Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure for me to highlight some of the key measures in the federal budget, the economic action plan 2014. It is entitled “The Road to Balance: Creating Jobs and Opportunities”. It was recently tabled by the Minister of Finance.
Those are two very important aspects of the plan to ensure that indeed there are continuing jobs and continuing long-term prosperity in Canada.
This is the government's tenth budget since 2006. I have been here for each of the years of the budgets after that. Over that period, our country has been confronted by some unprecedented global and economic challenges from beyond our borders. We have certainly had to take action as a result.
In good time and bad times, we have never strayed from our commitment to strengthen our economy for all Canadians, with the determination to see our plan through without raising taxes—and that is an important aspect of it—while at the same time addressing of the deficit. Those are important pillars in keeping our economy strong and ensuring that we do well in the long term.
As was mentioned a number of times here today, Canada is leading the global economic recovery. The fact is that over one million net new jobs have been created in Canada, over 85% of them full time and nearly 80% in the private sector. Those areas are very important. That is where we are creating the jobs.
This has all happened since the end of the recession in July 2009. Over this period, this is the strongest job growth in the entire G7 by far.
Canadians have also enjoyed the strongest income growth in the G7. Canada is the only G7 country to have more than fully recovered business investment loss during the recession.
It is important that we keep on track for balancing the budget. Before the global recession hit, our government paid down $37 billion in debt, bringing Canada's debt to its lowest level in 25 years.
Members will remember that there was a discussion about what we should do with the extra funds that were available, and a decision was made to pay down the debt. That was in advance of the global recession that was to take place. We now find that was a very wise thing to do. That aggressive debt reduction and fiscal responsibility and good planning put Canada in the best position possible to weather the global recession.
When the global recession hit, we made a deliberate decision to run a temporary deficit to protect our economy and jobs. I was there when that discussion was held as well. Would we go into deficit in order to preserve our economy, in order to create jobs? The answer was that we would indeed go into deficit, fairly significantly, but in the short term and with a plan to return to balance. Those monies were not placed or spent by putting them on some big dark black hole. The money was utilized primarily to create infrastructure.
Infrastructure was indeed needed to create jobs. In fact, infrastructure is the backbone for our economy. Businesses that want to invest and expand require infrastructure to move products to the port, especially if they are in central Canada. They require electricity. They require highways. All those kinds of things are necessary. That money was invested in infrastructure and certainly helped to create jobs in the short term, but it also ensured our economic prosperity in the longer term.
While other countries continue to struggle with debt that is spiralling out of control, Canada remains in a most enviable fiscal position among the G7 countries.
Our Conservative government remains on track to return to balanced budgets in 2015-16. Specifically, economic action plan 2014 announced that the deficit is expected to decline to $2.9 billion in 2014-15 and that a surplus of over $6 billion is expected in 2015-16, even after taking into account a $3 billion annual adjustment for risk.
For all intents and purposes, the budget is balanced, and we are going to announce a surplus.
At the same time, federal transfers that provide important income support to individuals, such as old age security and employment insurance, and major transfers to other levels of government, including those for social programs and health care, have continued to grow.
Budget 2014 also builds on these efforts to reduce wasteful and ineffective government spending by announcing an additional $9.1 billion in ongoing savings. It is not just a question of creating a climate by keeping taxes low to ensure that income is earned and taxes are paid; it is also important to ensure that we do not spend wastefully or operate ineffectively.
We have made public service sector wages and benefits affordable for taxpayers by ensuring that compensation is fair and in line with other public and private sector employers. We have improved the fairness of the tax system by closing tax loopholes and strengthening tax enforcement to ensure low taxes for all taxpayers, not only a select few.
In addition, we have controlled the size and cost of government by freezing departmental budgets to ensure efficiency in government operations and administration. I know it is difficult to do. Once we start doing that, there are a lot of complaints that we are starting to require more efficiency to ensure that we can operate better. It is like a culture that sets in, asking if we can do more with less. Once that starts happening, the amount that is saved ends up being a significant portion. It is not just a saving in the short term; the savings continue to accumulate as the years go forward. It is important for that to happen.
Overall, since 2010, actions that we have taken to make government more effective and efficient are saving taxpayers roughly $19 billion a year, which over a number of years amounts to a significant saving to Canadian taxpayers. At the same time, since 2006 we have increased transfers by over 50% to an all-time high of about $65 billion in 2014-15.
As I said, another important pillar in ensuring that the economy continues to do as well as it has is keeping taxes low. Unlike what some others would suggest, our Conservative government believes in low taxes and in leaving more money where it belongs: in the pockets of hard-working Canadians and Canadian families and in job-creating businesses.
Indeed, as has been mentioned here in the House before, we have cut taxes nearly 160 times, reducing the overall tax burden to the lowest level it has been in 50 years. We have cut taxes in every way that government collects them, including personal tax, consumption tax, business tax, excise tax, and more. In fact, our strong record of tax relief has meant savings of nearly $3,400 for a typical family of four in 2014.
We cut the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%. That was welcomed by all Canadians. We increased the amount that Canadians can earn without paying any tax at all so that low-income earners would not have to pay tax.
We introduced pension income splitting for seniors. As we all know, we reduced the GST from 7% to 5%, placing more than $1,000 back into the pockets of the average family.
We introduced and enhanced the working income tax benefit to ensure that low-income earners could earn more and keep more in their pockets. That has been well received, and the enhancement has certainly done well for lower-income earners.
We introduced the tax-free savings account, the most important personal savings vehicle since the RRSP.
We reduced the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%. We steadily lowered the general business tax rate from 21% to 15%. When someone looks to invest in Canada, whether they are a business person, a corporation, or an entrepreneur, having a good tax climate is important in deciding to either expand a business or invest in a new business.
Overall, we have also removed over one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls altogether.
Of course, the final point I want to talk about is investing in communities and infrastructure. It is an interesting area.