The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today for the first time to participate in the budget 2009 debate. I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I will begin by thanking the good constituents in Huron—Bruce for putting their faith in me on October 14 and allowing me to represent them in Ottawa. I would like to thank my family for their hard work and support and I would like to thank all of the dedicated, hard-working volunteers. Without their generosity I would not be here today.
A synchronized, global recession is hitting every economy in the world. Canada, as a great trading nation, is feeling the effects. On January 27, the hon. delivered Canada's economic action plan. This plan will stimulate the Canadian economy to protect Canadians during the global recession and to invest in our long term growth. Our government built this plan after one of the broadest and deepest consultation processes in Canadian history. We heard Canadians' concerns about their jobs, savings, families, businesses and communities. We listened to their concerns and we took their advice.
This government is taking action. Budget 2009 will benefit Huron—Bruce dramatically. Over the past few years, we have continued to see the economy in southern Ontario deteriorate. For example, the unemployment rate in Ontario has risen in recent months and has been above the national average for unemployment rates for two years. In spite of these realities, southern Ontario benefits from a number of economic advantages, including high education levels, large and prosperous urban centres and a close proximity to the United States marketplace.
However, the weakening U.S. and global economies have resulted in plant closures and slower economic growth that are creating hardships for workers and families in southern Ontario.
On Tuesday, in response to Ontario's economic challenges, the announced $1 billion for a southern Ontario development agency. This is good news for Huron—Bruce and all the ridings in southern Ontario. This agency will provide programs that support economic and community development, innovation and economic diversification with contributions to communities, businesses and non-profit organizations. It will help workers, communities and businesses in southern Ontario position themselves to take advantage of opportunities as economic growth recovers in Canada and around the world.
In addition to the regional programs, the Canadian skills and transition strategy will help to strengthen the benefits for Canadian workers, enhancing the availability of training and freezing EI rates at the lowest payroll tax in the world. This government has taken action to provide a broad range of financial support to help individuals and their families in difficult times, not only in Huron—Bruce, but across Canada.
These initiatives will support Canadians in the short term as well as help them find long term job prospects with investments in training. Budget 2009 has extended the work-sharing agreement by 14 weeks to a maximum of 52 weeks, so more Canadians can continue working. In addition, for two years we will increase EI entitlement benefits by five extra weeks, increasing the maximum benefit duration to 50 weeks from the previous 45 weeks. To help workers who participate in longer term training, this government is investing $500 million over the next two years to extend EI benefits. This will help an additional 10,000 workers.
We are doing more. This government is also investing $1 billion to enhance the availability of training delivered through EI programs over the next two years. We are also helping individuals who do not qualify for EI training, such as the self-employed or those who have been out of work for an extended period. Over the next two years, this government will invest $500 million in a strategic training and transition fund to support these individuals.
Since being elected in October, Huron—Bruce has experienced plant closures, layoffs and numerous people out of work. These programs will go a long way in Huron—Bruce to help our hard-working constituents retrain and get back into the workforce.
Budget 2009 also announced new measures for the agriculture industry. Farmers in Huron—Bruce continue to strive to develop innovative, high-quality food products for Canada's families and markets abroad. In turn, farmers provide a strong economic foundation for the rural communities in which they live and work.
The Canadian farm sector has not been isolated from the current economic downturn. The government will implement a five year, $500 million agriculture flexibility program, AgriFlex, that will facilitate the implementation of new initiatives both federally and in partnership with the provinces, territories and industry. This program will help the agriculture sector improve its competitiveness and respond to market challenges. In addition, the government will invest $50 million over three years to strengthen slaughterhouse capacity in various regions of the country to support the livestock sector.
Budget 2009 also announced proposed amendments to the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loan Act to help make credit available to new farmers, support intergenerational farm transfers and modify eligibility criteria for agriculture co-operatives. Without a doubt, this government has taken action. This budget ensures that many of the key concerns that Canadians had are addressed.
In addition to the building Canada plan, this government announced an additional $7 billion in infrastructure spending. This investment will create jobs and revitalize our transportation network with repairs to our roads, bridges, highways and rail links across the country. Huron—Bruce is a good example of this investment, with $750,000 allocated for pier rehabilitation to the South Hampton Harbour. We are doing more.
Budget 2009 also includes tax cuts for low and middle income families. The basic personal amount of taxable income will be raised from $9,600 to $10,320 per year. This will allow Canadians to earn more before they have to start paying taxes. This government has also increased the first and second personal income tax brackets to allow earnings to be taxed at a lower rate. This will put more money back in the pockets of Canadians.
We have effectively doubled the tax relief provided by the working income tax benefit to help low income Canadians over the welfare wall and into gainful employment. We have also created a home renovation tax credit that will provide incentives of up to $1,350 for Canadians to undertake new renovation projects or accelerate planned future projects.
