The House resumed from June 8 consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your election as Speaker of the House.
I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
It is an honour for me to rise in the House on behalf of the people of Abitibi—Témiscamingue. That is why I would like to thank the people in my riding for placing their trust in me and giving me the opportunity to sit here. I would like to tell them that I will defend their interests every day. I would also like to recognize the work done by Marc Lemay, who represented the people of Abitibi—Témiscamingue for seven years.
As we can see from this budget, the government and I have differing views on the type of country that we want to build. However, since we share the same passion for our community and the same commitment to serving our constituents, I hope that the will be so kind as to listen to my message and that of my community. On May 2, communities like the one I represent did not simply choose new members, they also sent a clear message to the Canadian political system. They said that we must change our old ways of doing things and do better.
In my riding, over 50% of people voted for the NDP so that families would be a priority and so that no one would fall through the cracks. Since I humbly accepted the mandate that they gave me, I can say that this budget does not defend the interests of families or the marginalized. This budget puts the interests of the most profitable banks, the big polluters and companies that are sending our jobs elsewhere first.
Up until the day before the election, I was working in a small health care centre as a clinical nurse in the intensive care unit and the emergency room. I would like to commend all the workers at the Centre de santé et de services sociaux des Aurores-Boréales who work hard every day to preserve one of the things that Canadians value most: a public health care system. I would also like to join with all the other NDP members in recognizing all the heath care workers in our country.
The measure that the is proposing, to forgive the student debt of doctors and nurses who work in under-served rural and remote communities, is more of a curse than a blessing.
First, it completely disregards many other health care professionals who work tirelessly for the good of our health care system, such as practical nurses, respiratory therapists, medical radiology technologists, medical laboratory technicians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and all the others I have not listed.
Second, the 's offer again brushes aside experienced staff who have been the backbone of healthcare for years and who, each day, work an incredible amount of overtime, quite often mandatory, at the expense of their families. This measure can attract new professionals, but it will not attract experienced staff to these under-served communities that need them so much.
Third, this measure has the potential to drive a huge wedge between the communities that are eligible and those that are not. Imagine how difficult it would be to attract staff to an ineligible hospital that is an hour away from one that is eligible. Hon. members must remember that the shortage of health care professionals is a nation-wide issue, and every community should be eligible for help.
To conclude, I would like to say that this measure will not bring any new doctors or nurses into the health care system. It will move them to clearly under-served areas, but it will be at the expense of many other areas that will not see their situation improve in the least.
This measure will not do anything to diminish the number of health care professionals who leave, completely burnt out, after a few years of practice. And it will not do anything to reduce the long wait times in Canada's emergency rooms.
Taking action on health care means taking action on the incredible amount of work facing our health care professionals. One of this government's top priorities should be poverty because, as we all know, being poor makes it very difficult to stay healthy. All of the international health organizations agree that socio-economic status is one of the major determinants of health.
In my riding, I am very pleased that the mining boom has breathed some new life into the region. However, it has also helped create an unprecedented housing crisis. The price of houses and housing in general has increased dramatically in cities like Rouyn-Noranda and this is causing even more poverty and precarious situations for many families. Furthermore, this crisis is having a devastating effect on students, who are having a hard time finding decent housing. It is even having a negative impact on college and university recruitment in Rouyn-Noranda.
Since we are talking about poverty, I would be remiss not to mention the seniors of my riding, who cannot get a good night's sleep because they are worried about their retirement income and because they can no longer make ends meet, since their income is not increasing.
When this government talks about increasing the guaranteed income supplement by a maximum of $600 a year for single seniors—that is, by $50 a month—it is ridiculing seniors living in poverty. In 1983, when I was born, an extra $50 a month was not enough to get someone out of poverty, so imagine now.
My region has also had to deal with unprecedented crises in forestry and agriculture. I spoke with people in my riding who lost full-time jobs and now must get by with unstable jobs and no benefits. Consider, for example, the forestry workers of Tembec or small-scale farmers who have to try to compete with multinationals.
That is why I was hoping this budget would contain job creation tax credits for SMEs that create jobs in my region, instead of tax breaks for large corporations that do not need them and that come into my region and take over or destroy my small businesses, only to send the jobs elsewhere.
In closing, I also want to talk about the first nations peoples living in my riding. Many of them have spoken to me about their concerns over health care and education. Year after year, cuts are made to their health care programs and their post-secondary education programs. It is time for this government to restore its assistance to an acceptable level in order to help the first nations educate themselves and maintain good health.
The people of Abitibi—Témiscamingue are proud of their region and would like this government to truly support them. However, this government has instead decided to support major polluters and abandon small rural communities that are stagnating in terms of their growth.
I hope I can count on the co-operation of all members of the House to adopt practical solutions that will make a real difference in the riding of Abitibi—Témiscamingue. I am counting on our to respect the mandate that has been given to us as members of Parliament, to allow us to do our work in Parliament.
Some 4.5 million Canadians voted for the NDP. They voted to boost public pensions, to improve health care, to help families pay their bills, and to have an economy that generates new jobs and new opportunities. By voting for the NDP, Canadians have chosen an official opposition that keeps its priorities in the right place and does not hesitate to defend them. Our mandate is clear: we will propose practical solutions for families, work together to get results that will put the country on the right track, and oppose the government when it makes bad choices, and this budget is full of bad choices.
I am honoured to have been chosen to serve the people of Abitibi—Témiscamingue and honoured to be able to work with all the hon. members of this House. We all come here with different skills and different priorities, but we can choose to work together in a constructive manner. Otherwise, it is regions like mine that will pay the price in this budget.
I am reaching out to this government to work co-operatively to make this budget truly serve the interests of all Canadians and naturally the people of Abitibi—Témiscamingue.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in this House for the first time on behalf of the people of Drummond. I want to thank my predecessor, Roger Pomerleau, for his excellent years of service. I also want to congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your appointment.
As an aside, I invite my colleagues to spend their summer vacation in Drummond this year. The 30th annual Mondial des Cultures is being held there from July 7 to 17.
I want to begin by thanking the people of my riding for the confidence they have shown me. I also want to acknowledge the democratic participation by a little more than 61% of the constituents of Drummond. This gesture is all the more significant considering the political cynicism that reigns across the country at this time. We certainly cannot boast about the turnout in the last election.
Why are people so uninterested in politics? Many people think their votes do not count. Since 2006, I have been encouraging people in Quebec to vote for the NDP. It is true that our chances at the time were slim, but at least I had one argument: every vote equals funding for the political party that best represents the wishes of the voters. In that sense, no voter ever loses and everyone's voice will always be heard. That is what I used to say and I often ended up convincing many people to vote as a result. Unfortunately, the Conservative Party is planning on abolishing this incentive for political participation, which just might discourage even more people from going to the polls.
Is that what the Conservative Party wants? Of course I do not think so. Then why eliminate the per-vote subsidy for political parties? The party in power could at least have a plan B for increasing voter turnout. It could consider proportional representation, for example. But no, there is nothing. It is abolishing a good formula that was working well and did not cost the public very much. What are the Conservative government's intentions? Does it want to muzzle the opposition? I hope not, because the opposition got 60% of the vote and needs to be heard. That is what Canadians want.
The Drummond riding is not lazing about when it comes to improving its environmental record. The number of environmental initiatives are increasing in the riding. I would like to mention the Mondial des Cultures again. This festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary from July 7 to 17, and all members are cordially invited to attend. Since 2005, the Mondial des Cultures has been implementing various measures to improve its ecological footprint, including things like giving away plants, planting trees, recycling, and so on. I have some great news to share about this year: these measures will allow the festival to offset 100% of the greenhouse gases emitted by all participants in this wonderful festival. Is that not fantastic? This is an excellent example of one environmentally responsible action among many in my riding. This excellent, tangible action illustrates our desire to leave a green, healthy planet to our children and grandchildren.
Meanwhile, where is the Conservative government? What are the and his doing? Can my colleagues tell me? Of the 408 pages that make up the 's budget, only three measly pages deal with the environment. What a mistake. The Conservatives think they have a plan to stimulate growth and employment, but those things can no longer be separated from environmental considerations. On the contrary, everything is connected. They need to stop burying their heads in the sand.
What is more, a June 4, 2011, column in Le Devoir by Louis-Gilles Francoeur—who knows what he is talking about when it comes to the environment—ran under the following headline: Climate change—as the urgency increases, North America ignores the problem.
North America also includes Canada. He wrote in this article that the threshold of 32 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, or the peak emissions expected for 2020, which constitutes the ultimate limit that should never be surpassed, will likely be reached in 2012, nine years earlier than anticipated.
Last weekend, I was speaking to one of my constituents, Clara Hortua, who works with the Regroupement interculturel de Drummondville. She shared with me some wonderful news: she and her husband became grandparents a few weeks ago. You should have seen the look of pride and joy on her face. Do you think that Ms. Hortua wants to pass on a sick planet to her children? No. She wants us to do everything in our power to protect our planet.
Canada was required to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below the 1990 baseline. Instead, the Conservative government let the situation get completely out of hand and, in 2007, we experienced a 26% increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which was already a discrepancy of 33.8% compared to the target level set by Canada under the terms of the Kyoto protocol.
I would like to invite the to redo his homework. If he needs a good teacher, he can let me know; I am a teacher by profession. I would ask him to start by reading the Environment section of the NDP's wonderful campaign platform. He could, for example, make major investments in renewable energy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the IPCC—estimates that, by 2050, renewable energy could meet nearly 80% of the planet's energy needs. Is this not great and wonderful? Would this not be an incredible step forward? It would be a courageous measure that would also create jobs and keep the economy going, a green, future-oriented economy. He could also implement a carbon pricing mechanism using a quota exchange system, a type of carbon exchange. We have been talking about this for years. What is Canada waiting for? Where is it? He could also invest in improving public transit. This has been talked about for a long time but nothing much is happening.
In short, Canadians want environmental leadership. Canadians are asking the and his to sit down with the opposition and improve our environmental record. We cannot wait any longer. We want concrete action.
Madam Speaker, congratulations on your re-appointment. I served with you in the 40th Parliament, you did an excellent job and I look forward to working with you and all parliamentarians in this 41st Parliament.
I will be splitting my time with the member for . I would also like to congratulate him on his second re-election to the House of Commons.
