Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for sharing his time with me. This probably will be the last time I am on my feet making a speech in the House in the 41st Parliament, but I am hoping to be back in the next Parliament. I think the Speaker was hoping that this was a going away speech, but it is not. I want to give a shout out to my grandmother who watches the House of Commons on television every day hoping that her grandson will get up to speak, so Mr. Speaker, allow me to say hello to Grandma Wallace.
Today we are speaking to Bill C-59, which is the budget implementation bill. I explain to my constituents all the time that the budget itself is a policy document that needs to be implemented. We have a couple of opportunities throughout the year to implement what is in the budget. The budget was actually passed by the House and now we have to implement what was in the budget through a ways and means motion and this bill we are debating today. Normally we would have one in the spring and one in the fall, but we will be active on the campaign trail in the fall, so we are addressing Bill C-59 now, which has a lot of very important pieces that were in the budget and which will be implemented immediately.
I also heard today that our colleague from Edmonton—Leduc is retiring and is not seeking re-election. That member of Parliament has done an excellent job for a number of years as the chair of the finance committee. I want to thank him for his efforts and all he has done on the financial items.
We heard some really good speeches last week. I was in attendance both Tuesday and Wednesday nights last week for the speeches of those who are not seeking re-election in the fall. I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the House who made some excellent speeches about why they ran for office, the accomplishments they made and why it is important for us as parliamentarians to continue this work. I want to thank those individuals who are moving on either to retirement or to other career opportunities.
The budget implementation bill we are dealing with today has a number of key items which I and other colleagues have advocated for over a number of years.
The first item is the changes to the plans in terms of withdrawal rates for RRIFs.
I have been told that in my riding of Burlington, the statistics are that 50% of my constituents are age 55 and older. I do not represent all of Burlington. I represent a portion, but the area I represent tends to have a fair number of seniors.
I have been here nine years and there were a number of issues where I had a response from constituents. On the issue of withdrawal rates for RRIFs, there were 40 individuals who came to see me. They were not related to each other. They were not connected by any organization. Forty individuals expressed the need for a change to the RRIF plan. They explained to me why it is important.
People in my riding are living longer, as people are across the country. I still have a grandmother. When RRIFs first came to be, there was an understanding based on what the average lifespan of an individual was. In Canada, because of our quality of life, the health care provided and the environment, people are living longer. They need to be able to stretch their retirement dollars longer as the average age is increasing.
The other point that is important is that once people turn 71 years of age, their RRSPs have to be converted into registered retirement income funds. The Conservatives moved the age from 69 to 71 years.
Those funds are normally invested in the marketplace, and there were some challenges in the marketplace in 2008 and 2009. Those retirement nest eggs that those people worked all their lives for and saved for suffered due to the economic downturn that happened at that time. At the same time, we were forcing individuals to take money out at a minimum level even if they did not need the cash flow because they had other cash flow opportunities, whether that was a pension plan or funds from other sources. The requirement to take that money out meant that those individuals felt a loss twice: once in the marketplace and once in having to pay taxes on money that earned less than they had anticipated it would earn.
With the help of many of my colleagues on this side of the House, we advocated that the Minister of Finance reduce the minimum amount that had to be drawn from a RRIF. I am very happy to see that in the budget. It is a win for seniors across the country, including in my riding of Burlington. I am happy that it is part of this implementation bill so we can have it in place before this Parliament is done.
The next item is something that I had talked about and advocated for. This was actually a bit of a surprise. Often, we backbenchers are asked how much influence we have. On two points in this budget alone, I can say we backbenchers were advocating for change.
One change allows people who are caring for a sick loved one to collect EI for six months instead of six weeks. That is a significant change and an important piece for my riding. As I said, we have a number of seniors in my riding and, as we know, when people age, their health care and support needs increase. It is natural for that to happen. In this budget there is the opportunity for caregivers to increase the amount they can collect in EI if for some personal or family reason they need to be at home to look after someone who is in need. That change from six weeks to six months will have an important impact on someone being able to afford to stay at home with a relative who needs that support. It will also help build the community. It will help the family because at whatever stage of the illness the individual is experiencing, the caregiver will be there and will not have to worry about the financial aspects of missing work for that six-month period.
The other thing I would like to talk about is that in my riding we do not have one big employer. We are not a one industry town. Our largest employer employs around 800 people, which is fairly large. That is a good-sized company. Members should know that the unemployment rate for Burlington is in the range of 5% to 5.6%. The majority of our employment base is small businesses, the job creators in this country. Our change to the tax rate from 11% to 9% will make a significant impact on the small businesses in my community. They will be able to pay more people to come to work for them. The tax burden will be less. They will be able to use the money that will become available to reinvest in their businesses. Reinvesting in their businesses means either buying more equipment or having more employees, which creates employment and wealth and makes this country a better place.
It was my honour to speak to Bill C-59.