This budget also provides numerous investments in social and affordable housing to provide Canadians with quality housing at affordable rates. These investments will help lower income families and individuals access safe, affordable and quality housing, build a stronger future and help to create sustainable communities. We will invest $1 billion to upgrade up to 200,000 social housing units across this country.
Budget 2009 will also invest $400 million for the construction of social housing units for low income seniors and $75 million over two years for the construction of social housing units for persons with disabilities. These investments will provide support for some of the most vulnerable in our society while providing short term stimulus relief to the Canadian economy.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that we are taking action to address the economic crisis for all Canadians. It is only through a strong economy that Canadians can create the quality of life and standard of living to which we all aspire within the context of today's economy.
Budget 2009 demonstrates the government's continued commitment to the economy and this country. This is the responsible federal leadership that Canadians rightfully demand and deserve. This is real action and real results for the Canadian economy.
Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure to rise today to address the economic action plan for Canada that was introduced by the on Tuesday of this week.
I think all members of this House can agree that these are extraordinary times in terms of the global recession in which we find ourselves. We all know that the first signs probably started with the housing crisis in the United States, but it then went on to the financial markets crisis. Around the world, financial institutions that had been in existence for decades found themselves completely insolvent.
The reality is that we are in unprecedented times, and unprecedented actions are required on the part of governments around the world. We have seen the United States Congress acting today in terms of their stimulus package.
We have to recognize that actions taken by past governments, actions by our government and by governments of other political stripes as well, have placed Canada's financial system and fiscal situation in much better positions than is the case in other countries.
In terms of our financial system, the IMF has recognized that our system of governing banks, the Bank Act, is certainly much better than that of our colleagues to the south.
As well, although our fiscal situation in the 1980s and the 1990s--our debt-to-GDP ratio--was probably the worst in the G7, it is now the best in the G7. That improvement is a credit to successive governments, and certainly to our government for paying down $37 billion of debt in the last two and a half years. I think that is one of the Conservative government's proudest achievements.
However, we have to recognize that times are extraordinary, and rapid changes are going on. If members think back to the late summer and early fall, the main issue was the rise in gasoline prices, partly caused by the rise in crude oil prices. At that time of rising crude oil prices, the investment bankers in New York, some of the smartest people in the financial sector, were saying oil prices would never go below $60 a barrel. Now we have oil prices between $30 and $40 a barrel.
Therefore we have a very fluid situation, as the minister mentioned in his budget speech. We have to act now, but we have to realize that projections are going to be fairly fluid, and we will have to react very quickly.
We have put forward an economic action plan in terms of investing in infrastructure. People like Dale Orr have recommended that accelerating infrastructure projects, especially smaller infrastructure projects, can act as a stimulus and can act as a counterbalance in terms of the decreased spending.
As well as accelerating infrastructure projects, we are building on the gas tax transfer that was made permanent by our government. We are investing in roads, bridges, water, and waste water facilities. We are also expanding the definition of infrastructure to look at broadband and telecommunications, rather than looking at infrastructure only in the traditional sense. There is investment in people through retraining, ensuring that those who suffer unexpected jobs losses have the assistance to see them through these tough times. Unfortunately the last two months of 2008 showed a decline in the number of jobs in Canada, a trend that had not been present in the first half of 2008.
In the time remaining I would like to address some of the tax policy issues, some of the changes for small businesses, and some of the things we have done for manufacturing. Then I will talk about some of the finance and credit issues.
In terms of tax policy changes, the previous speaker mentioned some changes we have made to the basic personal exemption. We have raised that exemption, which obviously creates tax savings for all Canadians, especially those at lower income levels. The marginal rates of taxation certainly help people in the lower and middle income ranges.
We are raising the level for the national child benefit supplement for low-income families, as well as the Canada child tax benefit. Those programs, which were introduced by the former government, are certainly valuable in terms of providing benefits for lower-income families with children.
There is also the working income tax benefit and the increase to the age credit amount for seniors to ensure that they have the funds necessary to survive these times.
In terms of small businesses, we have moved the rate of taxation for small businesses from 12% to 11%. We had moved the income eligible from $300,000 to $400,000; in this economic action plan we move it up to $500,000. There is increasing access to credit for small business through proposed amendments to the Canada small business financing program and the Business Development Bank of Canada. We are providing $30 million over two years for the Canada business network, and allocating $200 million over two years to a program that I think works very well, the National Research Council's industrial research assistance program.
Small businesses across the country tell me it is a very effective program, not only at providing needed funds but also at providing mentorship and advice to smaller companies to ensure they can grow into that mid-sized level.
In terms of the manufacturing sector, our industry committee did a report in February 2007. In the March 2007 budget the minister introduced a two-year manufacturing writeoff. Our committee had recommended five years. In 2007 the minister put it in place for a two-year period. In the 2008 budget he extended it for three years. It was initially at a declining rate, but in this budget he has put it so that we have the full five years. We will have it for 2010-11.
