Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate on Bill C-32, the fall economic statement and its implementation. It is critical to address this kind of issue. It is critical to the constituents I represent in Parkdale—High Park in terms of the cost of living crisis that so many Canadians are facing and in terms of addressing affordability.
I am happy to highlight, in the context of this intervention, what we are doing and what we are proposing to do as a government. Let me start with students. I feel that I am not that far removed from my student years, although it has been almost 30 years. I remember those days fondly. What I did not have to deal with then that students have to deal with now is really crippling debt with skyrocketing tuition rates and the debt loads that young people are taking on.
We want people to be considering post-secondary education. We want them to be advancing themselves and their careers through higher education. During COVID we implemented a new relaxation on the interest being charged on federal student loans. With the fall economic statement, we are entrenching permanently the position that we took during COVID on a go-forward basis to eliminate interest on the federal portion of student loans.
The caveat here is that not every province is following suit with their provincial counterparts. As a proud representative from Toronto, I urge the provincial government in Ontario to follow suit as six other provinces have. This would ensure that the provincial portion in my native province also eliminates interest so that we can render more fairness for these young people.
The next subject area I will to turn to is housing. Housing is something we hear about all the time and rightfully so. Housing has become difficult in terms of attaining housing on a purchase model for people who would like to own property. It has become difficult for people who want to rent in this country. It is difficult on a number of fronts.
Colleagues know the actions we have taken as a government, but more needs to be done. The national housing strategy was an important initial step in 2017. We have supplemented that with continuing contributions to the housing portfolio.
What we are doing in this fall economic statement is fourfold. The first thing we are doing is ensuring that a new tax-free first homes savings account is permitted to be opened. This will operate much like a TFSA. This would allow a young person or a young couple to save as much as $40,000 in savings, tax free, to contribute to the purchase of that first home. That is an important step.
A few years ago, we also implemented something called the first-time homebuyers' tax credit. The fall economic statement proposes to double that amount to reflect the fact that housing prices have gone up. We appreciate that people need more of a credit to take that initial step to purchase their first home.
On a third front, what we are doing with respect to house flipping is really critical. We have heard about the commodification of the housing industry. We have heard about people using it as a speculative sort of exercise. The proposal contained in the fall economic statement is to tax the profits as business income for those who would sell a property within 12 months of having purchased it, preventing them from taking the capital gains exemption that is otherwise available to them. That is really critical because we want to ease that speculation in the housing market, not encourage it.
The last piece is also critical for those who want multi-generational housing. This is common in some parts of the country and some parts of the Canadian mosaic. We are trying to facilitate seniors to age at home. For example, for people who might want to have elderly parents live in their homes, possibly having three generations within the same dwelling, the renovation tax credit is being expanded through the multi-generational home renovation tax credit.
It does not stop with those who own homes. What we are doing for renters is very significant. Recently we topped up the Canada housing benefit, which was implemented through a proposal that I believe received royal assent yesterday. That was a $500 top-up. It is unfortunate that not all parties were onside in terms of supporting Bill C-31, which implemented this increase of $500 to the Canada housing benefit. It targets low-income Canadians who are renting in this current financial environment. Approximately 1.8 million people renting in this country will be affected by this one change, which is direct assistance during difficult economic times to help with the cost of housing.
On the broader piece of affordability, I want to highlight two other key facets. The first is the GST rebate, which I believe is in Bill C-30, if memory serves. Thankfully, there was a lot of consent in the chamber for doubling it for the next six months. That affects 11 million Canadians. That is a very significant form of assistance in difficult economic times.
The second is the dental benefit, which will be up to $1,300, in Bill C-31, which I believe received royal assent just yesterday. That will enable children under the age of 12 in low-income families to get much-needed dental care. I will salute the approach that has been mooted in the chamber by various parties about expanding the concept of health care to include dental care. That is a step in the right direction. That is a step we need to take and are taking as a government. This is really critical.
Another point I want to add, if I can open a parenthesis, is that it is critical for people to understand, including Canadians watching right now, in dealing with the rising impacts of inflation, they should note how many government benefits that are currently part of our social safety net are indexed to inflation. They are multiple. The Canada child benefit, the GST credit, CPP benefits, old age security, the guaranteed income supplement and even the federal minimum wage are all tied to and indexed to inflation. We do not want to see inflation rise any further, but if it does, the benefits will also have a concomitant increase. That is very important to give people peace of mind about what their benefits will be assisting them with as we deal with difficult issues about the cost of living.
I want to touch on what we are doing for workers. We are working hard to assist workers directly. The fall economic statement would enhance the Canada workers benefit, which we have implemented. For those who are not familiar with it, there used to be disincentives for people coming off of assistance and taking low-paying work. We did not want to disincentivize people from leaving government assistance and entering the workforce.
The Canada workers benefit creates a top-up for those people who are in that particular situation, so they are encouraged to enter the workforce rather than discouraged. With this change, we are not providing that benefit annually, but on a quarterly basis, so those benefits will be in people's bank accounts more frequently, which helps them deal with the cost of living on a more direct and frequent basis. This one change has the potential to affect as many as 4.2 million workers.
We are also talking about a sustainable jobs training centre. This dovetails exactly with something we have heard a lot about over the past four to five years in the chamber, which is the notion of a just transition. How do we transition good, unionized work from different sectors into good, unionized, high-paying jobs in new, sustainable clean tech sectors? We do that through harnessing the power of unions and also through harnessing the powers of a sustainable economy. The sustainable jobs training centre would do just that. That is part of the fall economic statement.
We are also addressing fairness for workers directly by taxing share buybacks. This is important because, as the Minister of Finance outlined when she announced the fall economic statement, what we want to do is encourage businesses to not hold on to their wealth, to not pay for dividends to shareholders, but rather to reinvest in their businesses, including through R and D, which would empower the workers themselves. That is a critical feature, and that is what we are doing in this fall economic statement.
Another component is addressing fairness for small and medium enterprises. I am proud to serve as the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Small Business. Insofar as we addressed the small businesses stakeholders around the country, we heard repeatedly from entities about the prohibitive costs of credit card transactions, which only escalated during the pandemic as people turned to cashless methods of payment.
The charges that are part of the credit interchange fee structures are proving to be more and more prohibitive on small business owners. What we have committed quite openly in the fall economic statement is that we will doggedly pursue a negotiated agreement with financial institutions to reduce those fees. If those negotiations prove futile or unsuccessful, we have made a public statement in the chamber and through the fall economic statement that we will actually legislate in this area to bring down those fees. That would have a direct impact on small and medium businesses.
On this point, I want to read some of the reaction we have heard. The Convenience Industry Council of Canada has said, “CICC is pleased that the government has responded to our calls for action and has acknowledged the impact that credit card fees are having on convenience stores across the country.” They also said that Canadian convenience stores “have reached a tipping point & we need the feds to act NOW.”
That is exactly what we are doing. We are responding to this. When one responds to the needs of small business owners, one also responds to the people who use small businesses, the consumers who are facing escalating costs because credit card transaction fees are passed on to them.
That is part of what we are doing in the fall economic statement. It is critical to address the cost of living needs of Canadians, my constituents of Parkdale—High Park, the constituents of every member in this chamber. That is why I will be voting in support of the fall economic statement, Bill C-32, and I encourage every member of this chamber to do the same.