerity and cuts, and the NDP's plan which would hurt business growth. Our government came with a plan that can invest in the middle class, create jobs and build an economy that works for everyone. The results are quite telling. With a strong and growing economy, middle-class Canadians are seeing first-hand that our plan is working. Canadians have created hundreds of thousands of new jobs, pushing unemployment to 40-year lows and giving Canada one of the strongest records of economic growth in the G7.
Middle- and low-income Canadians have significantly more support. As I have mentioned, according to the OECD, a typical family of four is $2,000 better off today than they were four years ago under Stephen Harper's Conservatives. There are 825,000 Canadians who have been lifted out of poverty by things like the Canada child benefit. That is a 20% reduction in poverty in Canada in a short three and a half years. Nearly 900,000 low-income seniors have received more from the guaranteed income supplement. One of the first things we did when we took power was to increase by 10% the guaranteed income supplement for low-income and vulnerable seniors. More than two million working Canadians will benefit from the new Canada workers benefit.
During their mandate for the country, the Harper Conservatives ignored the needs of the middle class, and failed to fight inequalities, failed to fight climate change.
Today, more Canadians are working, families have more money in their pockets, and we are doing our part to fight climate change and protect the environment, so I call on all members in today's debate to join Canadians, make the right choice and reject today's motion.