We will have the full five years in terms of the two-year writeoff for manufacturers. This means they can upgrade their machinery and equipment much more quickly. They can write it off much more quickly, so not only can they become more productive, but by accessing new machinery and equipment, they can also obviously become more environmentally sustainable.
This is why organizations like the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association have responded very positively to this budget and to this economic action plan.
Financing and credit is the other issue they raise, and they raise it very strongly, as did other small business organizations. I want to thank these organizations, industries and businesses across Canada for raising this issue, because if companies do not have access to credit, they will simply not be able to survive or exist.
In response we have established the extraordinary financing framework, which provides up to $200 billion to improve access to financing for Canadian households and businesses. It commits an additional $50 billion to the insured mortgage purchase program, increasing the overall size of this program to $125 billion. Lenders will be provided with stable, long-term financing, allowing them to continue lending to Canadian consumers and businesses.
The extraordinary financing framework delivers $13 billion in additional financing by increasing the flexibility and capacities of the financial crown corporations, CMHC, Export Development Canada and BDC. This includes at least $5 billion in new financing that will be delivered through enhanced cooperation between these financial crown corporations and private sector financial institutions under the new business credit availability program.
We have created the Canadian secured credit facility, with up to $12 billion to support financing of vehicles and equipment for consumers and businesses.
We have extended the deadline for issuing guaranteed instruments under the Canadian lenders assurance facility, which helps ensure that lenders are not put at a competitive disadvantage when raising funds in global markets. This was agreed to at the G20 meeting, and our government has certainly acted upon it.
We have established a new Canadian life insurance assurers facility to guarantee wholesale term borrowings for life insurers, modelled on the Canadian lenders assurance facility.
We have facilitated the provision of extraordinary liquidity to financial institutions by the Bank of Canada, as required, through the modernization of the Bank's authorities in Budget 2008.
I should note that the Governor of the Bank of Canada has certainly acted to complement the actions of our government. We have certainly introduced a plan for fiscal stimulus, but the Governor of the Bank of Canada has been very proactive in terms of trying to combat this recession through monetary policy. If we have learned anything from the mistakes of the past, from the Great Depression of 1929 and the 1930s, it was that monetary policy must not be tightened. The supply of money cannot be tightened when a recession period is entered. The governor has acted to lower interest rates to try to ensure that money is available through the system. He has also acted in terms of trying to provide as much confidence to the markets as possible.
We have also added a ten-year maturity to the Canada mortgage bond program to raise supplementary funding for financial institutions.
I know these measures sound very technical, but they are designed to ensure that money flows through the financial markets to companies so that they can pay their workers, and flows to individuals so that they can continue to borrow for mortgages, for car loans and for their needs. These measures are to ensure that the system continues to work as it should.
As a government, we have acted in this area. Our actions have certainly been warmly received by the Chamber of Commerce, by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association, and by other organizations that see the need for businesses to continue to operate because we have this supply of money going through the system.
I look forward to questions from my colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the budget on behalf of my constituents of Brampton--Springdale, a budget which impacts seniors, families, children, women and men not only in my own constituency of Brampton--Springdale but all of Canada.
In a time of growing economic crisis, many Bramptonians, like many other Canadians across the country, are suffering. They have been hit with the loss of their jobs either in the manufacturing or the auto sector, in the retail sector or at assembly plants.
If we take a look at my riding of Brampton--Springdale, the Chrysler plant has eliminated its third shift, the loss of 1,100 jobs. Eleven hundred families were impacted overnight. The Simmons factory has closed, with hundreds of other Bramptonians losing their jobs. ABC plastics has closed, and the list goes on and on when it comes to people losing their jobs and companies closing their doors.
The result of these people losing their jobs as companies close their doors is that thousands of families out there are struggling to make ends meet, whether it is that single mother worrying about how she will put food on the table for her children, or that father wondering how he will care for his family, or that family struggling to find a child care space, or those seniors having to make that very difficult choice of either filling up the medicine cabinet or their gas tank or their fridge.
We have known in the last month alone that over 100,000 Canadians have lost their jobs. I only have to go to an email that I received a short while ago in my office, which states:
“I have never written to any politician before but I write to you today out of desperation. After working for 22 years at a company I was told last week I was being let go. I have never known another job other than the company I worked for. I thought, when I was let go and the company was closing its doors, I would be able to apply for EI. I have just learned the wait period is for two weeks and then there is a massive backlog of another three weeks. Now almost four weeks later, I am without pay and I really don't know where to turn. I actually don't know where I'm going to be buying the next carton of milk for my baby. I know as I write to you I won't be able to get any money from you for the food that I so desperately need, but I am asking you to please tell your colleagues, your fellow MPs, that there are so many people out there like myself who were employed for years and years at one company and have been let go. All of us are looking for hope. We are looking for hope for a brighter future and a better tomorrow”.
