I rise in the house today in support of Bill C-15, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2016 and other measures.
The much-anticipated, much-needed Budget 2016 is an essential step to grow the middle class and revitalize the Canadian economy. Budget 2016 has received a positive response from my constituents, I have received some questions, and I`ll address these to begin.
The first measures I will be speaking to are the elimination of the Children’s Arts Tax Credit and the Child Fitness Tax Credit.
These tax credits only benefit families who can afford to enroll their children in Arts and Fitness programs, which is not the case for many Canadians. When families do not have the money, the tax credit does not matter. We are committed to taking an approach to help working families. The cost of raising a family was the top issue raised during the campaign and continues to be a top priority in my riding. This bill offers true help to 9 out of 10 families.
I will now speak to some of the positive elements of this bill that resonate with my constituents.
The Canada Child Benefit is a new measure that will begin in July 2016 and will provide simpler, tax-free, monthly financial benefits to eligible families. The CCB will help those who cannot afford to put their children in extracurricular programs. It will give them the option of enrolling their children in programs that would otherwise be financially out of reach. Families who could not enroll their children in arts and fitness programs will now have that chance.
Our Government’s measures for families with children, combined with the middle class tax cut, will provide these families with additional net-after-tax benefits of approximately $14 billion during the 2015/16 to 2020/21 period.
The Canada Child Benefit will replace existing federal child benefits to provide Canadian families with the additional help that is required with the high cost of raising children. The CCB will provide a maximum benefit of up to $6400 per child under the age of 6 and up to $5400 per child aged 6 through 17 for families who need it the most. And high income earners will have their assistance reduced, even eliminated. This is good public policy.
Approximately 9 out of 10 families will receive more under the CCB than under the current system of child benefits. Ultimately, about 3.5 million families will benefit from the CCB, with an average increase of approximately $2300 annually.
As stated by Rob Carrick of the Globe and Mail “The new Canada Child Benefit is a solid win over existing programs in both dollar terms and ease of use. The money is tax-free, so it won’t have to be accounted for when completing your income tax return every year.”
In addition, the CCB will help raise nearly 300,000 children out of poverty by 2017, but it doesn’t end there, Budget 2016 will continue to support poverty reduction in future years. As stated by Anita Khanna, the national coordinator of Campaign 2000 “this is a historic step forward in the battle against child poverty in Canada that is long overdue and long called-for by Campaign 2000 and other groups.”
In line with providing support for the majority of Canadians, Budget 2016 proposes to eliminate the income splitting credit for families. This initiative provides a better solution for helping those who need it the most. We learned during the campaign that many couples did not benefit. Our programs are more equitable. And I must note that income splitting for seniors remains.
The second aspect of Budget 2016 that I will be speaking to is the introduction of the School Supplies Tax Credit.
Educators often, at their own expense, purchase supplies for the benefit of our children, so it is only fair that they are compensated for it. Budget 2016 introduces a 15% refundable income tax credit that will apply on up to $1000 of eligible supplies. Teachers and early childhood educators will be able to use this credit for the purchase of eligible supplies for use in a school or in a regulated child care facility for the purpose of teaching or otherwise enhancing students’ learning in the classroom or learning environment. This initiative will provide a benefit of about $140 million over the 2015-16 to 2020-21 period.
Mr. Speaker, in continuing to address Bill C-15, it is not every day that I begin by speaking about feminine hygiene products. Yet this is an important issue for all Canadians in redressing unequal taxation of essential goods. Currently, feminine hygiene products are subject to GST and HST as goods which are considered to be non-essential. Mr. Speaker, I think we can all agree this is a misguided policy and if not sexist, it is at least based entirely outside the experience of Canadians. I’m proud to say that Bill C-15 will rectify this disproportionate taxation of women, by removing the GST/HST on feminine hygiene products.
The next measure of Budget 2016 that I will address is Division 2 of Part 4, which amends the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act. I wish to highlight 5 key improvements:
First, this bill will replace the “permanent impairment allowance” with the “career impact allowance” to better support veterans who have had their career options limited by a service-related illness or injury.
Secondly it increases the percentage in the formula used to calculate the earnings loss benefit. This benefit will provide income replacement of 90% of gross pre-release military salary for injured veterans who are participating in a Veterans Affairs Canada’s rehabilitation or vocational assistance program for those who have injuries preventing them from suitable and gainful employment. The benefit will also keep up with inflation and not be capped at 2% indexation.
Third, the Act will specify when a disability award becomes payable and clarify the formula used to calculate the amount of a disability award.
Fourth, the disability award will be indexed to inflation, in line with other New Veterans Charter benefits, and Higher Awards will be paid retroactively to all veterans who have received an Award since the introduction of the New Veterans Charter in 2006.
And fifth, the act also improves the Last Post Fund to provide financial assistance to the estates of eligible deceased veterans towards the cost of burial and funeral services. The estate exemption for families of low-income veterans will also be increased from roughly $12,000 to $35,000.
Canada’s veterans deserve our care, compassion and respect. The above measures would greatly improve income support to disabled veterans, including both veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce and those with injuries preventing them from suitable and gainful employment. However, our government’s support for veterans does not stop there. Over the next year, in consultation with the Veterans’ community, the Government will work to find a way to better streamline and simplify the system of financial support programs currently offered by Veterans Affairs Canada and National Defence for veterans and their families.
In addition to helping young Canadians, middle-class families, and our respected Veterans, the Government is committed to supporting Canada’s seniors.
Single seniors are at nearly 3 times the risk of living at a lower income than seniors generally, which is why Budget 2016 aims to increase the single rate of the guaranteed income supplement for the lowest-income pensioners by up to $947 annually. This enhancement more than doubles the current maximum Guaranteed Income Supplement top-up benefit and represents a 10% increase in the total maximum Guaranteed Income Supplement benefits available to the lowest-income single seniors.
Additionally, Budget 2016 will repeal section 2.2 of the Old Age Security Act, which increases the age of eligibility, from 65 to 67, to receive Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement Benefits.
Budget 2016 also addresses a concern that some of my constituents have brought forward; requests for additional support for senior couples living apart. Many times senior couples have to live apart for reasons beyond their control, including long-term health care, resulting in higher costs of living, and an increased risk of living in poverty. The current system provides recipients with Guaranteed Income Supplement benefits based on their individual incomes, but Budget 2016 will extend this treatment so couples also receive Allowance benefits.
Mr. Speaker, Budget 2016 puts people first and delivers the help that Canadians need now, not in a decade from now. It is an essential step to restore prosperity to the middle class. When you have an economy that works for the middle class, you have a country that works for everyone.
Budget 2016 reflects a new approach for the government: one that offers immediate help to those who need it most, and sets the course for growth for all Canadians. With the implementation of Budget 2016, the Government of Canada invests for the years and decades to come. We invest for our seniors, our veterans, our children and grandchildren, so that we may enjoy a more prosperous and hopeful Canada."