As this is my first opportunity to rise in this august chamber in the 41st Parliament, let me say with great humility what an opportunity it is to represent the constituents of once again. I would like to thank them for putting their trust in me to represent them for a third straight term.
It is always an honour to represent such a rich and diverse riding that encompasses everything from agriculture to the men and women who work in the oil and gas sector and the men and women in two Canadian Forces bases, Edmonton Garrison as well as 4 Wing Cold Lake. It truly is an honour to work with each and every constituent and I look forward to representing them in this 41st Parliament.
Politicians are used to getting such strong mandates in Alberta, but to get such a strong mandate across the country to bring forward the Conservatives' plan for low taxes, jobs and growth really is an opportunity, not only for my party but for our country, to show what we can really do.
I agree with members across the way who say that we need to do something different, that we need to do politics differently and to make sure that more than 60% of people vote. However, the way to do that is not through partisan bickering. It is not being opposed to everything. It is about constructive criticism and working with the other side. Whether in a majority or minority, we all have a mandate from our constituents to work together. Even though we have a very strong mandate on this side of the House, I look forward to working with my colleagues in the next four and a half years.
I would like to thank all of the volunteers who generously gave their time to work on campaigns, not only my campaign or those of my Conservative colleagues across this country, but everyone who donated their time, blood, sweat and tears to work on any election campaign. These people are truly the lifeblood of our democracy.
As Benjamin Franklin explained, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” Every one of these people was well armed as each went to the polls.
I would like to take a minute to tell the people of Slave Lake, Alberta and all those affected by the devastating forest fires in my province and across the country that not only the thoughts and prayers of my family but all Canadians are still with them.
I was in Athabasca for three days where 2,800 people took 4,000 or 5,000 people into their community and housed them for three of four days. It truly was an amazing sight to see. I would like to thank all of the volunteers who took their time to donate generously to such a worthy cause. The people of Slave Lake are still in our thoughts and prayers.
Elections are quite a humbling experience, as we know quite well. As I travelled around my riding in the last election, whether I was in Westlock, Morinville, Legal or Clyde, people in my constituency wanted to know not only what I and the had been doing for the last five and a half years but what our plan was moving forward. They had a real recognition that Canada was faring very well on the international stage. They knew that we had a plan coming in to the recession and that we were coming out of it ahead of most other countries in the world, but they wanted to know if we have a plan going forward. They wanted to know what our plan was to help Canada come out of this fragile economic recovery.
Most of all, they were not concerned about platitudes. In the six-plus forums that I attended, people were not concerned about platitudes and political promises. They were concerned about real results for Canadians.
I was fortunate to be a member of a party that had already tabled a very comprehensive plan on March 22, a low tax plan for jobs and growth, a plan that I campaigned on very vigorously among my constituents. I talked to them about some important individual measures, but I was not just arguing that we had a plan to grow our way out of this economic recession by reducing taxes.
All too often it is said that these tax reductions are for the rich and for big companies, but many of these tax reductions affect companies in my communities. Small communities like Cold Lake and St. Paul in Alberta who have 4,000 or 5,000 people also have 20, 30 or 40 companies that would be affected by this, and these companies affect the number of jobs in the communities.
Canadians, Albertans and the constituents in my riding understood that. They understood that we needed to grow our way out of this. They understood that we could not penalize Canadians by taxing them more. They understood that we had to be restrained in the promises that we made to them, not only during an election campaign but also once we got back to this chamber. We cannot just promise to give more, because it has to come out of someone's pocket somewhere.
One of the individual items people who were very happy with our budget concerned the firefighter's tax credit. I sat and talked to the people in Mallaig about how important it was that we had this firefighter's tax credit, that it was not just about financial recognition for volunteer firefighters, who are really the only firefighters we have in my riding, giving countless hours, some 200 or 300 hours on call at the station.
I had the opportunity to be in Goodridge giving out medals to at least a dozen people who had served their community for over 25 years in the role of a volunteer firefighter. They said to me that the government had always promised this and had always talked about it. I was proud to be part of a government that not only promised it and talked about it, but actually put it in our budget. That budget did not get to go forward, but now we have had the opportunity to re-table it and once again it is in budget 2011.
I am proud to recognize the hard work and dedication of our volunteer firefighters, not only in rural Alberta but across our country. This is not just about the financial benefit; this is about recognizing them for the hard work they do. If for no other reason, firefighters in my region should be one of the reasons members consider voting for this budget.
I also talked to seniors in St. Paul about the $300 million for the guaranteed income supplement. I explained to them that it was not about helping seniors who already had big pensions. The seniors I spoke with wanted to make sure that the increased supplement would help the poorest of the poor seniors, those who did not have pensions, those who had not had the opportunity to contribute to the Canada pension plan as much as seniors today have or my generation will have. They wanted to make sure that this $600 increase for single seniors and over $800 for couples, affecting some 680,000 seniors in this country, would go through in the budget
Once again, this is something that has been promised for many years by politicians but never really accomplished. Our government not only put it in our budget on March 22 but we have also kept it in the recent budget. If for no other reason, members across the way should think about those 680,000 seniors as they stand in the House, many of them for the first time, to vote on the budget.
One of the predominant issues in my riding over the last five and a half years, especially in the Lakeland area, has been doctor recruitment, so much so that I actually met with a board of doctors and community volunteers who recruit doctors in our area, and municipal councillors, even some provincial MLAs, not all of whom wanted to sit on the committee. We talked about the things that we needed to do to make sure that we could get doctors in our rural communities so that we would not just be reliant on foreign-trained doctors all the time. The constituents in my riding deserve the opportunity to have just as good doctors and treatment by general practitioners as people in Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto do.
This is a very big issue, and when the saw to it and the put the $40,000 loan forgiveness for doctors in the budget of March 22, it was very well received.
Before I avoid the opposition questions, I would just like to say what a great privilege it is and how I look forward to serving under such a strong Conservative mandate.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to be in this House once again, and an honour and a privilege to represent the good folks of . I also congratulate the member for on his re-election.
May I once again, from the bottom of my heart, thank all those who worked hard on our campaign to bring me back to this most august of places. What an honour and privilege it is. My commitment to all members and all citizens of is to do my absolute best on their behalf.
Today, I will be highlighting the benefits of this government's sixth consecutive budget and what these benefits mean for the constituents of , and all Canadians for that matter.
As members of this House will know, this government is committed to delivering a low tax plan to Canadians which will help foster job growth and economic prosperity, while supporting Canadian families and seniors.
We still live in uncertain economic times and I believe that this budget recognizes this uncertainty by taking appropriate steps to support Canadians and limit government spending.
The next phase of Canada's economic action plan will focus on four key areas: supporting job creation; supporting families and communities; investing in innovation, education and training; and preserving Canada's fiscal advantage.
In order to foster job growth, this government's budget will support job creation through extending the accelerated capital cost allowance by helping manufacturers make new investments in machinery and equipment; by providing a hiring credit for small businesses, which will be a one time credit of up to $1,000, to encourage additional hiring; and by supporting youth entrepreneurs by adding $20 million to the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.
This budget also includes initiatives that will support Canadian families and seniors. Canada's economic action plan will support seniors by enhancing the guaranteed income supplement to eligible low-income seniors who will receive an annual top up benefit of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples, helping more than 680,000 seniors across this great country. It will enhance the new horizons for seniors program by providing an additional $10 million to promote volunteerism, mentorship, and social participation for seniors. It will also enhance the medical expense tax credit by removing the limit on the amount of eligible medical expenses that could be claimed on behalf of a financially-dependent relative.
With regard to Canadian families, the government's economic action plan will support families through targeted initiatives, such as the children's arts tax credit, which will provide up to $500 in eligible fees for programs associated with arts, culture and recreational activities; the family caregiver tax credit, which will provide an amount of up to $2,000 for caregivers of loved ones with infirmities; and by extending the eco-energy retrofit homes program to help families lower their heating and electricity bills by making their homes more energy efficient.
This budget has targets and initiatives that will benefit all Canadians. However, there are also multiple aspects of this budget which benefit my riding of . During public consultations and throughout the election, I spoke to thousands of my constituents who wanted their voices heard in Ottawa and their priorities brought to the forefront of Canadian politics. I believe this budget is a reflection of their priorities and I would like to outline parts of this budget that are of particular importance to my riding.
First and foremost, this government has committed $20 million in funding over the next two years for the eastern Ontario development program. The EODP is essential for the funding and support of our local community futures development corporations. These CFDCs provide direct guidance and consultation to local businesses and help foster growth and prosperity in .
Second, in the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, our government will support major economic sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing and the tourism sectors, with hundreds of millions of dollars in support for innovation, investment and market diversification.
Third, this government is committed to legislating a permanent gas tax rebate per municipality. This means a total annual investment of $2 billion in gas tax funding for infrastructure priorities in Canadian municipalities. The rebate is also a sign that this government realizes the challenges that face low-income Canadians. As such, this rebate is an attempt to ensure that infrastructure costs are not downloaded to the local taxpayer.
Fourth, our government will establish a volunteer firefighter tax credit for firefighters who bravely serve our communities. This tax credit is of great importance to many of my constituents who live in communities that often rely on volunteer firefighters.
Finally, Ontario will see record-high major federal transfers totalling some $17.7 billion, an increase of nearly $7 billion from the former government. What is more, Ontario will see growing transfer support for health care with $10.7 billion, a nearly 40% increase; and for social services, over $4.5 billion, which is a 40% increase. The increased support will help hospitals, schools and other critical social services in Northumberland—Quinte West.
Canadians have asked and our government has listened. During the election, this government campaigned for a strong mandate from Canadians. We were always clear about what our budgetary policy would be if elected to serve the Canadian people once again.
The 2011 budget, the next phase of Canada's action plan, is a reflection of the strong mandate Canadians have given this government. The budget provides for a low tax plan that will encourage job growth while supporting Canadian seniors and families. As such, I would encourage all hon. members to support the Conservative government's 2011 federal budget.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
As this is the first time I have stood in the 41st Parliament, I would very much like to thank the my constituents of who saw fit to elect me for a second time. I pledge my best to do a great job for our riding.
I would also like to mention the volunteers. Regardless of what party people support, Canadians owe a great gratitude to the volunteers who helped all members with our campaigns. They spent hours and hours over five weeks putting in signs, knocking on doors and answering telephones.
The last time I stood and spoke to the budget was on March 24. At that time, we had a minority government. Following a brief interlude, I am pleased to be back here with a strong, stable Conservative majority government and to move forward with phase two of our economic action plan.