Then there is the story of Mr. Beharry and Mr. Smalla, my constituents who came in to see me a few hours after they were informed that their company, ABC plastics, was closing its doors. They had been laid off. As I sat with both of these individuals, I learned that they had worked as well for almost two decades at the same company. They were left on that day without any direction or resources as to how they would go on to rebuild their lives. As fathers, they were concerned about how they would feed their children, and as husbands, how they would support their families.
The story of Mr. Beharry and Mr. Smalla is like the stories of many other Bramptonians and many other Canadians across the country who are struggling. It is these Canadians, these Bramptonians like Mr. Beharry and Mr. Smalla, who were looking to this budget, who were looking to the government of the day for the leadership, for some action and really for a sense of hope for a better tomorrow.
As time has gone on, we have seen that the Conservative government of the day mismanaged the economy. The result is absolutely no leadership and then no action plan to help those people who are so desperately struggling.
We look once again at the area of Peel, where the issue of poverty and the gap between those who are rich and those who are poor continues to increase. We look at the issue of social housing in my riding, which has a wait list of more than 13,000 individuals, more than 30,000 people. The wait time to get into a housing unit is 21 years. It is these people on that wait list who were looking to the Conservative government and this budget for a sense of hope for a better future and a brighter tomorrow.
Let us take a look at the number of people who are accessing emergency shelters. In 2006 over 11,776 people accessed the emergency shelter in Peel. The region provided a total of 111,812 bed nights to those poor people, to those residents who are so incredibly desperate.
Unfortunately, the budget has delivered absolutely nothing for affordable housing and homelessness. We thought, and many of us hoped, that the budget would provide for a national housing strategy. There is absolutely nothing.
Canadians had seen, through previous Liberal governments, eight consecutive balanced budgets. Canadians were given a sense of hope with having one of the best economic records in the G8 and one of the highest employment rates and the lowest unemployment rates.
As my colleague so eloquently described it, as the tsunami hit the global financial markets throughout the world, many of the other G8 countries acted. They acted on behalf of their citizens and on behalf of their nations to provide stimulus packages. What did we have in Canada? We had the of the day denying there was an economic recession. We had the Prime Minister and the Conservative government denying there was the possibility of a growing crisis. We had thousands of people losing their jobs, having the door shut in their faces. We had seniors struggling to make ends meet, to pay their energy bills and their mortgage payments. They received absolutely no hope from the government.
The government told us there would be surpluses. A few months later, when the budget came out the other day, we all learned Canadians would be inheriting an $84 billion deficit.
Then the government promised a stimulus to help create jobs with infrastructure spending. One only had to read the fine print. Mayors across the country got ready because they heard about possible infrastructure spending. They presented their wish lists of shovel-ready projects, wish lists that were presented by municipalities and cities like Brampton which had a wish list that included the Trinity Common Terminal refurbishment project and the AcceleRide bus rapid transit projects. However, when they read the fine print, even though cities like Brampton have a wish list, which have been included in the city's 2009 budget, in order to access the infrastructure spending provided in the budget they must come up with the money. Many of these municipalities do not have the money.
We realize that the list submitted by the Brampton municipality would create an extra 21,000 jobs, jobs that are so desperately needed by many of my constituents. I hope the government will look at an action plan to ensure it provides the support to municipalities that do not have the opportunity to give some of the funding.
Before I go forward, Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member of Parliament for .
Let us look at some of the initiatives that were left out of the budget. When constituents lose their jobs, they look to EI for hope. However, the budget does not provide increased accessibility to EI. There will be no reduction in the wait time before an individual can receive EI benefits.
Those people were looking to this budget for hope. Unfortunately, they did not receive it. This is why our leader and my Liberal colleagues have put the and the government on probation to ensure that there is accountability, to ensure the funds that have been promised do not just look great as words on paper but are delivered to the municipalities and to the people who so desperately need them. Canadians across the country and constituents like mine in Brampton are looking to government. They are looking to all parliamentarians, regardless of their political stripe, to put aside their partisanship. They are looking to us for hope.
I think by working together in a spirit of cooperation, in a spirit of collaboration, we have an opportunity to give those people, who are struggling to make ends meet, the hope that they so desperately need for a brighter future and a better tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to this extremely important issue. I am going to give a bit of background but also offer some solutions that I hope will find some favour on the other side.
We know of the economic tsunami that has gone across the globe, one that has destroyed savings in our country and caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. We know it is in part a result of improper financial regulation and oversight not only here at home but internationally. I hope the government will provide some solutions and tell us and the rest of Canada what it is going to do to make sure that in our country we will have the sensible oversight and regulations to ensure we have a competent and effective financial system.
