Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry.
I thank the House for this opportunity to discuss Bill C-43. The bill would implement important measures announced in economic action plan 2014. The measures in the bill would make a real difference in the lives of hard-working Canadians.
Life for all Canadians has never been better. We are blessed to live in the greatest country on earth, the economic envy of the post-recession world. However, we must also remain where we came from. We can never forget the great recession, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the downturn that erased $10 trillion in global market value and eradicated 62 million jobs. The great recession taught us one lesson: we can never take our affluence for granted. We must constantly and relentlessly take action to create jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity, and that is exactly what our government is doing through Canada's economic action plan. We have recovered all the jobs lost during the recession, but far more than that, we have created more than 1.2 million net new jobs since the depth of the downturn. These are overwhelmingly full-time, high-paying private sector jobs. More than that even, more Canadians are working now than at any other time in our history.
All Canadians are wealthier for their work. A recent New York Times analysis found that after-tax, middle-class incomes in Canada, substantially behind in 2000, now appear to be higher than in the United States. In fact, the Canadian middle class is among the richest in the developed world.
Yet despite our success, we cannot afford to be complacent. Canada refuses to be mediocre. That is why our measures take action across the economy. There are many measures contained in Bill C-43, but unfortunately I cannot touch on all of them. Today I would like to highlight measures to create jobs and growth and support hard-working Canadian families.
Let me begin with creating jobs. Central to our efforts in this regard is making sure Canadians have the skills they need to get hired. In Canada, apprentices in skill trades do most of their learning during on-the-job paid employment and participate in technical training for periods ranging from six to eight weeks each year. They face a challenge. There can be serious costs to complete the technical training required by their programs. That can include fees, tool and equipment costs, and living expenses. That is why we introduced the Canada apprenticeship loan in the first budget bill. This initiative will help apprentices get registered in Red Seal trades by providing access to over $100 million in interest-free loans each year to complete their training.
The parameters of Canada's apprentice loan program are similar to those of the Canada student loan program. That is why we believe that both programs would benefit from the same tax treatment. Bill C-43 proposes that the Income Tax Act be amended to extend the existing student loan interest credit—a non-refundable tax credit available for interest payments on loans approved under the Canada student loan program and similar provincial programs—to interest paid on the Canada apprentice loan. We are proud to help Canadians gain the skills they need for the jobs they want.
To create even more good, paying jobs, Bill C-43 takes action to lower taxes for small businesses. Small businesses and the entrepreneurs who power them are the lifeblood of our economy. Under our government, Canada is open for business, and in 2013 leapt from sixth to second place in the Bloomberg rankings for the most attractive destination for business. According to KPMG, Canada's total business tax costs are the lowest in the G7, 46% lower than those in the United States. We will not rest on our laurels. Those hard-working entrepreneurs deserve more money in their pockets, money they can use to expand their businesses and create more jobs.
That is why today's legislation includes the new small business job credit. This new credit would effectively lower small business' employment insurance premiums from the current rate of $1.88 to $1.60 per $100 of insurable earnings in 2015 and 2016. Any firm that pays employers' EI premiums equal to or less than $15,000 in those years, would be eligible for the rebate. That means 90% of the employers making EI contributions in Canada, or about 780,000 in each year, would directly benefit from the credit. There is even better news for business owners. This credit would require no new paperwork. The Canada Revenue Agency would automatically calculate it on a business' return.
Overall, our small business job credit would reduce the EI premiums paid by small businesses by nearly 15%. We expect to save businesses over half a billion dollars over the next two years.
This job credit represents yet more action for our government to lower taxes for Canadians. Today, the overall tax burden is at its lowest level in over 50 years. An average family of four now pays $3,400 less in taxes as a result of actions taken by our government.
That figure does not even include our latest measures to cut taxes for hard-working Canadian families, and our strong action stands in stark contrast to the Liberals and the NDP. Unlike them, we will not raise taxes for Canadian families, drive the country into deeper deficit, and pile on debt.
There is a simple difference between our Conservative government and the opposition. They want more money in the pockets of Ottawa bureaucrats and less in the pockets of hard-working families. They need to raise taxes to pay for their reckless schemes, and that is not our Conservative approach. We believe in stronger families, more money in the pockets of those who care most about their kids, which is their moms and dads.
This past October we offered hard-working families even more tax relief, tax relief that would help literally every family with children in Canada. We increased and expanded the universal child care benefit, introduced the family tax cut, and raised the child care deduction expense limits. Before that in October, we announced our intention to double the children's fitness tax credit and make it refundable.
Bill C-43 confirms that our government would double the maximum amount of expenses that may be claimed under the credit from its current limit to$1,000 for the 2014 tax year and subsequent years. Parents would be able to take advantage of the new $1,000 maximum limit in the spring of 2015 when they file their tax returns for 2014. Making the credit refundable would increase the benefits to low-income families claiming the credit for 2015 and subsequent years.
This represents even more action by our government to cut taxes for low-income Canadians. In fact, since 2006, we have taken more than a million low-income Canadians off the tax roll entirely.
Let me conclude as I began. We live in fragile economic times. Canadians expect our government not to sit on its laurels. They expect us to take action, to create jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity, not just for this generation but for our children and grandchildren. That is its top priority. Bill C-43 would do precisely that. It would deliver the actions Canadians expect from us and ensure that Canada continues to be the envy of the post-recession world.
As such, I would like to ask all hon. members to support the implementation of this important legislation.