First, it is important that we start by reflecting on the success of phase one. We had a plan and it worked. We had a global economic recession, the worst since the 1930s.
Yesterday I listened as the asked where the job creation was. I will talk a bit about that and how phase one of the economic action plan worked. This will also lead into why phase two and the budget is so important.
If we look at , in the last 24 months 24 mills have reopened or have gone back to full production. The unemployment rate in Cariboo in April 2009 was 12.1%. In April 2011 it was 7.1%. Our unemployment rate in Kamloops was 10.6% in 2009. We are now down to 8.6%.
Since July 2009, 540,000 jobs have been created. Therefore, when the asks where the job creation is, that is where it is. What is it? It is businesses getting back to work, recovering and investing.
I will give a couple of quick examples. The Canfor mill in the community of Clearwater had been closed for the last few years. It was a very difficult time for that community. It has recently announced that it will be investing $24 million in it and it will be reopening in the fall. That is fantastic news for the community. Why will it reopen? Because it knows that it will have a competitive corporate tax rate. It is reopening because it knows there is a continuation of the accelerated capital cost depreciation so it is able to invest this money into its mill with some benefits. It will reopen because of the trade and the increased opportunities it has for its products all over the world. It is a great success story.
Another mill, Savona, has recently reopened. The job creation is coming from this.
However, we still have some work to do in moving forward. I look at the community of Valemount and its mill, which closed and moved out. That community continues to struggle and has an unemployment rate that is much too high.
It is also important to look at the legacy left by some of the stimulus program. Again in the riding of affordable housing for low income seniors has almost doubled in a couple of years. That important legacy will last forever.
Approximately two weeks ago I was at the opening of the House of Learning at Thompson Rivers University. It is a fantastic building with a new library. It is looking at supporting the aboriginal community in terms of education. We are very proud of our university and a building that was not only a partnership with the federal government, but also the provincial government and some very generous donations from community members.
I invite everyone to visit this fantastic facility. We used pine beetle wood. We have a centre for dialogue that is built on the old pit house formation. Hundreds can sit down in a circle and have dialogue. It is a fantastic facility and I invite everyone to see the great work we have done with the economic action plan, phase one.
As I indicated, we introduced the budget back in March and it was about moving to phase two. Phase two is about the government not being able to afford continuing to stimulate the economy. We need to support businesses to be successful, to create the wealth in the country for the programs and services that we so desperately want.
I had gone through a comprehensive process before the prebudget consultation and when the budget came out, I was delighted to see that the 10 measures we specifically asked for were included in it. We have had five weeks on the election trail, which was another opportunity for me to find out if we had captured what people wanted and were we moving forward in the right direction. This is what I heard over the five weeks, which reaffirmed the prebudget consultation. The budget presented back in March was a budget for Canada, for Canadians and for moving forward toward success.
One of the things that was very important to my riding was the move back to balanced budgets and to look at finding some savings within government. I looked at what some of my companies had to do because they were struggling. I believe that 5% is a very doable number and will lead us back to a very strong fiscal position.
One of the things I was privileged to participate in is the Red Tape Reduction Commission. It started the work back in January. We have had 10 round tables across the country. There has been a number of sessions. It is comprised of representatives of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and six members of Parliament. We have finished our consultations. We are ready to start to move toward reducing the red tape burden on our small businesses. There are many fantastic ideas that I know will be successful.
There are so many great things to talk about and so little time. We have a moderate and modest blueprint to eliminate the deficit, ensure we keep taxes low and targeted investments that support jobs and growth and also improve the quality of life for seniors, families and children.
Madam Speaker, first of all I would like to extend sincere appreciation to the constituents of who have re-elected me yet again, in 2004-06 and 2008-11, with the highest percentage of votes in Saskatchewan. I am humbled by their support and I will do my utmost to continue to deserve their support and will do what I can to represent them fairly and to the best of my ability.
I would also like to thank the many volunteers who campaigned with me, the board of directors and of course my thanks to my wife Sally who has been a tremendous help and support on every campaign, an ever ready partner particularly on this campaign and during my stay here in Ottawa. I know that spouses make life here bearable and they certainly stand with us.
I must also mention the difficult circumstances in which the residents of find themselves. Mostly throughout my riding after a very wet fall last year, we have experienced above average snowfall and rainfall and more rain that has caused flooding of farmland, damage to homes including on reserves, a heartbreaking loss of property and cattle. Land that was once seeded is now five feet under water. Areas around Estevan, including homes, have suffered much damage. It is a frustrating and dire situation. Many are tired and frustrated. Rural municipalities and villages are fighting water, doing their best, cutting roads and doing what they have to in order to preserve towns and villages.
This government, along with the provinces, has disaster relief programs in place, income protection and business risk management programs. I am hoping the programs will address these losses and provide a basis for recovery next year.
This budget sets the stage for Canada's future prosperity and a better future for all Canadians. The steps taken now will preserve jobs and continue Canada's economic growth into the future. These steps must, of course, be placed in context. Before the global recession hit, our Conservative government paid down nearly $40 billion of debt, bringing Canada's debt to its lowest level in 25 years.
While other countries struggle with an ever-increasing debt that is spiralling out of control, Canada has one of the best fiscal positions in the G7. We have the lowest net debt-to-GDP ratio in the entire G7. The independent International Monetary Fund has stated, “Canada's overall fiscal outlook in the aftermath of the crisis stands out as among the best in the G20”.
Since July 2009, nearly 540,000 new jobs were created. For our future prosperity, it is important to do the right thing and take the right steps at the right time. First we paid down debt and then when the recession hit we made a deliberate decision to run a temporary deficit to protect our economy and jobs.
Now is not a time to spend, but rather a time to return to balanced budgets and the budget sets out a plan to do so by winding down the temporary stimulus spending, putting in place targeted spending restraint measures and reviewing government overhead costs in order to balance the budget by 2014-15. This is in stark contrast to the NDP and Liberal Parties that would increase taxes by billions. In the case of the NDP, campaign promises were made to the tune of $60 billion. Both are just plain wrong.
Canadians have spoken loud and clear on this subject by electing a majority Conservative government.
With respect to the budget, Saskatchewan finance minister, Ken Krawetz, said, "We're pleased to see there was no deviation from the plan" and that the first budget was an “OK budget” and this one is as well. “It's not a spend, spend budget...but it's a cautionary budget. I think that's a good example for the province of Saskatchewan”.
In particular, he welcomed tax breaks for specific groups such as the volunteer firefighters, family members who act as caregivers and families whose children attend music camp or art classes. He was most relieved with the commitment to keep increasing health care transfers to the provinces by 10% annually. We will not do what the Liberals did and that is balance the books on the backs of ordinary Canadians, RMs, municipalities and provinces.
We must also place this budget in the context of the previous budgets. We cut taxes over 120 times. We cut the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%. We removed over one million Canadians from the tax roles. We increased the amount that Canadians can earn tax-free. We reduced the GST from 7% to 5%, putting nearly $1,000 back in the pockets of the average family. We introduced a universal child care benefit, offering families more choices for child care by providing $1,200 a year for each child under age six. Total tax reductions for an average family of four approximate $3,000.
The new budget builds on this foundation with measures such as enhancing the guaranteed income supplement by up to $600 for single seniors and up to $840 per couple per year.
I am not sure whether the NDP will support this or not, but I would certainly encourage them to support this budget. The Canadian Association of Retired Persons, CARP, said to CTV news on June 6, 2011 that they were very happy and that this issue has been an issue that they have raised many times before and it is finally something that is being addressed.
Another measure is the new family caregiver tax credit for those who care for a dependent family member who is infirm. Here is what the Canadian Caregiver Coalition had to say:
On behalf of the millions of family caregivers across the country, the Canadian Caregiver Coalition (CCC) applauds the federal government for their recognition of the tremendous time and resources required of family caregivers.
This is the kind of initiative that should have been supported when the budget was handed down in this House in March. It is the kind of initiative that should be supported now.
There is also a provision to forgive up to $40,000 in student loans for new family physicians and up to $20,000 for nurse practitioners and nurses serving underserved rural and remote communities.
As mentioned, there is the $3,000 volunteer firefighter tax credit. Here is what the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs had to say in a news release on June 6, 2011:
We were delighted...This measure will help with the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters across the country--
Of course we extended the eco-energy retrofit homes program.
I would say at this point that the NDP resistance should either collapse or capitulate. I would encourage the members to support this budget.
There are even more measures that include: a new hiring credit of up to $1,000 for small businesses to support local job growth; a permanent annual investment of approximately $2 billion in gas tax money to provide stable funding to municipalities; ongoing funding to the Canada periodical fund to continue to support the distribution of publications in Saskatchewan and across the country; and $60 million to the CBC/Radio-Canada in 2011-12 to provide radio and television services, and this will certainly be welcomed by the many CBC supporters in .
Finally, it is heartwarming and good to see our government's commitment to end the wasteful and inefficient long gun registry, and to ensure western Canadian farmers have the freedom to sell wheat and barley on the open market.
Something that is also well received is a commitment to limit Senate terms and to phase out direct taxpayer subsidies to federal political parties over the next three years.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation had this to say on June 6:
Eliminating the per-vote subsidy is a major victory in the fight against political welfare...this is major win for taxpayers and for democratic reform.
All in all, the budget contains positive steps that will move Canada forward in the right direction. It would ensure a strong economy. It would ensure that jobs are created. In fact the budget sets the stage for Canada's future prosperity and a better future for all Canadians.
I would ask all members from the opposition to join with us to ensure the speedy passage of the budget and to show Canadians that indeed they are working together with this government to help all Canadians have a better life and better lifestyle.
Madam Speaker, I congratulate all returning and new members. I thank the citizens of Vancouver Quadra for electing me for a third time. I also thank my campaign team and all the volunteers who were so much fun to work with. I had the real pleasure of meeting with constituents from one end of the riding to the other in the last campaign.
The beginning of a new Parliament is always a critical juncture for Canada. It offers the governing party the chance to present a new vision, an exciting vision, a vision that addresses Canada's future. Unfortunately, the government has woefully failed to do that. In fact, it has presented its retread budget that is complacent fiscally, disappointingly regressive socially and worrisome environmentally. It is a budget that promotes ideology over evidence in a number of ways.