What I would also like to know is what it is going to do to work with our international partners to make sure we are going to have the global financial oversight and regulation, not excessive, not one that is going to destroy the markets but one to ensure that capitalism is going to work in an effective way for the good of people. It is extremely important.
It may want to consider using our folks at the IMF. I know the Clerk of the Privy Council was our representative at the IMF. He would be an excellent person to make sure that this is moved forward.
What we saw with the government and what happened before this crisis was, unfortunately, an absence of vision and imagination, an absence of implementing the effective solutions that could have in part insulated our country against the problems we see: the reduction of the GST, boutique tax cuts, an inability to look out into the future and make the investments in people, training and sensible tax reductions.
Those solutions, with prudent management of the public's finances, would have been much smarter in order to ensure we are going to have as much insulation on the situation we see before us today. That did not happen. The GST cuts in and of themselves cost the taxpayer $14 billion in lost revenues to the government coffers.
When we look back in history and compare Liberals to Conservatives and Democrats to Republicans, what we find, ironically, and most do not know this, is that Liberals and Democrats actually have a better history of managing the public purse than Republicans and Conservatives. It is ironic, but it is true.
Where do go from here? There are some good things in the budget to be sure, but these solutions will help us to have better solutions in the future.
The first thing is to pursue domestic and international changes. Second, let us make sure we put more money in the hands of those who need it the most. For example, EI reform is tentative. Imagine people who own homes, are part of the 70% of Canadians ineligible for EI and they lose their jobs. Those people are feeling pain. I would implore the government to work with the Liberal Party to change the EI system to make sure that more people are eligible, the benefits are better, people have better access to training, and are not deprived of benefits while they access training. That will enable them to take advantage of the economy of the future. If we do that, we will hit those who are hurting at this point in time.
Now to the issue of people's pensions. The pensions of those who have worked for companies and lost their jobs have vaporized along with their jobs. These people are living with grave uncertainty. My colleague spoke quite eloquently about people who cannot afford food, medications or rent to put a roof over their heads. This is going to cause catastrophic social changes in our country. We must work together to deal with those problems and prevent those things from happening.
Another solution is RRSPs to RRIFs. Please change that. There could be a two-year abeyance so that people do not have to move their RRSPs into RRIFs. Right now when the market is down, people are hurting significantly.
Credit was a very smart thing the government did but people and businesses have to be able to access that credit. We can make sure that the credit goes to those companies and developments which are halfway through. That would result in equity and minimal risk to the taxpayer and it will give money to enable those developments that already are half through to move forward. People will get back to work and feeder industries into them will be stimulated, adding to the needed confidence that we must have in our economy.
Regarding infrastructure, please rectify the problem that my colleague from Vancouver brought forth today. We have to enable the infrastructure monies to get to the developments that are proposed from our municipalities and provincial governments and do them very quickly.
In my riding, the E&N Railway needs to be retrofitted. We need to put special buses with wheels that run on a track between Victoria and the West Shore. We can also invest in the Spencer Road exchange. A $14 million investment would translate into a $1.4 billion stimulus package with jobs and other businesses.
For the Vancouver Island tech parks, there are 28 technological parks in our country. They are huge generators of high paying jobs and have a great multiplier effect. For example, in my community, for the Vancouver Island tech park a $30 million investment right now will transform into $700 million. All tech parks are oversubscribed to, so this would have a massive, positive leveraging effect.
Money for the Pacific Sport Institute would be a wise investment on the part of the government.
Phil Fontaine, the National Chief of the AFN, has put forth a very intelligent series of solutions to help first nations communities. The and the relative ministers have remarked on the challenges of jobs, housing and social infrastructure in these communities. Now is the time to invest and work with the AFN, work with local chiefs, work with these communities to enable them to finally be able to have the economic drivers within their communities to enable people to have the social benefits and social environment they yearn to have, social environments that have far less than the rest of us enjoy.
The issue of child care is a huge positive driver. The number of people who cannot access child care is legion. The absence of child care is something that is costing us as a country immeasurably. If the government would work with communities to enable this to happen it would be an enormous positive factor in terms of our economy.
In my riding the Canadian Forces base has at least 100 children right now waiting to receive day care. The program in Quebec is one that we may want to consider, particularly the Bagotville model on the forces base there which is an excellent one for our Canadian Forces.
The environmental issue is a very precarious situation with respect to global warming. We now have feedback mechanisms. As the globe warms, the absorptive capacity of our oceans declines which means that the temperature goes up. As the temperature goes up, the permafrost melts. What is in the permafrost? Methane, which has a warming capability that is 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. Once the permafrost starts to melt, the methane is liberated which is a vicious cycle. Once we get into the feedback loop, there is actually no stopping it.
