Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure for me to rise to speak to Bill C-43, the budget implementation act, no. 2. This is a budget that we introduced in February. We have been talking about this budget for almost nine months and it is time to get it passed. It is a good idea to get budgets passed in the year they are introduced and then we can think about the next budget in 2015. I know sometimes the opposition would like to extend the debate on this for several more months, but it is time for us to get acting on this, with some very important measures for the fiscal health of the country.
First I want to talk about the benefits of balanced budgets. This is the framework we are working within when we talk about this budget. There are obviously tax measures here, but also spending measures. Combined with the good measures we have taken over the last few years, they brought us us to a point where we are looking at balanced budgets again in 2015. That is very important.
I also want to talk about small businesses because they are so important. Many jobs are created in our country because of small business. Some small businesses become very successful and become larger businesses, but they are engines of growth and for employment. There are some very important measures in the BIA, the budget implementation act, to support small business.
I also want to talk about support for students, and getting young people their first jobs. Youth employment is always a challenge in every country in the world, and Canada has done a better job than most countries when it comes to youth employment, so I want to talk about that.
The last item that has given a real framework within the BIA, no. 2, is the DNA missing persons index. I want to talk about that. We have not spent enough time talking about it in the debate. I noted that some of my colleagues opposite wanted to deviate from the actual content of Bill C-43 and wanted to talk about things that were outside the budget, but I want to focus my comments on the budget.
When it comes to the benefits of balanced budgets, on this side of the House we understand how important it is. We are the only G7 country that has a rock solid AAA credit rating. That is important because it keeps our interest rates low. When we have lower interest rates, it means we pay less in interest costs. It means we have more fiscal capacity to do other things. It frees up taxpayer dollars that are otherwise spent on interest payments. We can spend money on programs instead. The major credit rating agencies, Moody's, Standard & Poor's, and Fitch, all gave us that AAA rating. It is something a lot of other countries, including G7 countries, do not have. We are very proud of that, and it is because we have made sound fiscal decisions in the last few years to give us that AAA credit rating.
The other benefit of that strong credit rating is it gives us an environment where business has confidence to invest and create jobs. It also gives consumers confidence when it comes to buying homes, to buying other real property and making investments that stimulate activity in the economy.
It also strengthens our ability to respond to emergencies. Because we have some fiscal capacity, we can adapt to global shocks.
We can also prepare for an aging population. The reality is we are going to have some challenges in the coming years and because of the wise decisions we have been making since 2006, and especially since we have had a majority government since 2011, we have really wrestled with the issue of balancing the books.
It is also a fairness inequity when it comes to generations. It is a responsibility for us, as parliamentarians and legislators, to not leave our children's generation and our grandchildren with a debt that we accumulate. It is very important that those people who are not old enough to vote today should not be burdened with a debt that our generation creates.
I will just mention a couple of relevant statistics.
In 2014, Canada's net debt to GDP ratio was less than 40%, which is the lowest among G7 countries, by quite far in fact. Germany is the second lowest at only 52.2% and the G7 average is about 87%. That is a measure of our fiscal strength, the fact that our debt compared to the economy's ability to sustain is really an important metric.
Overall since 2010, we have taken many actions on the spending side of things. We have reduced spending since 2010 by over $19 billion a year. Those kinds of things do not happen by accident. Budgets do not balance themselves. This is because of the very strong measures we have taken to control spending in the federal government, and that is what has given us this room and has also given us this balanced budget.
This is unlike the previous Liberal government. The Liberals had a majority government for 13 years and they had all kinds of ability to do things with their budgets, but they chose to drastically reduce transfers to the provinces: the Canada health transfer, the Canada social transfer, all kinds of transfers to the provinces. They also they reduced transfers to individuals.
We are not doing that in our budget. We have not done it in any of our budgets. In fact, we have increased transfers to the provinces to almost $65 billion in 2014-15, which is a 50% increase since 2006.
We are balancing the budget, but unlike the Liberals, we are not doing it on the backs of the provinces. That is a very important thing to state.
The previous debater from the NDP talked about the reductions in the Canada health transfer. That is completely untrue. I will give the example of Ontario, where the Canada health transfer has been increasing by 6% per year, but Ontario has only been increasing its health spending by 2% a year. In other words, it has been using the annual increases in the Canada health transfer, pocketing the 4% difference and using it for other programs.
We have made an adjustment to the funding formula based on input from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which showed that there would be declines in health care spending in all provinces because of better health management within the provinces and because of technology. There are significant administrative costs going down because of technology, but also because the cost of diagnostic equipment is going down. This is resulting in a different way to transfer money to the provinces for health care.
I am going to talk about small business. I know I do not have that much time, but it is a very important topic.
We reduced the small business tax rate some time ago, from 12% to 11%, so all small businesses have benefited from that.
However, the thing that small businesses talk about more than anything is payroll costs. They talk a lot about utility costs in Ontario, but payroll costs are a big challenge for them. We froze EI premiums, and small businesses were very thankful for that. We then took a step further for smaller businesses that pay less than $15,000 a year. We reduced that by a further 15%, and they are very thankful for that. When this was announced, the CFIB said:
This announcement is fantastic news for Canada’s entrepreneurs and their employees, and as such, can only be a positive for the Canadian economy.
It is interesting. When they get that extra cash, what do small businesses want to do? They want to grow their business. Sometimes that means adding hours. Sometimes it means hiring new people. Sometimes it means investing in new technology to increase productivity. It could also mean training employees. Ultimately, it is up to each small business to decide what it wants to do with those benefits.
This is on top of all of the other things we have done to help small business. The lifetime capital gains exemption is a big deal, and we raised that significantly in the last few years. In this budget, we would increase that to $800,000 for a lifetime. This is very important for small businesses who want to transfer their businesses, typically within their own family, but to other individuals as well. This is the exemption they can have, the reward they have for growing their business.
The other things that we are doing, which are detailed in the budget, include cutting red tape for small business. This is one of the things that is really a drag on small business. The number that has been given, and has been verified, is over 800,000 payroll remittances by 50,000 small and medium-sized businesses will be eliminated. It is a real step up for small business when we can remove that red tape.
Overall, we are significantly reducing their taxes.
I would like to talk about support for students, because there are significant measures.
We have launched the Canada job grant, but the important category of students is the apprentices. There are significant measures there. When we look at the apprenticeship incentive grant, the apprenticeship completion grant and the tradesperson tools deduction, there are all kinds of things that really get people into the trades where they can get those jobs.
If we look at other measures that have been extended in this budget, the youth employment strategy would go up from $300 million to $330 million a year. That is very significant.
In the time I have remaining, I would like to talk about the DNA-based missing persons index, because it is such an important measure. This budget implementation act gives the framework for that, with $8.1 million to create a DNA-based missing persons index. This would be a very valuable tool for investigators, for coroners and for law enforcement agencies to find missing people and to investigate crimes. We have created these indices now, through this BIA, which would give the structure for the DNA profiles, ensuring it is used effectively and has the budget behind it, and the rules for how to use that index. It is a very important measure, and I am proud of our government.
It is a terrific budget, it is the right budget for Canada and I hope all members will support it.