It is the government's responsibility to represent all Canadians, not just a select number of Canadians. As an opposition MP, it is my responsibility to hold the government to account, something that I will do rigorously on behalf of the constituents of Vancouver Quadra who elected me to do just that.
I do want to give credit where it is due. This is a budget that has incorporated some ideas, programs and proposals from the Liberal Party of Canada, and we are glad to see them in the budget. They were good ideas and here they are, perhaps a paler version than the Liberal Party proposed and perhaps in a slightly more regressive version but, nonetheless, things like the permanent gas tax revenue to municipalities, a small amount of relief for small businesses, home care, tax credits for volunteer firefighters and a bounce back of the eco-energy program, which the government has flip-flopped on several times already. However, it is a good thing that we have it for another year or two. I congratulate the Conservatives for listening to what that Liberals proposed.
However, the budget is absolutely not good enough. What I mean when I say that it is fiscally complacent is that the growth projections are outdated, there is no reserve in case things go sideways on the international stage and there are many risks that might happen.
The Asia Pacific Gateway, which is so critical to Canada's future, particularly to Vancouver Quadra in British Columbia, did not even deserve lip service in the throne speech.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
There is no long-term vision for prosperity in the budget and certainly no focus on the green economy, which any sensible government would see as being key to our future. In fact, the presidential candidate in France is running on the platform that if we do not address climate change and natural resource management we will not have the future prosperity that could be shared to have an equitable society.
The Conservative government does even give a nod to the importance of a green economy. Instead, there are tax cuts for large companies, like the oil and gas industry, tax cuts that are not required for competitiveness. There is very little evidence that these tax cuts will actually create jobs.
The budget is fiscally complacent and, unfortunately, socially regressive. This is a budget that contributes to inequality. I mentioned in earlier questions that the non-refundable tax credits leave out those very Canadians who need support the most.
What message is the government trying to send? Is the message that if one is not doing well financially, too bad? It will hand out some goodies but people should not even bother getting in line. That is the message that these regressive tax credits send, and that is very disappointing in the 21st century.
The budget fails to address the shameful realities faced by aboriginal communities throughout Canada.
I noticed an article in the paper today in which the minister responsible was patting the government on the back and saying that for the first time there is a government agreement to engage aboriginal peoples on these issues. That is complete nonsense. The Kelowna accord was the fruit of a whole year of working with aboriginal organizations and representatives. It actually was signed by all the provinces and territories in Canada to deliver benefits and to address the shameful conditions in aboriginal communities.
These kinds of socially regressive policies are completely regrettable at a time when we are seeing the large companies receiving a tax break that they do not need for their competitiveness.
How about honesty, transparency and the use of evidence in this budget? Once again, unfortunately, we are not told what will be cut. The finance minister will not or cannot explain the $11 billion in cuts. It is a “trust me” budget. In British Columbia, we actually call this kind of budget a “fudge it budget” because there is no clarity.
We know this not just about attrition. Attrition is fewer civil servants providing services. In , we care deeply about the plight of sockeye salmon. There simply has not been enough research in the fisheries department over the years to know what is happening with our sockeye salmon. How will the constituents of Vancouver feel about being told that this budget is a great one because it will achieve its deficit targets through attrition, which means loss of researchers, loss of fisheries people and loss of the ability to actually identify the problem with our sockeye salmon and correct it?
The government is pretending that it is fat being cut. However, my constituents do not actually see it that way. I received a passionate letter from a constituent whose father is a veteran in his nineties. He served in the second world war, had an armed forces career all his life and is not getting the benefits that he is actually entitled to from Veterans Affairs. I gets worse. This gentleman has been homebound, not because he could not be independent, but because the very services he was promised in May 2010 were not provided because of cuts and attrition in Veterans Affairs.
I will just quote with regard to this situation:
This is a truly sad example of what budget restraints can do to the most vulnerable. To do to people who are old, disabled and who have served our country without hesitation when they were needed, is unconscionable. I am ashamed we are treating veterans this way. Please help bring the situation to the attention of the proper resources in Ottawa.
That is what these bland words of cutting fat and attrition really are. They really are affecting people. For someone to be homebound and not receiving services but who could be independent if the services that were agreed to were actually delivered is shocking and a sad situation.
I also want to touch on ideology ahead of evidence. We have a minister responsible for these budget cuts who actually created a giant pork barrel in his own riding and who, according to the Auditor General, deliberately kept public servants in the dark about how the projects were approved. Millions of dollars were taken from a fund designed to reduce border congestion and approved for that purpose and then used for toilets and park benches in the minister's riding hundreds of kilometres from the border. That is shocking. That minister was then re-appointed. How hypocritical is that?
We have had many prime ministers in the past who fought for a future that would allow all Canadians to succeed and all communities and regions to thrive and prosper. The current government is one that is cutting the regional economic development programs that support communities and jobs and, instead, shovelling the money to the corporations that do not actually need it at this point.
Prosperity means nothing if it is not shared. We need to create prosperity and we need to share the prosperity so that all Canadians have a chance to pursue their goals, to have their lives work and to contribute to Canada. This budget does not do that and I will not be supporting it.
Madam Speaker, first, I would like to express my profound thanks and appreciation to the constituents of for having demonstrated their confidence in me in this, my seventh, election. It is an honour and a privilege to have the opportunity once again to represent the riding of Malpeque in the House of Commons. As always, I am committed to taking their specific issues forward, to work on their cases and to aggressively put forward issues that I think would benefit Canadians.
The questions my constituents want answered, and which I attempted to find answers for during the election campaign, rise from the intentions of the government, outlined in its projected estimates and budget.
The new budget is basically the same as the old budget we were questioning when it was tabled, just a little bit worse. One thing I will admit the government is fairly famous for is changing language, trying to make things sound like something they are not.
On page 218 of the budget tabled in this 41st Parliament is a table covering strategic review savings. Really, we have to be clear on this: strategic review savings are not really strategic review savings but serious cuts. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency will be cut by $31.9 million over three years, and that is only one of the agencies. All of the regional agencies are to be cut, the one in Quebec and the one in western Canada. Regional development is there to assist the regions, to give them the opportunity to have economic opportunity and prosperity for their citizens, and what does the government do instead of investing in those agencies and investing in people? It is cutting them, and cutting the one in Atlantic Canada by $31.9 million.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is another very important department for Atlantic Canada and all of Canada, including central Canada and the B.C. coast. What is the government going to do to Fisheries and Oceans Canada in terms of cuts? It will cut $84.8 million over three years. That is a department that is supposed to provide safety for the fishermen, to provide opportunity for them in terms of the fisheries industries.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is another extremely important department for the country moving ahead.
As people are being laid off, the government likes to talk about the jobs it has created, but what it does do not tell us is where full-time jobs have been lost. What we have in this country in their place are part-time jobs, lower paying part-time jobs, as a result of this Conservative regime over the last five years.
Instead of maintaining services under Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, giving people extra training and assisting them to get better education so they can improve their jobs and their pay scales, the government will cut $495.1 million from the department over three years.
Industry Canada is to be cut, as well as Infrastructure Canada, which is very important. If we are to have a prosperous country, we have to design and develop infrastructure. What does the budget do? It will cut $124.4 million.
It is absolutely unbelievable, but the government's language to Canadians is that these are strategic review savings. No, these are cuts to the very services and programs that Canadians need and desire so they can become prosperous individuals, and it is done in a time of deficit.
Yes, at one point in time, corporate taxes needed to be lowered, but when we lower corporate taxes we should not be borrowing money from our grandchildren to do so. That is what the government is doing, cutting services to Canadians and borrowing money from our grandchildren in order to give the wealthiest corporations in Canada greater tax cuts, $4 billion in fact, so they can return greater profits to their shareholders.
The proof is in about the tax cuts over the last number of years. They did not create jobs and did not increase productivity, and the companies that received them from our previous government, and this one as well, did not make the proper investments from these tax breaks.
The fact of the matter is that corporate taxes in Canada are 25% below those in the United States, so our corporate tax rates are already very competitive.
The has claimed that his government will maintain the core services of Canadians. Therefore, the question remains, what are the core services?
When asked to define core services, the made reference only to health transfers to provinces and CPP benefits. Following that logic, obviously everything else is on the table. That is what concerns me.
Following the 's own statements, there are likely few programs or services that Canadians will not see negatively impacted. The only issue is why does this Prime Minister and this government not have the integrity or the courage to tell Canadians what they intend to eliminate?
Let us take a look at some of the facts. In my province, Fisheries and Oceans is very important. Small craft harbour spending is critical to the safety of fisherman in that province. In the budget of March 22, it was announced that beginning this year, DFO will be cut by $84.8 million. What will be lost? In the spending plans for DFO released on March 1, the budget for small craft harbours will be cut by 44% in the coming years.
On March 15, the then Minister of Fisheries and Oceans made a commitment that $72.4 million would be spent on repairing storm damaged harbours, of which $6.5 million would go to P.E.I. However, as is so often the case on that side of the House, what the minister failed to say was that it was really not an immediate commitment but spending over three years. Furthermore, the minister also failed to tell us that only $15 million would appear in the budget, and it is in this budget, for small craft harbours across the country. As well, the minister failed to say that $14 million would be spent on storm damaged harbours this year and only $1 million next year.
The question is this. Where is the missing $57 million in that specific example? I raise that example to make a point. I believe my colleague talked earlier about fudging the numbers, and that is what this government is up to.
However, what is very serious for this country is the fact that the will not commit to what he means by core services. Canadians need to know. We need to have some answers from the Prime Minister on what areas he will cut.
I see some of my colleagues on the other side from the previous parliament's agriculture committee. We already know from the estimates that he is cutting $418 million from agriculture programs.
Why will the government not in fact tell us?
The last point I would like to make is critical to P.E.I. The went across the country and announced some mega energy projects. However, it was the Prime Minister who cancelled the third cable from P.E.I. to the mainland when he first became Prime Minister, a signed agreement between the previous premier Pat Binns and the previous Liberal Government of Canada. Just a few months ago, when he was dealing with the megaproject for a cable running across from the Churchill River to the Maritimes, the Prime Minister had an opportunity to make the commitment to reconnect P.E.I. to that cable, and he failed to do so.
What does this have against Prince Edward Island and Atlantic Canada? I ask his colleagues on the other side of the House to be honest with us and tell us exactly what will be cut in this $11 billion worth of cuts to Canadians. Be honest with us and give us some straightforward answers.