I would implore the government to adopt some of the intelligent environmental tools that are used in other countries from the continents of Europe and Asia, for example. We have technological capabilities now that simple retrofits, and the government can modify its retrofit program to focus on this, would enable our buildings to use 70% to 100% less of the energy needs that they actually consume. It would be intelligent, smart and effective.
Some people say we should not use nuclear power, but we know we are trying to balance out risk. What is more, we have to ask ourselves the question: What is more dangerous to our planet? Is it more dangerous to have nuclear power plants that reduce our consumption of coal? Or is it better to have coal power plants? The tiny risk that nuclear power plants pose is, I would argue, negligible compared to the much larger risk that global warming poses to all of us.
I would ask the government to look at ways to utilize the scientific capabilities that we have in terms of nuclear power and work with other countries, particularly China and India. The has voiced his concern, as we all have, over those countries. It has been a barrier for him to say that he will support initiatives that would reduce the production of greenhouse gases. We have an opportunity to engage with India and China on the issue of safe nuclear power that would reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.
The government has a willing partner on this side of the House. Let us work together for the common good and implement those solutions that our citizens and communities need.
Mr. Speaker, the Canadian public wants us to work for the good of our nation to deal with the economic crisis that is before us. That is job number one.
With respect to the member's question regarding first nations, we could work together to modify the Indian Act to remove the rock that is around the neck of first nations communities and leaders right now.
If any of us in the House had to labour under the same rules and regulations that chiefs and councils have, we would throw up our hands. This is a serious obstruction to development and to the ability of first nation communities to take care of themselves.
Let us work, for example, with the AFN to get the assets on the ground, with the appropriate accountability, for basic needs: education, health care, infrastructure and housing.
I just took some film of the houses of the Pacheedaht people in my community. Those houses are death traps. They are infested with mould, have broken windows, are cold and the walls are falling apart. Some homes are destroyed. People live in homes that most Canadians, if they were to see them, would be utterly disgusted that this is happening in our country at this time, in the year 2009.
This is a blight, a pox on our houses and it must change. The government has an opportunity to do that. We will work with it and others to do it. I know the member will, so let us get on with it and get the job done.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.
It is an honour for me to rise in the House to give my maiden speech. I would like to take a few minutes to thank the constituents of my riding of Medicine Hat for their support in the past federal election and for their confidence in electing me as their representative to the House of Commons for this 40th Parliament. It is an honour and privilege to serve them to the best of my ability.
I also want to thank my extremely efficient campaign team and the numerous volunteers who worked so diligently on my campaign and made it possible for me to be here. I have found this to be a very humbling experience.
Finally, I am taking this opportunity to express my gratitude to my wife, Micheline, for her unwavering support and understanding. She has truly been a pillar of strength for me. I am also very thankful to our children, Scott and Carmen, Darcy and Jennifer, Nicole and Jerry, Todd and Brandy, for their encouragement, along with our grandchildren, Jessica, Chelsea, Megan, Conner, Abby, Carter, Mason and our newest baby, Tristan.
I am sure members will want to know a little about my riding so I will take a couple of minutes to talk about this vast rural, urban area of more than 33,000 square kilometres, extending south from the Red Deer River, from the Saskatchewan border, west to Bassano and southeast to Taber/Bow Island and further south to the Wild Horse, Montana border crossing.
We have an impressive farming and ranching industry. The crop varieties include numerous types of grain from sugar beets, corn, sunflowers, potatoes to beans, peas and even mints used in the manufacturing of chewing gum. I am sure members have heard about our Taber corn or tasted its tender sweetness. We have a very active and productive oil and gas sector with its many support services.
Brooks is known for its major beef packing plant which supports over 2,000 workers and also for the aquaduct started in the early 1900s by the Eastern Irrigation District. A world renowned heritage site, the Dinosaur Provincial Park, is just north of Brooks.
I am also pleased to extol the virtues of the Vauxhall Baseball Academy which brings talented teens from across the country to develop their baseball skills.
We have the honour of having the Canadian Forces Base Suffield, along with Defence Research Development Canada working at CFB Suffield. I also want to mention that Medicine Hat is now the new home for the Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicles in the aerospace industry.
We have a beautiful recreation area in the Cypress Hills of Alberta that boasts lakes, great fishing, boating, golfing, camping and hiking.
As the House can see, I am honoured to be able to represent such a diverse riding of more than 115,000 people.
I will now focus my comments on the economic action plan. Our Conservative government made choices to put Canada in a strong position. Since 2006, we have reduced federal debt by $37 billion and we continue to respond to Canada's needs.
My constituents, along with the rest of Canadians, are concerned about the economy. Times are tough. While the recent economic forecasts are not rosy, Canada remains in the best position of any G7 country. Because we recognized in 2007 what was on the horizon and implemented tax relief, we are in a position to weather the storm better than virtually any other nation.
While Canada is being negatively impacted by the global recession, our government's priority is to protect Canada during this extraordinary time.
