Remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance at the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance


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Mr. Chair, I would like to thank you for the invitation to be here with you and all Senators today. Mr. Chair, I would also like to thank the public servants who are with me. They work very, very hard and I appreciate the work they do for Canadians.

I am pleased to talk about Bill C-14, which would implement important and urgent measures from the Fall Economic Statement, and about the budget, which builds on the measures in Bill C-14 and will be presented to you in due course.

Since the start of this pandemic, the Government of Canada has done everything in its power to control the virus and reduce its economic impact. To date, eight out of every 10 dollars spent in Canada to fight COVID-19 and support Canadians has been spent by the federal government.

This support will enable a full and robust economic recovery once the virus is fully contained.

The measures in C-14 are the foundation of the strategy articulated at much greater length in the budget. The latter builds on the former.

I am here today to discuss C-14, of course, but I know that Senators will be aware that earlier today I tabled the Budget Implementation Act, the legislation needed to implement the budget. I am hopeful that this committee will receive that bill with time to study it, and I am hopeful that Senators will work with us in the spirit of Team Canada to get these supports to Canadians.

And so, I hope you will allow me to take a moment to tell you about the budget more broadly, given that it builds on the work that C-14 began.

It is designed to meet three, fundamental challenges.

The first is to finish the fight against COVID. That means buying vaccines and supporting our health care systems. And, it means continuing to provide Canadians and Canadian businesses with the support they need to get through the third wave.

Second, we must punch our way out of the COVID recession. We are in the midst of a virulent third wave in many parts of the country, and more than 500,000 Canadians are still laid off or working less than before the pandemic. We need to ensure those lost jobs are brought back as quickly as possible.

Finally, and third, this is a budget about long-term jobs and growth. It's about building a more resilient, more fair, better, and greener Canada. It does that by investing ambitiously in the green transition, in social infrastructure, in early learning and child care, student grants, and income top-ups for low-wage workers.

And all of that builds on the foundation that the Fall Economic Statement and C-14 is laying.

Let me just highlight a few key measures. 

The budget will create, in total, nearly 500,000 new training and work opportunities. We will hit our target of adding one million new jobs by the end of the year.

The budget makes an historic commitment to early learning and child care, of $30 billion over five years, reaching $9.2 billion annually in permanent investment.

I think all of us know that Canada's youth have paid a very high price during the fight against COVID. They've made a big sacrifice for us, their parents, and grandparents. That's why the budget sets aside $5.7 billion to make a five-year investment in Canada's youth.

Low-wage workers in Canada work harder than anyone else in this country, for less pay. This is unacceptable.

We are therefore proposing to expand the Canada Workers Benefit, to invest $8.9 billion over six years in additional support for low-wage workers – extending income top-ups to about a million more Canadians and lifting nearly 100,000 people out of poverty. And, the budget will introduce a $15 an hour federal minimum wage.

Quite simply, our priority, whether it is with the budget or Bill C-14, is to ensure that Canadians can get back to work. I hate to think that it will take 10 years before things get better, which is how long it took to recover from 2009.

But it all starts with preventing economic scarring, which means providing emergency support to people and businesses that need it. And that's where Bill C-14 comes in. It is critically important.

Bill C-14 provides for immediate support for low- and middle-income families with young children who are entitled to the Canada Child Benefit, or CCB, by providing them with up to $1,200 in 2021 for each child under the age of six.

Families that have a net income at or below $120,000 would receive four tax-free payments of $300, for a total of $1,200.

Families entitled to the CCB that have a net income above $120,000 would receive four tax-free payments of $150, for a total benefit of $600.

This temporary assistance will provide immediate support to more than 1.5 million families and more than two million children.

And I must say Senators, at a time when so much of Canada is fighting a virulent third wave, when so many young children are home, going to school virtually, many unable to be at their daycares, now is the time when Canada's young families really need that extra support.

The bill also formalizes an amendment to the Income Tax Act that will allow the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy to recognize rent payable as an eligible expense, provided certain conditions are met.

As members of this committee will, I hope, recall, I announced before you on November 12, 2020, the Canada Revenue Agency is currently administering the rent subsidy with rent payable as an eligible expense.

And that is because the businesses relying on this subsidy required this. They told us so. And we listened.

Not all small businesses have the cash flow to pay their rent on the first of the month, with a reimbursement to come later. This bill ensures that those small businesses can get the support they urgently need.

Lastly, C-14 would eliminate the interest on the repayment of the federal portion of the Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans for 2021-2022 – which will provide more than $329 million in assistance to Canadians who are looking for work or are in the early stages of their careers. That support is being extended for an additional year as part of the budget.

And I want to emphasize how important I believe this support to Canada's young people is. I think all of us will agree, they have paid a particularly high price in the fight against COVID. They have made a sacrifice, to keep us, their parents, and grandparents safe.

It is essential we not allow them to be a lost generation. And that's why this support is so important. And, I would say, personally, important to me.

The point I am making here is simple: The measures in C-14 are essential. They form the critically important base of our plan for recovery. Canadian families and Canadian businesses need this support to get through COVID, to finish the tough fight against a virulent third wave. We need to help them so we can all get back to work, and so our country can come roaring back.

To put things in very real terms, in the weeks following Royal Assent, the Canada Revenue Agency will make the additional January and April Canada Child Benefit payments to eligible families. This support amounts to $600 per child under the age of six for eligible families.

That is support that every family that receives it really needs and will be so, so grateful to get in this tough time.

Please help me get this support to them. 

I am very grateful to all Senators and members of this committee for your urgent consideration and study of this legislation. I know how hard you are working. Together, if we are able to support the speedy passage of this essential legislation, we will be providing Canadians and Canadian businesses with the support they need and deserve.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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