Mr. Speaker, as this is my first time speaking in the 41st Parliament, first let me congratulate you on being appointed assistant deputy chair of committee of the whole. I also congratulate all the new members in this House.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the voters of Calgary East for sending me to this House again for the sixth time and with the highest majority that I have ever received.
On a personal note, this was the most difficult election I have ever had. In the middle of the election I suddenly lost my brother in the U.K. The loss of my brother was a great shock to my family. He was very close to me and participated in all of my elections. It was with sadness that in the election, in which I received the highest majority, he was no longer with me. I am dearly going to miss him.
On another element of this election, it was quite interesting that in Calgary there was an intensive attack on me from the Calgary Herald editorial board. I must emphasize the editorial board because the Calgary Herald reporters were very nice in telling me that they supported me, but this editorial board has taken an anti-Deepak stand from day one. Whenever it can, it will take any opportunity to knock me for reasons only known to the board.
What is very interesting about the Calgary Herald editorial board is that it is the only media outlet in Calgary that is completely out of touch. The other media outlets had balanced reporting during the campaign, except for this editorial board.
I mentioned to the editorial board that it seemed quite strange to me that here we have a paper representing a multicultural city like Calgary, yet the Calgary Herald editorial board does not have a single visible minority on its board to give a different point of view. However, that is part and parcel of democracy in this country. I have moved forward because the people of Calgary East gave me a resounding mandate to come back. They not only gave me a mandate but a very strong mandate to this government as well.
Let there be absolutely no doubt in anybody's mind, despite what the opposition says, we received a very strong mandate from the people of Canada. They gave us a majority and told us that we had four a half years to run this country. Our budget reflects that mandate. Let us get on with business, let us start running this country, and get things going.
On the doorsteps of Calgary East I heard people comment on election costs and that there was a waste of $300 million. There was no need for the election because the priorities of Canadians were different. Their priority was not playing politics.
What are the priorities of Canadians?
The first priority for Canadians are jobs. A good-paying job would take care of families and give the necessary security. Canadians want to see this economy move forward and this government has the best record in this economy.
I do not have to say anything, the OECD and everybody knows that.
During the crisis that took place, Canada stood out as one of the few countries that had sound economic management. The credit goes to this government contrary to what the member from the Liberal Party said, that it was the former Prime Minister. We can forget that.
I know the policies of the former Liberal government. If it had such good policies, its members would not be sitting over there at the end by themselves.
It was this government that addressed the issue at the time when there was a serious global recession. This government provided the necessary economic stimulus package for the economic conditions to ensure that Canadians had jobs.
Having said that, the second stage of that economic action plan means we now re-entrench to ensure that the gains we made remain. That is why in this budget we have said we will be balancing the budget.
The most important thing is that we will be balancing the budget. Of course, that may require a few painful here and there cuts, but not too much. Most importantly, one must remember that during the recession, when it could have been very painful, this government stood on a phenomenal record.
Second, I heard from seniors in Calgary East about jobs. Seniors have worked for this country and brought us to where we are. And seniors are feeling the pinch of the recession.
This government has worked very hard. This government has a . This government has brought in policies to ensure that seniors are taken care of. The budget presented in March, which these parties defeated, had strong programs for seniors. Now the opposition is standing up and saying they support seniors.
Our government has programs for seniors and things are happening, so why do the opposition parties always vote against the budget?
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Our government is investing in communities. It is very critical and very important that our communities are safe.
This government has a record of bringing sound bills that will not only fight crime but will also invest in crime prevention.
Who defeated these measures? Those guys. It is nice to know that the separatist party is not here anymore. It is good to know that.
Let us go back. This government is going to bring all of these very important key things to Canadians, all part and parcel of our moving forward agenda. This agenda will see bills coming forward that address the needs of Canadians.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, it is very important that we listen to what our constituents are telling us. I have had the great honour and privilege of listening to what my constituents told me on the streets. I will bring those values and views here to the Parliament of Canada, the Government of Canada, and to my colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to rise in the House today. I thank my colleague the hon. member for and for sharing his time with me.
This is the first time that I rise in this place on behalf of the good people of Vancouver South, who honoured me with their confidence and support on May 2. Therefore, I ask my colleagues to allow me just a few moments to thank them for the opportunity to serve as their MP. I would like to acknowledge that some of these members are up in the balcony today.
Vancouver South is one of the most diverse ridings in Canada, with over 75% of residents having ethnic backgrounds from around the world. Canada's largest Sikh temple and Vancouver's largest Chinese church are in Vancouver South. Our diversity is the cornerstone of our community and we are a jewel in Canada's crown of multiculturalism.
Vancouver South is also home to many families who can trace their ancestry back generations. These are families who helped to found and expand critical industries, such as lumber, mining and fishing. These are the people who helped build railways to unite Canada and to open the west to trade and growth. From this vibrant past, our families and our community continue to contribute toward building Canada's economic railway, as we continue to lead in a region for expanded trade for Asia.
Our diversity, our work ethic, our shared Canadian values are our strength and together we form a world-class city, one which National Geographic has recently designated as one of the top 50 destinations in the world.
As the member of Parliament for Vancouver South, it is a great honour for me to stand in this place today to speak in support of the budget, a budget that will provide stability, a budget that will provide more support and tax relief for those who need it and a budget that will help to diversify our economy, expand our competitiveness, create jobs and build the Canada of tomorrow.
Our government has taken real action to make life more affordable for families in Vancouver South and across Canada. Previous budgets have reduced the tax burden on families and helped save the average Canadian family over $3,500 every year. Tax freedom day now comes 20 days earlier.
Families in Vancouver South and across Canada welcome the measures our government has presented in budget 2011. They represent significant changes, which they endorsed on May 2.
Budget 2011 will build upon our achievements, with numerous new measures to support families. Our government has pledged to introduce a children's arts tax credit, a family caregiver tax credit and extend the eco-energy home retrofit program.
The new children's arts tax credit will give families real resources to expand opportunities for their children by supporting the cost of enrolling them in meaningful development programs. Parents will be allowed to claim up to $500 incurred per child under the age of 16.
The family caregiver tax credit will help families care for dependent relatives. With 40% of Canada's population reaching the age of 65 in the next 15 years, this new $2,000 credit will mean families will have the extra help they need to care for loved ones with dignity and respect.
We are extending the successful eco-energy retrofit program to help families lower their heating and electricity bills by making their homes more energy efficient. This is an important cost-saving measure for family budgets as well as an important tool to help protect our environment.
Families will also be supported by measures our government has introduced to help students. UBC president Stephen Toope has said that the measures in budget 2011 are in line with the growing consensus among Canadians that Canada's research universities play an integral role in advancing our economy and improving the social and economic well-being of all Canadians.
We are proud to be delivering for Canada's universities and colleges and especially to support Canada's students as they work toward a bright future.
For full-time students, like those at UBC, Simon Fraser University or Langara in Vancouver, the budget would allow them to earn more money without affecting their loans, doubling the in-study exemption of $100 per week and giving them a tax break on certification fees.
As a student at UBC, I recall working three jobs to put myself through university and therefore I know first-hand what measures like these can mean to students.
For our seniors, we are taking important steps to lay a foundation to assist our aging population. Our Conservative government continues to recognize the important contributions Canada's seniors have made to the success of our country. Just as they have cared for us, this next phase of Canada's economic action plan takes important steps to care for and improve the quality of life for seniors in Canada.
Budget 2011 builds on our past support for seniors by proposing new measures that would enhance the guaranteed income supplement, expand the new horizons for seniors program and extend the target initiative for older workers. We are increasing the guaranteed income supplement to give low income seniors additional annual benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples. This change will help more than 680,000 seniors in Canada.
The new horizons for seniors program has helped thousands of seniors and seniors groups across Canada to become more active and engage in their communities, achieving a better quality of life.
I have visited and have engaged with many of these vibrant seniors groups in and across Canada. I am delighted to anticipate that this program will be expanded by an additional $10 million to promote volunteerism, mentorship and the social participation of seniors, as well as to expand support for victims of elder abuse.
In the recent election campaign, my own mother was forced to publicly share her private experience with senior abuse. This is a private and often overlooked crime that will only increase in frequency as our population ages. It touches families everywhere and in a variety of ways, but this budget builds on past steps that we have taken to address this important issue for our seniors.
We also understand that while some seniors choose to retire, a number of them wish to stay in the workforce. For them, our government is extending the targeted initiative for older workers by investing an additional $50 million to provide older workers with assistance in upgrading skills and helping to facilitate their return to work.
We are also eliminating the mandatory retirement age for federally regulated employees, giving seniors who want to remain active in the workforce the freedom to make their own choice.
These investments are in addition to the $2.3 billion in annual tax relief which our government has provided to seniors and pensioners since 2006. Our government is here for seniors, just as they have been here for us.
On May 2, Canadians were clear. They gave our government a mandate to implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. This is a prudent plan, a practical plan and a plan that provides tax relief, making a real difference for the hard-working families of and across Canada.
As a new member of the House, it is a privilege for me to serve and to express my support for the budget on behalf of the people of .
Canada has had seven straight quarters of economic growth, with nearly 540,000 new net jobs created since July 2009. Our economic recovery is the envy of the world and there is still more to be done. From the most esteemed economist to the doors of , Canadians have acknowledged that this government's economic action plan is working. They have benefited from it, they have supported it and they voted for it.
As His Excellency said during the Speech from the Throne just one week ago, “Let us move forward and build the 21st century, limited only by our ambition and our imagination”.
I encourage all members of the House to support budget 2011. Together, with Canada's economic action plan as our guide, we can meet the important challenges before us and continue to build a strong and stable road toward a stable future, full of opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for , and I welcome him to the House.
I will take this opportunity to thank the wonderful constituents of my riding of Kelowna—Lake Country for their support in re-electing me for the third time as their Kelowna—Lake Country voice in Ottawa. I also extend my sincere thanks to all the hard-working and dedicated volunteers from my riding, especially those in the association who are here on the Hill this week for our national party convention. I especially thank my campaign manager and EDA president, Shari Matvieshen; my financial agent, Mark Thompson; and the rest of our team. I give special thanks to my incredible staff, Linda and Louise, in the riding, and, of course, they work with Steve and Lynne here in Ottawa. Without them I would not be able to do the job that I love to do. I thank them for doing such a great job to help our constituents.
Last but not least, behind every successful man is an astonished wife. I send special thanks to my best friend and dear wife, Cindy, and to our three lovely daughters for their unwavering support.
Today we talk about the budget 2011 that was tabled earlier this week, which is designed as a low tax plan aimed at creating jobs and growth in our economy. It contains targeted spending measures toward those who need it most, while maintaining the necessary fiscal restraint required during tough economic times. I believe it is a pragmatic, balanced approach and it is the right budget for the present time.
What does it do for me? That is often what I have heard from constituents in my riding of Kelowna—Lake Country and I could tell my constituents the following: Budget 2011 helps low income seniors and caregivers looking after aging parents or disabled family members; it helps small business and local manufacturers create and maintain jobs; it helps homeowners and local contractors through the extension of the home energy retrofit program to reduce home heating costs; it helps Canadian armed forces veterans make the job transition to civil society; and it acknowledges the importance of volunteers in our community, especially our local volunteer firefighters, providing them with a much needed tax break on their expenses.
I personally thank our firefighters from Oyama, Ellison, Joe Rich, Lake Country and Kelowna for their dedication to keeping our communities safe.
Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with the presidents of both Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan who appreciated the additional post-secondary funding in budget 2011. Our colleges, universities and students will receive more breaks on tuition costs and funding for innovative research and development efforts which will support our forestry, agriculture and tech sectors.
Local municipalities will also be able to count on more funds targeted for community infrastructure projects and, very important, a permanent gas tax fund that will make long-term infrastructure planning possible.
Moreover, budget 2011 will build on our efforts to protect the financial security of families and individuals, including personal income tax savings of over $3,000 for the average family of four, a $1,200 per year child care benefit and pension income splitting for seniors.
It also renews our commitment to eliminate the federal deficit, which reflects a common theme that I heard on the doorsteps: we have to live within our means. Budget 2011 reiterates our commitment to do so while protecting critical funding to the provinces for health care and social programs. It works for Canadians because the initiatives contained in it are a direct result of the prebudget consultations with ordinary Canadians who, like my constituents in Kelowna—Lake Country, offered sensible, practical solutions for the economy.
By far, one of the biggest concerns for my constituents remains to be the economy and maintaining and creating jobs. We all know that small, medium and large businesses create jobs and that the government creates the economic environment that spurs Canadian companies to create jobs. Our government's incentives for businesses will create the kind of highly skilled labour we want and need in this country.
Many of my colleagues have risen in the House to talk about the numerous positive aspects of budget 2011. I will take some time to share with the House why our economic action plan is so vital to economic growth and illustrate an example of exactly where the growth will come from. I think members will see quite clearly how this government's economic objectives are crucial to attracting the kind of investment we need to help Canadian companies grow.
A local reporter, Steve McNaull of the Kelowna Daily Courier, just yesterday filed a report that shows how innovative the Okanagan Valley has become. Steve writes, “While California's Silicon Valley is legendary as the home of the biggest tech companies in the world, like Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle, the Okanagan's Silicon Vineyard is a burgeoning cluster with firms such as Disney Online's Club Penguin, web interactive video company HuStream and software developers QHR and Windward.
“As such, the smaller Okanagan tech companies are a little intimidated by the California giants. But they should not be, because tech is tech, business is business and California companies can be a great source of investment, mentoring and partnership for Okanagan companies and vice versa”.
Those are the great things happening in our country. For the past three years, a Metabridge conference has been held in Kelowna bringing together Okanagan and California tech types to network and pitch ideas. It is all about creating partnerships, opportunities and investment.
As former Facebook executive, Alison Rosenthal, pointed out:
There's a big talent crunch in the Silicon Valley and Western Canada can supply talent easily. We're in the same time zone and we're just a short flight away.
As Steve McNaull points out, Okanagan companies can look for investment and advice from California firms or angel investors like Ms. Rosenthal.
Companies are working hard in our valley with the support of initiatives, like the newly created Accelerate Okanagan, to help grow and attract investment. That is why our government's commitment to a low corporate tax, along with the willingness to invest in innovation, is so important. It is also why our expansion into new markets is critical, as I have heard over and over again while I had the opportunity to be a member of the international trade committee for the past five and a half years.
I would like to congratulate my hon. friend from on his appointment as the new . As he pointed out in the House earlier this week, international trade creates good paying jobs and spurs economic growth. That is why it is fundamentally a kitchen table issue.
Breaking down interprovincial trade barriers is equally important. That is why the is committed to reducing red tape and has taken a regulatory view to make it easier for Canadians to do business within our own country.
One sector that could benefit from this is the wine industry in the Okanagan and across Canada. We need to break down barriers, like the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act. It is very archaic. It dates back to 1928 and prevents Canadian wineries from selling their award-winning wines directly to Canadians who reside outside of their province. It is incredible that today we cannot enjoy the fruits of the land from one province to the other. I do not see why Canadians should not be able to enjoy this wine. It is made in Canada. It is a product that is award winning internationally. That is why I have once again tabled Motion No. 218 to allow the consumer to purchase wine directly from the vintner to help our small wineries grow. I would appreciate the support of all members of this House on that so that we can move forward in working with our provincial partners.
These measures, supporting investment, opening new markets and breaking down barriers, send the message that Canada is open for business, that we have the talent, the skills and the companies needed for success. That is how we are strengthening the economy and helping to create the jobs we need.
There are so many other stories in the Okanagan that reflect this kind of momentum. There is literally no limit to the potential. I strongly believe that the positive energy coming out of the Okanagan is reflective of the positive business-friendly economic strategy put forward by our government.
Opposition members need to get on board. It is unfair to Canadians when they try to suggest that our support for the economic backbone of our country's business is done at the expense of family, seniors and communities. This is so untrue and our record proves it. Not only have we done a great deal for families, seniors and communities since 2006, we have done it without jeopardizing our support for health and social programs. In fact, one can look at this government's record and see that it has not turned its back on anyone.
I come from a riding with one of the highest populations of seniors in the country, which is why I am so supportive of initiatives like increasing the guaranteed income supplement, which builds on the $2.3 billion in annual tax relief our government has provided to seniors and pensioners, including removing our 85,000 seniors from the tax rolls and introducing pension income splitting as a couple of examples. The fact is that we have focused on seniors and provided for them in every budget since 2006.
By electing me, my constituents have handed me the responsibility to ensure their tax dollars are spent wisely and effectively. They have also given me the opportunity to build on what has been accomplished together with our government and our riding working together at all levels of government. After all, there is only one taxpayer. We have had an expansion of Highways 97 and 33. Our help has assisted our fruit growers. We have built a passport office, invested in affordable housing, helped the homeless and youth at risk, local green initiatives, transit expansion, and arts and culture. There are numerous examples. We are keeping our communities safe with crime initiatives like the organized crime task force.
I thank my cabinet colleagues who have taken the time to listen and who have not only understood but acted and delivered for Kelowna--Lake Country. I want to especially acknowledge this government's commitment to partnerships because, as a former municipal councillor for nine years, I know how important it is that what we do at the federal level respects what is done at the provincial and municipal levels. I believe that is why during the recession this government's stimulus funding was so successful.
I do believe that for my constituents in Kelowna--Lake Country and for all Canadians great things are yet to come.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to the federal budget that was tabled by the in this place on Tuesday.
Before I get to my comments, congratulations to you, Mr. Speaker, for your appointment as our very capable Acting Speaker, and I thank my colleague from for yielding some time to me this afternoon.
As this is my first major address to Parliament, I would like to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to the residents of for their confidence in me and in our government.
I would also like to thank my wife, Rhonda and my children, Sarah and Megan for their unwavering support of me during the campaign and now as a husband and father away from the family while we are all here in Parliament.
None of us would be here without our fabulous campaign teams and volunteers. While it can be dangerous to single out any one person for their help, I do want to pay particular thanks to my campaign manager, Jodi MacDonald for her tremendous efforts in our successful campaign.
Finally, congratulations to all members who were either elected or re-elected, and also to the thousands of women and men who placed their names on ballots for the same opportunity we all have to serve our communities as members of Parliament. No matter what party, riding or area of the country, everyone should be thanked for participating in our democratic process.
Now to the budget. I feel like I have this budget memorized. Like all hon. members, I spent 36 days knocking on thousands of doors talking about this budget because it was presented already on March 22, and of course not implemented because of an election that no one wanted. However, given the results, it was not such an unnecessary election after all.
I want to talk from my community service perspective about some of the very positive initiatives in this budget. When I listened to my neighbours at the doors about the March 22 budget, there was very strong support for these initiatives. I consistently heard from people that this was a good budget in tough times, that it was reasonable and it was affordable. My constituents were clear that they wanted us to focus on jobs and the economy and I am delighted to report to them that this is still our number one priority.
I have served two terms on the Mississauga Arts Council board of directors in recent years and I cannot tell the House how thrilled I am about the new children's arts tax credit. Mississauga is home to the Living Arts Centre, and many times I see young people actively participating in music, dance, art and other creative activities. In almost all cases their parents or caregivers have paid a fee to the city of Mississauga to enrol their child in that program, allowing the family to claim up to $500 a year to offset that cost. It is not only a cost saving for the family, but I suspect it will also make it more affordable for more children to enrol in these programs.
I have just completed a three year term on the board of Safe City Mississauga and was appointed its founding chair. Safe City is Mississauga's crime prevention association and we work very hard on local crime prevention initiatives. We have also been in touch and met with the National Crime Prevention Centre and are very well aware of our government's strong commitment to fund prevention initiatives across the country.
I was very pleased to see the increased funding in the budget for youth crime prevention programs of $20 million over the next two years. I suspect that organizations like Safe City Mississauga might come up with creative local initiatives to help prevent youth crime and gang recruitment through this new and very important funding.
This budget provides increased support to students in post-secondary education. We know that in order to succeed in the 21st century's knowledge-based economy we need highly skilled and educated people to be the workforce of the future.
Our government is helping full-time students by doubling the in-study income exemption, helping close to 100,000 students. We are also helping part-time students through eligibility changes to allow more students to qualify for a Canada student loan.
Mississauga is getting its first full community college this fall as a direct result of the federal infrastructure grant to Sheridan College through Canada's economic action plan. This new institution is a much needed new educational facility in our fast growing city.
In the last campaign there was considerable talk about corporate tax rates. I want to let the House know that those low rates are important, not just to create jobs in cities like Mississauga but to keep jobs there too.