Canada's economic action plan is designed to stabilize and grow our economy while protecting Canadians. Let me remind members of how this plan will benefit the people in my constituency.
The temporary tax credit for home renovation will stimulate housing construction and will keep our trades gainfully employed. Home-owners will get back up to $1,350 for renovations such as energy efficient windows and doors to new kitchens and bathrooms. Over the next two years, Alberta communities will be able to access up to $338 million as part of the home renovation tax credit program.
First-time home buyers can get back up $750 on closing costs and can now withdraw more from RRSPs to buy or build that first home.
Our farmers will be able to access some of the $500 million to address short-term economic challenges. This will help our farmers to innovate, implement new initiatives and increase competitiveness.
Our government will also amend the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act to make credit more available.
Fifty million dollars is available over the next three years to strengthen the slaughterhouse capacity. This is a significant funding opportunity for the meat-packing plant located in Brooks.
There are so many ways the residents of my constituency can benefit from our economic action plan. For example, under the business communities program, money is available for culture and arts which would benefit projects in every part of our constituency.
This is an excellent action plan developed by our government. Over the next five years we are providing $4.5 billion in Alberta for new infrastructure spending to build roads, bridges and waste water treatment plants. These programs have a far wider implication in that they will require other supports, such as engineering and design.
What does this really mean? It means jobs. It means Canadians, and in particular, individuals in my riding will be working and paying taxes and contributing to the local economy as well as nationally.
A new federal initiative, recreational infrastructure Canada, known as RInC, will provide up to $500 million over the next two years to build and renovate hockey arenas, swimming pools and recreational facilities. The city of Medicine Hat will be paying particular attention to this program as it plans to build a new hockey arena and event centre.
Our government has not forgotten those who are in need of affordable housing. This is a priority in our riding. The economic action plan also includes new funding for social housing over the next two years to build homes for low-income seniors and Canadians with disabilities.
We are helping Canadians who are out of work find new good jobs. We have increased our investment in skills development and will provide opportunities for short- and long-term skills upgrading, including targeted programs for apprentices and older workers. We will also provide support for workers who do not qualify for EI benefits. We are broadening programs to help workers get back into the market. There are plans for a new major summer youth job initiative. The details will be announced shortly.
I am very pleased our government is providing immediate tax relief that will help all Canadians weather this difficult economic time. In Alberta this reduction of taxes by $1.5 billion will increase the basic personal amount and upper limits of the two lowest personal income tax brackets and will also increase the amounts that families can earn and still receive the national child benefit supplement and the Canada child tax benefit, providing up to $436 for a family with two children.
To help seniors cope, the economic statement proposes a one-time change that would allow RRIF holders to reduce their required minimum withdrawal by 25% for the 2008 tax year.
There is a commitment to the environment to provide $1 billion for a green infrastructure fund to support projects such as sustainable energy.
Also of interest to Medicine Hat College in my riding is funding that is being provided for urgently needed repairs to Canada's universities and colleges.
I have only touched on a few of the items in our plan. This economic action plan is good for my constituency and for people across the country from coast to coast to coast. It helps Canadians who are out of work. It protects Canadian jobs and businesses and builds up our communities. It puts more money into the hands of Canadian families. It is truly a generous and comprehensive national plan and one that is in keeping with Canada's commitment to fulfill the G7 plan of action.
Remember, this economic action plan provides temporary and effective economic stimulus to help Canadian families and businesses deal with short-term challenges and to build long-term capacity so we can emerge from this economic challenge even stronger.
Mr. Speaker, two days ago, we members of Parliament gathered to hear the historic economic action plan for Canadians. This plan is not only what Canadian federalists were hoping for, it is also a plan that provides hope for all Canadians.
Our nation is suffering the effects of a global recession. We are a trading people who could not escape unscathed, though we still enjoy the most stable economy in the G7. I would like to address the values that animate this plan, touch on some national implications, and relate how the plan affects people on a local level in areas that are most meaningful to them.
By background, I have spent much of my professional life in the Pacific Rim in roles as lawyer, businessman, and in an unofficial capacity, as diplomat. I have seen the great benefits that come from building bridges between people of different languages, cultures and communities. The plan itself, about which we have heard in this chamber, builds bridges between people of different languages, cultures and communities. It is a plan that unifies Canadians and gives us hope.
I add my congratulations to the , the and the many other MPs who engaged the Canadian public in the most extensive and inclusive consultation process in budget history. At the national level, it has been documented that our Canadian government interacted with Canadians on more than 10,000 occasions, including direct consultations and opinions submitted by email and mail.
Like many colleagues here, I followed the lead of our and actively sought out constituents' opinions on the budget. In my riding, I met or spoke with all twelve local government leaders, three first nations chiefs and the MLAs, and dialogued with hundreds of other constituents.
