Remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance at the Committee of the Whole
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Since the start of the COVID crisis, we have done whatever it takes to protect Canadians' lives and livelihoods; to help our businesses weather the storm; and to position Canada for a strong, resilient, and sustained recovery.
Even as parts of Canada begin to re-open, we need to remember that the fight against the virus is still very much on. And our resolve to win this fight, and support Canadians as needed, is stronger than ever.
This year's budget, which I tabled on April 19, and which Bill C-30 would enact, meets the three fundamental challenges facing Canadians right now.
First, we must defeat COVID. That means buying vaccines and supporting provincial and territorial health care systems. It means enforcing quarantine rules. And it means providing Canadians and Canadian businesses with the help they need to get through lockdowns, and to fully recover when COVID is defeated.
COVID will be defeated. Vaccines are available to Canadians in ever-growing quantities and they are working! More than 60 per cent of adult Canadians have received their first dose of the vaccine.
Canadians are doing their part and getting vaccinated. Thank you, Team Canada. Together, we can do this.
Second, we must punch our way out of this COVID recession. That means making sure hard-hit businesses can rebound, start growing and start hiring again.
It also means helping the people who have been hardest hit by this recession – women, young people, racialized Canadians, low-wage workers, and small businesses.
And we are doing just that. When fully enacted, this budget will create nearly 500,000 new training and work opportunities for Canadians.
And our third, major challenge is to create long-term economic growth and to build a more resilient Canada; a country that is better, more fair, more prosperous, and more innovative.
That's why we intend to invest ambitiously in the green transition, and the new jobs that come with it; in digital transformation and innovation; and in the infrastructure – like housing, transit, and trade corridors – that we need as a dynamic, growing country.
COVID-19 has put extreme pressure on our health care systems.
That is why, through Bill C-30, we propose to provide $4 billion through the Canada Health Transfer, to help provinces and territories address their immediate health care system pressures.
More funding for health care will help pay for many procedures that were delayed by COVID. That will keep our health system resilient, which is what Canadians need and what they deserve.
Madame Chair, a full recovery from COVID requires a new, long-term investment in social infrastructure. That means providing early learning and child care, student grants and income top-ups – so the middle class can flourish, and so that more Canadians can join the middle class.
We know that without child care, parents – usually mothers – can't work outside the home. That is more painfully clear now than ever.
So, we intend to invest $30 billion over five years, reaching $9.2 billion annually, to provide high-quality, affordable and accessible early learning and child care across Canada. Our goal is an average cost of $10 a day across the country, within five years.
As we make this commitment, I thank the Quebec feminists who blazed the trail for the rest of Canada. I am very grateful to them.
To minimize economic scarring and to power a robust recovery, we must bridge Canadian businesses through to the end of this crisis.
The Wage Subsidy, Rent Subsidy, and Lockdown Support had been set to expire next month. This budget extends these measures through to September 25, 2021.
To help people still unable to work, we will maintain flexible access to EI for another year, until the fall of 2022.
And to support Canadians not covered by EI, the Canada Recovery Benefit will be extended for an additional 12 weeks.
We also propose to extend the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit an additional four weeks, to a maximum of 42 weeks, at $500 per week. At the same time, the EI sickness benefit will be extended from 15 to 26 weeks.
This is concrete and measurable help for people who need it now, Madame Chair.
As we build a resilient recovery, it's critically important that we help low-wage workers. They work harder than anyone else, for lower pay.
They work on the front lines, and COVID has revealed to us all that the work they do is truly essential.
So, we intend to expand the Canada Workers Benefit, extending income top-ups to about a million more workers and lifting nearly 100,000 Canadians out of poverty.
We also propose to introduce a $15 an hour federal minimum wage.
Young Canadians must be at the heart of our recovery – not just to help them bounce back from the COVID recession, but because their future success is critical to our success as a country.
So, we intend to make college and university more accessible and affordable; we will create job openings in skilled trades and high-tech; and we will double the Canada Student Grant for two more years, while extending the waiver of interest on federal student and apprentice loans to March 2023. This will mean lower costs for the approximately 1.5 million Canadians who are working to repay their student loans.
Our budget will also make an important change so that nobody earning $40,000 per year or less will need to make any payments on their student loans. And the cap on monthly student loan payments will be reduced from 20% of household income to 10 per cent.
We all know that, over these past 14 months, no one has suffered more devastating health impacts than seniors. And the truth is that, even before the pandemic, many seniors were relying on monthly benefits to make ends meet.
So, we propose a one-time payment of $500 in August 2021, for Old Age Security recipients who will be 75 or older as of June 2022.
Moreover, this budget will further increase Old Age Security benefits for seniors age 75 and older by 10 per cent, as of July 2022. This will increase benefits for approximately 3.3 million Canadian seniors at a time when many are living longer and running out of savings.
Small businesses have been hit very hard during COVID. We must create the conditions for them to recover and start growing again.
This budget offers the Canada Recovery Hiring Program, to support business hiring.
We will also invest up to $4 billion to help up to 160,000 small and medium-sized businesses buy and adopt the technologies they need to thrive.
Madame Chair, in closing allow me, through you, to directly address the Opposition.
Bill C-30, the Budget Implementation Act is a first, major step in delivering jobs, growth and recovery.
Vaccines are here, and Canadians want to get back to work. It is time for us all to get back to work here in this House, as well.
Thank you. I welcome your questions.
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