My riding consists of many small business operators but also some large companies that employ thousands of people in very good paying jobs. I want those jobs staying in my community. These employers tell me that Canada's tax rates are very important in their business decisions.
Further, as a long-time member of the Mississauga Board of Trade I can say that it is its position that raising corporate tax rates will have a significant impact on Mississauga's business community. It has submitted many briefs on that tax rate issue.
That is why I am delighted to see that we have a new tax credit for new hires for small business and that this budget commits to maintaining one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world.
As well, when knocking on doors I did encounter a number of older workers who had lost long-time jobs as a result of the worldwide economic recession. The very interesting thing that I heard from these people was not that they were bitter or blaming anyone, it was that they still wanted to work and make a contribution. They understood the very difficult situation that many firms found themselves in and some of the very tough decisions that had to be made.
Although these residents no longer had work, they were willing to do their part to retrain and re-enter the workforce. I will be thrilled to report back to those people and others that we are extending the targeted initiative for older workers to support training and employment programs.
I have also had the opportunity to speak with and meet many seniors at their doors or through a number of very active seniors' clubs and associations in my riding. We know that many seniors need our help and support because of low incomes and their need for support services.
I am very pleased that this budget makes the largest increase in the guaranteed income supplement in decades of up to $600 more a year for single seniors and $840 a year for senior couples. Our government is helping to lift thousands of seniors out of poverty through this very significant increase to the GIS.
In my previous life I had a very significant interaction with municipal government. This very important order of government does deliver many services that directly affect the lives of all of our constituents. Generally, however, there has been a view that the federal government does not have a direct relationship with municipalities. There are some that take the view that municipalities are still children of the province and that any federal funding should go through the provincial parent.
I am very pleased that not only have we, as a federal government, continued to live up to our commitment to flow the gas tax money directly to municipalities for transportation and infrastructure, but that this budget commits to make that transfer permanent. If it is one thing I hear from municipalities, it is that they want long-term, predictable funding.
The next phase of Canada's economic action plan may be the most democratic budget ever presented in this House. That is because the members of the Conservative majority government campaigned on it in the last election. Canadians who elected us knew exactly what they were getting when they gave us their confidence.
They voted for strength and stability. They voted for a measured approach as we continue to emerge from the worldwide economic recession. They wanted us to keep taxes low, invest in priorities, and they wanted us to be responsible. This budget achieves all of those goals.
Mr. Speaker, congratulations to you on your election to the Chair. It is a big responsibility and a high honour.
I would like to make note that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
What an honour and a privilege it is for me to rise in the House, for the very first time, on behalf of the people of Scarborough—Rouge River. Above all today, I want to take this opportunity to thank my constituents for the confidence and trust that they have placed in me to represent and advocate on their behalf. I will fight for their priorities every day.
I also want to acknowledge the previous member for Scarborough—Rouge River, Mr. Derek Lee, for his 23 years of service to Scarborough—Rouge River. We do have different ideas about the country we want to build, but we share a love for community and a commitment to public service.
I would also like to congratulate all of my colleagues from Quebec and across Canada on their success in the election on May 2. I know that our team will do everything in its power to defend the public's interests in the face of this Conservative government's policies.
[Member spoke in Tamil]
For the few who may not have understood Tamil, I will translate.
Next, I am proud to say that as the very first member of Parliament in Canada from Tamil heritage, I am proud and humbled to have been able to speak in this respectable House in my mother tongue.
Many of us Tamils came to Canada fleeing persecution and a civil war. Canada embraced us with open arms, and we have been doing our utmost to contribute to the economic development and cultural fabric of this great country.
I know that the diaspora Tamil community in Scarborough—Rouge River, the greater Toronto area and around the world, will be proud to know that we have achieved this very important milestone to hear Tamil being spoken in the Canadian House of Commons. This is the next step in the development of the Tamil community in Canada. The barriers faced by children of Tamils and other immigrants shall be broken down and they will endeavour to reach higher roles of leadership in Canada.
We will be discussing the budget tabled by the last Monday. This budget does not meet the expectations of Canadians. It offers no solutions to the problems my constituents in Scarborough—Rouge River are facing. I know that the measures in this budget will not meet the needs of the people in my riding.
This budget fails to make life more affordable for the many families still struggling to recover from the effects of the recession. When speaking with my constituents during the election campaign, they clearly articulated the priorities for Scarborough—Rouge River.
They want more investment in local infrastructure, especially a more affordable and reliable local transit network that would cut the daily commute from over two hours each way.
The residents want the creation of more jobs locally in the community so that we all do not need to travel to downtown Toronto for work. We all know it is the small and medium-sized businesses that actually create local jobs and contribute to the community's economic development.
My neighbours want to see more investment in education, training and development of youth. Youth in high schools and their parents are concerned about the fact that post-secondary education is beyond their reach because of the skyrocketing tuition fees and the systemic barriers that visible minorities and people from lower-income households face with respect to the accessibility of post-secondary education.
Some may say that the youth are the leaders of tomorrow, but I say that we, the youth, are the leaders of today.
Many young families are concerned about the fact that child care and elder care are neither accessible nor affordable.
Seniors are concerned that after paying into the system for much of their lives, they are now retiring into poverty.
The newer immigrants are concerned about access to settlement and integration services and the arduous process for having their foreign credentials recognized.
This budget does not address the reasonable and affordable proposals that the NDP made.
This budget does nothing to strengthen the CPP. It does nothing to provide relief for the family budget. It does nothing for the millions of Canadians without access to a family doctor. It fails to lift every senior out of poverty. It does nothing to reverse the $50 million cuts to immigrant settlement service agencies. It does nothing to create good, reliable jobs in local communities. It really does not have a strong vision for investment in post-secondary education.
Canadians from coast to coast to coast voted for change in this election and over 4.5 million Canadians voted for New Democrats, to make this a truly historic election.
I would like to once again thank the constituents of Scarborough—Rouge River for contributing to this history by electing me. They chose many firsts this time: the first New Democrat to represent the constituency; the first woman to represent them; the first person of colour; the first youth to advocate for them; and, of course, the very first female Tamil member of Parliament in the world outside of India and Sri Lanka.
I thank the residents of Scarborough—Rouge River again for giving me this privilege to serve them and to be a member in the House.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating all members of the House for their election to this chamber and congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your appointment to your post.
I want to say how honoured and humbled I am to be the member of Parliament for . I must thank all of my campaign volunteers who helped me talk to thousands of residents in every corner of my riding.
I intend to be a strong advocate for all 114,000 residents of . It is where I live. It is my community. Let me tell hon. members a bit about it.
York South—Weston is a working class riding in the northwest of the city of Toronto, an area of declining manufacturing. is the second poorest riding in Ontario. Over a quarter, maybe 32,000 men, women and children in the riding, live below the poverty line. Nearly a third lack a basic high school diploma. Nearly half the population rent; they do not own their homes. Over 57,000 people are visible minorities. Many constituent are disabled and, as deputy critic for disabilities, I hope to make their lives easier and more affordable. One in seven residents is a senior. Many are living in poverty too.
I live in the riding and have raised a family there. Unfortunately, I have watched as the jobs have left, which has added more stress to the community. It was not always this way. is the former home of manufacturers such as CCM, Moffat Stove, Massey-Harris, MacMillan Bloedel, Dominion Bridge, Ferranti-Packard and Kodak, and the list goes on and on. They have all left. Tens of thousands of jobs are gone.
The people who worked here earned family-supporting wages, lived in modest, comfortable homes and shopped locally, building the local economy; but now with the jobs all gone, unemployment is the major concern in my community. The unemployment rate in is habitually 25% higher than the national norm. Youth unemployment is even higher still, and the few jobs that remain tend to be low-wage, precarious service sector jobs.
When the Conservative government took office in April 2006, Toronto's unemployment rate was 6.4%. Now, after five years of whatever the government has provided, it is 8.4%, or almost 25% higher. The unemployment rate of is higher still. Thus, the economic action plan has clearly not worked. Actually, it is better called the economic fraction plan because it will only help a small fraction of Canadians.
Decent jobs with decent family-supporting wages and benefits and permanence are the top priority for me and my community, but even those who do find jobs must find them outside the riding and must use public transit, which, in my riding, is city buses, to get to work. Some have told me at the door that they spend as many as four hours every day commuting, which is time taken away from their families. That is why I am so disappointed by the government's budget. It does so little to meet the needs of these people.
The government's budget, the economic fraction plan, part two, does not improve the financial security of the residents of , as the claimed in his budget speech. Previous tax cuts for wealthy corporations have done nothing for my riding. The next wave of tax cuts for these big corporations will not help us here. Manufacturers have continued to close and no new jobs have been created.
The government's previous efforts in fighting the effects of the global recession had little impact in . Its vaunted infrastructure renewal did not touch at all, but passed by. Today, the budget leaves it even further behind.
However, if one travels north a couple of hours to the riding of , one will be able to smell the pork on the barbecues there, where the average income is $75,000 a year and $50 million was spent on border protection. I do not think it is anywhere near the border. Yes, I suspect that part of the economic fraction plan did what the government intended, but it did not help us in .
We in the NDP proposed and recommended to the government a job creation plan to would provide strategic investment in small business, not the giveaways to profitable corporations that this budget favours.
We in the NDP proposed a national infrastructure renewal strategy to draw investment and jobs into our communities. Instead, the government is closing down its infrastructure program.
We in the NDP proposed investing in education and training for high-tech, clean energy and conservation jobs for the workforce that we need in the 21st century economy. This is a missed opportunity in this budget. Residents in my riding want to create a green centre of excellence on the 53 acre former Kodak site, for good jobs in the 21st century economy. However, without a federal job creation strategy, without federal investment and a clear environmental plan, we will probably get the planned shopping centre and parking lot, which we need like a hole in the head.
We in the NDP proposed a national public transit strategy that would maintain and expand public transit across the country with a clear mechanism for sustainable, predictable long-term funding. Such a strategy would create jobs, increase productivity, clean the air and give working people more time with their families.
Instead, we get an elite business class train to the airport with fares of $50 being talked about. It seems the business elite do not want to have to rub shoulders with ordinary York South—Weston residents going to work.
This budget does little to help the average Canadian family deal with the cost of living. We in the NDP believe that Canadian families should get a break from the HST on home heating and hydro costs. However, the government's budget fails to do that.