The meeting that most vividly illustrated the approach of the Conservative government was the town hall meeting convened by the himself, who attracted 480 people to a meeting in West Vancouver's Park Royal Shopping Mall, where he stood among some of the retail stores hardest hit by the economic downturn. This event provided constituents the opportunity to present their ideas directly to the minister and about 50 people made it to the microphones. Canadians of every imaginable background and political persuasion were present at the meeting.
My riding is known for its vast diversity. It is an almost perfect split between rural and urban. Far-flung geographically, it is the fourth largest in the country and takes ten hours and two ferry rides to travel from North Vancouver in the south to Powell River in the north. The upscale condominiums of West Vancouver contrast with the beleaguered pulp mills of Gibsons and Powell River. Significant numbers of people hail from Persian, Iranian, Chinese, Korean and Punjabi backgrounds. Three first nations are included in our riding: the Squamish, Sechelt and Sliammon.
Given that vast diversity, one might have expected an incoherent array of requests to have emerged from our extensive prebudget consultations, but surprisingly, what we found was a consistency among Canadians. National traits of prudence and discipline, hard work and planning for the future kept coming to the fore. People generally wanted to see immediate fiscal stimulus. Local leaders outlined their needs for improvement to water systems, sewer systems, roads, bridges and harbours.
People like Eric in Powell River wanted relief from setbacks in the forest sector. David, former head of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, sought a lift in the tourism sector. Most of all, people wanted their politicians to serve them, not to get in the way, but to provide a non-partisan answer to their economic needs and their growing sense of anxiety.
What unites us is more important than what divides us. Canadians are committed to working together to face the challenges ahead. The economic action plan provided people in my riding with what they were asking for. It provided practical economic stimulus and hope. The hard work, dedication, generosity and resilience of Canadians will take care of the rest.
Our government is committed to acting in the best interests of the Canadian economy, even if it means running a short-term deficit. Our government's plan of action provides effective economic stimulus to help Canadian families and businesses deal with short-term challenges. As well, there are measures to encourage private spending; new investments in roads, bridges, water systems and sewer systems; measures to protect the stability of Canada's financial system and ensure access to credit for business and consumers; hope and support for industries in difficulty, including forestry, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture and automotive; new jobs; and measures to protect the vulnerable, including the unemployed, lower income Canadians, seniors and aboriginal people.
As constituent Steve Brooks wrote me recently:
||—we are at a pivotal point for our smaller communities, and indeed for Canada. The current global recession and the realization that governments must now run large deficits to rebuild infrastructure and position their countries for the next wave of globalization is now an incredible chance for Canada to re-assert itself on the global stage...
Ted Milner, a Whistler city councillor likes to say that “politics is local”. By looking at the new economic action plan through the lens of provincial and local communities we can see why this economic action plan is a source of hope for the average Canadian.
The plan provided hope to Premier Gordon Campbell of British Columbia. In his words,
|| I think the budget was generally positive for the province. It's going to generate investment. It is going to generate jobs.
He also said that it would allow them to become partners with the federal government to build much needed infrastructure.
There is hope for British Columbia, $4.5 billion for road, water and sewer upgrades, including the evergreen transit line and Trans-Canada Highway upgrades, cleaner water, better roads and more transit funding gives municipalities hope.
There is hope for B.C. businesses. The $3 billion in tax relief for the province's businesses will increase cashflow. Unemployed workers and those hit hardest can also have hope. There are $7.5 billion in extra support for the sectors hardest hit, including $170 million over two years for forestry.
We in B.C. have hope because of a plan to stimulate construction by providing billions to build social housing and enhance energy efficiency.
There is hope for new home buyers. In the case of a house purchase, the permitted amount of RRSP withdrawal has increased from $20,000 to $25,000. There is also a new $750 tax saving on the closing cost of buying a house.
For all Canadian homeowners who plan to renovate, there is hope. The economic action plan introduces a home renovation tax credit of up to $1,350 for the year 2009.
British Columbia has new hope because it will continue to receive historically high and growing federal transfers in 2009-10, an increase of $200 million from last year to help the province pay for health care, education and social services.
On Monday, January 12 hundreds of Canadians of all stripes and backgrounds gathered in a shopping mall in West Vancouver. They came from all over the Lower Mainland of Vancouver. They came because their government was listening. They came because they were anxious. They came because they had hope.
Our government has listened to those who gathered on that frosty night in West Vancouver, to Canadians from coast to coast to coast and to all my colleagues in the House who cared to offer suggestions.
This is a plan of hope. There is hope for the unemployed, the manufacturing sectors, middle class Canadians, families, seniors and businesses. In fact, all Canadians can find hope in the fact that their government is listening to them and acting for them to secure jobs, combat uncertainty and boost the Canadian economy.
This is a plan that provides the hope we need to build a stronger, more prosperous Canada together.