In the fall of 2015, unemployment was stubbornly high, wages were stagnant, and consumer confidence was in decline.
Today the picture is much different. We have a government that is focussed on investing and strengthening the middle class and a Canadian economy that has rebounded: 825,000 Canadians have been lifted out of poverty; 900,000 new jobs have been created resulting in the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years; wages are rising while income and small business taxes are lower; and Canada’s debt to GDP ratio continues to track downward ensuring the long-term fiscal sustainability of Canada’s economy.
Budget 2019 builds on these efforts with a focus on affordability and improving the lives of low and middle-income Canadians.
Here are just a few of the initiatives that will help people in our community:
Budget 2019 provides a new option to help get people into their first home with the introduction of the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, and an expanded withdrawal limit under the First Time Home Buyers Plan.
To place younger Canadians in a better position to save, Budget 2019 lessens the burden of student loans with a reduction in interest payments and an expansion of the Student Work Placement Program so that more students will be able to work in their field while obtaining an education.
For those workers looking to upgrade their training, Budget 2019 creates the Canada Training Benefit which includes a new, non-taxable Canada Training Credit to help with the cost of training fees, and a new EI Training Support Benefit to provide income support when an individual requires time off work.
For seniors living on fixed incomes, Budget 2019 reduces the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) claw back, extending it to self-employment income, and providing an exemption on up to $15,000 of annual employment income.
And to ensure that no senior is forced to make a choice between heating, food or medication, Budget 2019 creates the Canadian Drug Agency as part of the steps we are taking towards a national pharmacare plan.
Budget 2019 also addresses concerns about the security of workplace pensions, making insolvency proceedings fairer, giving courts greater ability to review executive payouts leading up to insolvency, and protecting Canadians’ hard-earned benefits by clarifying in federal pension law that if a plan is wound-up, it must still provide the same pension benefits as when it was ongoing.
To lower Canadians’ energy costs Budget 2019 creates a partnership with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to increase energy efficiency in residential, commercial and multi-use buildings, and introduces a new incentive for buying electric battery or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
For municipalities, Budget 2019 provides a one-time top up to double support through the Gas Tax Fund. From roads, to wastewater, to disaster mitigation to recreational infrastructure, doubling the Gas Tax puts our municipalities in the driver’s seat to fund necessary local projects.
In other sectors, both tourism and agriculture and agri-food are getting a boost through the Canadian Experiences Fund and a Western Canada Growth Strategy.
Full details of the budget can be found at www.budget.gc.ca.
The outlook for global growth has become more uncertain, but Canada’s economy is expected to strengthen as Canada’s trade strength. Our plan supports strong business investments with new tax incentives to encourage businesses to accelerate investment in capital.
I am aware that not all constituents are comfortable with our government running deficits, albeit modest. But austerity, as the IMF has warned, runs the risk of stalling the economy by increasing inequality and instability, and undermining growth.
The time to invest in Canadians is now, when we have the fiscal capacity, in the things that matter most: good jobs, strong communities, a clean environment, and better opportunities for future generations.
And as Minister Morneau said in his budget speech, “we’re going to make these investments to grow our economy for the long term—while we bring the books back towards balance.”
Stephen Fuhr is the Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country and the Chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence