Family Focused Government
Canada is doing well economically, but a government must always strive to develop policies that assist as many Canadians as possible. While our country leads most in the developed world in terms of job creation and economic performance since the global recession, I hear from families and seniors that are feeling the pinch each month. In many cases, wages have not grown much in recent years yet costs seem to rise for everything from groceries to children’s activities. Seniors on fixed incomes feel the pressure of rising hydro costs and other services. I am proud to be part of a government that listens to these concerns and continues to craft a series of policies to help provide some relief for Canadians and stimulate lower prices through competition and choice. While some of the measures are modest on an individual basis, the combination of these initiatives shows that we are constantly focused on the needs of Canadian households.
The most important way government can help families with some flexibility at the end of each month is to manage the nation’s finances prudently and strive to provide tax relief where possible. The government must manage spending properly as unrestrained growth inevitably leads to higher taxes. Since we have been in government we have cut taxes over 160 times, the average family of four has seen tax relief in the range of $3600 and Canadians now have the lowest federal tax burden in 50 years. Some of the measures were direct tax reductions from income tax or the GST cut we made a few years ago, but other reductions have been targeted.
For families we have tried to soften the impact of rising costs for children’s activities through tax credits for children’s fitness or arts programs. The Universal Child Care Benefit was introduced to help alleviate some of the costs of child care and allow parents to use the tax credit in a matter that best suits their particular family circumstance. For seniors, we provided pension income splitting, which has provided many households with some additional financial flexibility. These tax measures do not have universal application, but they are planned to have the broadest application on key households that needed some support as financial pressures increase.
We are also trying to regulate our economy in a way that fosters competition and lower prices for key services. When I was growing up in Bowmanville and Port Perry our family had one phone line into the home and there was only one provider of that phone service. Today, most families still have that hard phone line into the home, but most also have multiple cellular phone bills to pay as well. We recognize this fact so our management of the wireless industry has been geared towards creating more competition and lower prices. Despite some outcry from some of the large companies involved in the sector, we believe that competition is good for the marketplace and our moves are working. Canadian families have experienced an average reduction to their wireless bills by 18% since 2008. This is sometimes hard to see as wireless usage is also going up dramatically with streaming video and other services. In many ways our moves have simply helped offset that rising costs with higher demand for the services.
We have also taken strides to allow more consumer choice in television programming. In the age where the number of channels seems to be constantly going up, Canadians have said they want the ability to pick and choose which channels they want to pay for. Our household experienced this recently when we scaled back our cable and wanted to keep one channel for the kids but had to pay for a bundle of channels to keep just the one we wanted. In our last Speech from the Throne we announced our pledge to unbundle programming and promote more channel choice and the CRTC, which regulates the industry, is responding to the government’s direction by holding consultations over the next couple of weeks. Our family hopes to pick up that single children’s channel we miss in the coming number of months as these changes unfold.
So when you look at your monthly bills know that the government is taking active steps to promote competition, choice and downward pressure on costs as much as possible. When tax relief and all of our policy moves are considered together, it is clear that many small initiatives can add up to large overall savings for families and seniors. All of this has been accomplished while also keeping on track to balance the federal budget as planned. Budgets do not balance themselves as one politician in Ottawa suggested months ago. Governing is about prudent planning and making the right choices to support the people you serve. That remains my commitment to you.