I spoke to one senior during the campaign who had just received her heating bill for the month of March. It was $600 for one month, and tears were flowing because she could not pay it. A lot of that bill was the HST, and some of her tears were tears of anger over the unnecessary tax grab.
I heard the say yesterday that the HST was the province's problem. So I suppose he would have no issue with foregoing the 5% federal portion of her bill.
We in the NDP believe that seniors should not have to live in poverty. We proposed pension reform and significant increases to the guaranteed income supplement, but the government's budget measures fail to achieve these goals.
Seniors in York South—Weston are suffering the double whammy of pensions that do not rise and skyrocketing fuel and food costs. The rise in their pensions was $3 last year. How do they pay a $600 heating bill when their pensions go up by $3, or even $53 with the $50 the government is proposing that they get?
We in the NDP want to meet the needs of Canadian families by providing funding for more family doctors and nurses, by proposing measures to make prescription drugs and home care more affordable. The government budget does not meet these goals.
Many residents of York South—Weston do not have family doctors and use the over-crowded emergency room instead, and there is only one, as the previous provincial Conservative government closed the other hospital as its legacy to York South—Weston.
The token gestures to families with kids in arts or sports programs do not help the parents who cannot afford to enrol them in the first place, and the thousands who cannot find affordable daycare have no help whatsoever in the government's budget.
We in the NDP want to work with the provinces and territories to establish and fund a Canada-wide child care program and an early learning program that would create new child care spaces, improve community infrastructure to support the growth in child care and promote a one-stop shop approach for family services.
When their kids get out of daycare and want to go to university or college, the burdens of skyrocketing tuition and crushing debt loads are making that impossible. We in the NDP proposed a special education transfer to help ease the burden, particularly on low income families, but the government's budget is silent on that.
While there are many things we in the NDP would do differently in the budget, I see the government has taken our family caregiver tax benefit proposal. This will help families caring for people with disabilities, a subject that I have a personal interest in. However, we must do more. We should be implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, accompanied by strategies for providing disabilities supports, poverty alleviation, labour market participation and access and inclusion. I hope all members of this House will support this initiative.
We in the NDP are asking the government to rethink its priorities in the budget. As York South—Weston residents will clearly attest, the budget is of little or no help on the real issues facing tens of thousands who live in poverty in Canada's richest city. The budget will not create jobs here, will not provide more daycare, will not lift our seniors out of poverty, will not make higher education affordable and will not make ordinary living more affordable.
The government makes quite gleeful pronouncements about its majority. Whatever the government, it should be concerned about all Canadians, not merely the wealthy in , but even the folks in York South—Weston.
Its economic fraction plan aims at only a fraction of Canadians, and certainly not those living in poverty.
I urge the government to rethink its priorities and establish priorities that can assist all Canadians, not merely a small fraction of the population.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my good friend and colleague from . Let me congratulate you on your appointment to the chair. I know you will do a great job in the House and with civility breaking out all over, it will be an easy job.
I would also like to thank the great people of Oxford for instilling their trust in me again to represent their interests in Ottawa, as well as my wonderful team of volunteers who were indispensable in making my re-election a reality. I would be remiss if I did not thank the great staff who represent me in my riding of Oxford and do a tremendous job. They make me look good and I appreciate that.
I am eager to move from the March 22 presentation of the budget to where we are now. It was derailed with an unnecessary election, and Canadians and the people of Oxford spoke on May 2. They gave us a clear mandate to move forward with budget 2011 when they made their wishes clear at the ballot boxes across this great nation, giving Canadians a long overdue strong Conservative majority in the House of Commons.
We on this side of the House will honour their directive by keeping our promises and commitments to secure economic recovery for all Canadians today and for generations to come. On this side of the House we plan to continue to do this by supporting job creation, strengthening our families and communities, investing in the economy of tomorrow by providing increased support for research and technology, and by working diligently to preserve Canada's fiscal advantage to keep it on the right track to balanced budgets by eliminating ineffective spending, limiting spending growth and closing unfair tax loopholes.
The next phase of Canada's economic action plan would keep taxes low to promote jobs and economic growth while supporting Ontario families and seniors.
Let us talk about the unnecessary election triggered by the opposition that kept much-needed cheques out of the pockets of struggling Canadian seniors. We believe this to be an injustice to Canada's backbone and we will do everything within the parliamentary limits to ensure that Canada's seniors are treated with the respect they deserve.
Our first step is to ensure support for seniors in the next phase of the economic action plan. The plan builds on the support in place for seniors by announcing new measures to improve the quality of life and expand opportunities for older Canadians, including those living in my riding of Oxford.
A new guaranteed income supplement top up benefit targeted to the most vulnerable seniors effective July 1, 2011 will be available to seniors with little or no income other than old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. These seniors will receive additional annual benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples. Single recipients with an annual income other than OAS and GIS of $2,000 or less and couples with an annual income of $4,000 or less will receive the full amount of the benefit.
There would be a provision of $10 million over two years to increase support for the new horizons for seniors program, which provides funding to organizations that help ensure that seniors, including those in my riding, can benefit from and contribute to the quality of life in their communities through active living and participation in social activities.
The residents of Oxford are not strangers to the new horizons for seniors program. Most recently, the South Gate Centre in Woodstock, the Town of Tillsonburg Non-Profit Housing Corporation and the Victorian Order of Nurses-Oxford Branch received funding under this program to improve the quality of life for seniors across Oxford.
However, we did not stop there. We also introduced $50 million over two years to extend the targeted initiative for older workers program until 2013-14. This is a federal-provincial-territorial employment program that provides a range of employment activities for unemployed older workers in vulnerable communities with populations of less than 250,000 to help them stay in the workforce. That is up to $840 million in new financial support for needy Canadian seniors. That is a budget I can throw my support behind.
Many families in Oxford will also be able to benefit from several important initiatives in this budget. Grants of up to $5,000 are available for people to make improvements to their homes and make them more energy efficient. This would save them energy costs over the long-term as well as benefit the environment.
Two important tax credits would allow families to receive a tax receipt for expenses related to providing care for family members as well as extracurricular activities for their children.
The family caregiver tax credit would provide $2,000 for caregivers of loved ones with infirmities, including for the first time spouses, common-law partners and minor children.
The new children's arts tax credit would enable hard-working families to claim up to $500 in eligible fees for programs associated with arts, cultural, recreational and developmental activities.
The rural areas in my riding rely on the excellent service of our volunteer firefighters. I am so pleased that the constituents in my riding who are volunteer firefighters will now be eligible to receive a $3,000 non-refundable tax credit. I have heard from many constituents expressing their support for this tax credit.
Seniors are the backbone of our great nation and students are our bright future. We want all students to succeed in the global economy with the help of the best education possible.
The next phase of Canada's economic action plan includes several measures to help students acquire the education and training they need to prosper, such as student loan forgiveness for doctors and nurses working in rural and remote areas. Practising family physicians will be eligible for federal Canada student loan forgiveness of up to $8,000 per year to a maximum of $40,000. Nurse practitioners and nurses will be eligible for federal Canada student loan forgiveness of up to $4,000 per year to a maximum of $20,000.
We will also be extending tax relief for skills certification exams, making all occupational trade and professional exam fees eligible for tax relief through the tuition tax credit.
In addition to these wonderful initiatives to further aid Canadian students, we are doubling the in-study income exemption from $50 per week to $100 per week. This initiative will benefit over 100,000 students by allowing them to work more without negatively affecting their loans.
We understand that family support and involvement is key to any undertaking, whether it be professional or personal. That is why we are increasing the family income threshold for part-time Canada student loan and Canada student grant recipients, bringing the eligibility thresholds in line with the thresholds used for full-time students.
The residents of Oxford and all Canadians can look forward to $15 million in ongoing funding to the Canada periodical fund, which supports the distribution of publications in Ontario and across the country. I know that many newspapers serving Oxford and the rest of rural Canada will applaud this initiative as they have been recipients of the funding in the past.
Municipalities across Canada can rest assured that the next phase of Canada's economic action plan includes legislation to make the gas tax funding for municipalities permanent. Canada's government will be putting into law the permanent annual investment of $2 billion in gas tax funding for cities and towns to support infrastructure projects. Over four years the municipalities of Oxford will receive a staggering total of $25,216,242.
I like many Canadians understand that farmers feed cities and that is why the initiative for the control of diseases in the hog industry will be extended by an additional two years. The government will be providing $24 million over two years to enable the Canadian Swine Health Board to complete initiatives directed at national biosecurity standards and best management practices that will benefit hog producers across the country.
There is so much more that I could say about the whole budget. I just wish that the budget had stood on March 22 to reach the stage that it is at today before the House, so that Canadians would have had the benefit of all of the good things in this 2011 budget.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak today on the next phase of our Conservative government's economic action plan. Our government's action plan is the right plan for challenging times and it is critical to securing the economic recovery that had started through our previous budgets.
Before I speak to the budget, I would like to first take this opportunity to thank the voters of Wild Rose who re-elected me to this place in the May general election. As all of us who serve in this place know, it is a tremendous honour and a great responsibility to represent Canadians in their federal parliaments. I am humbled by the trust that my constituents have placed in me by returning me as a member of a Conservative team that is dedicated to balancing the books, cutting costs and waste and working for the well-being of all Canadians.
The people of Wild Rose have my pledge that I will continue to work hard for them at all times and always in the best interest of our great nation of Canada to ensure the confidence they have shown in me has not been misplaced.
Our government's good work on behalf of all Canadians is evident today as we continue debate on budget 2011. A global economic crisis that started outside our borders three years ago nevertheless impacted our country and brought with it significant challenges for Canadians. Our government met those challenges head on.
The economic action plan was designed to lead Canada out of the worst recession in generations. The temporary stimulus measures of the economic action plan had their intended effect. The projects created jobs in a time of recession, while making investments in local infrastructure that would benefit our communities for years to come.
In my riding these investments were needed since years of rapid growth in Alberta had left municipalities in a crunch to keep pace with infrastructure requirements. In Wild Rose the action plan has created jobs, while benefiting the town of Canmore with a new pedestrian underpass. Banff has opened a very popular Legacy Trail. The town of Olds has renovated its sportsplex. Airdrie and Cochrane are completing major upgrades to arterial streets. These are among many other examples.
The action plan did the job it was designed to do. As a result, Canada has weathered the global recession in a stronger position than nearly all major economies.
Our economy has grown for seven straight quarters, with 540,000 new jobs created since July, 2009—