The House resumed from June 4 consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendment) from committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is always a privilege to speak to the budget, to be able to speak to the fundamental document that this place produces on a yearly basis. Even though we have other pieces of legislation, it is a summary of everything else that we are ultimately involved in because almost everything in this place, one way or the other, takes money and it takes finances. I would say that for most Canadians, the issue that most concerns them when it comes to politics is how it would affect them and their financial livelihood. We debate many important issues, involving defence and involving justice, but I would argue that for many Canadians this is the fundamental issue that they want the government to address: How does the government deal with the items that affect their personal financial livelihood?
I have gotten in the habit in a couple of my last speeches of starting with an inspirational quote, which I hope sets the tone or frames the backdrop for where I am coming from, and provides a benchmark on whether the piece of legislation, the agenda item we are debating, is appropriate. Let me start with what Milton Friedman said:
A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it...gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.
With that as a backdrop, we need to start on the budget. Does the budget support an increased freedom? Does the budget allow the free market to grow? Does the budget actually allow Canadians to decide what they want for themselves? Or, does the budget guide them to do what a particular interest group thinks they should do? No document is perfect, but let us start to review what we know here, on where the economy is going and the history of what this government has done.
If we look at some of the fundamental markers of this budget and where it is going, we should feel fairly pleased. The deficit is projected to be approximately $5.5 billion, but when we begin to factor in things like the contingency fund and various other possible adjustments, we are effectively at a balanced budget. Whether it technically comes out to that, plus or minus a couple of billion dollars, may not be all that important in the grander scheme, but that is effectively where we are.
When we look at where many of the provinces are and other nations that we compare ourselves to around the world are, we can feel proud of ourselves as Canadians. We have taken the fiscal discipline and the fiscal steps necessary to ensure that our bills are paid. We do not ever want to end up like some of the other countries we have seen in the world, some of the unfortunate European nations, that have essentially had their finances monitored by external bodies to ensure their economy and their finances did not completely collapse the country into complete bankruptcy. Let me give credit to the late minister of finance, and to the current , for what they have done and how they are projecting us to go forward.
We look at growth in employment, something that many Canadians view as the most important statistic because it very much impacts their life. It is the fundamental economic question: Do I have a job? Is my business succeeding? We look at the period of 2006 to 2012, and we look through the G7. The management of the government is not the only thing that controls employment growth, but we should note that among the G7 countries during that period, Canada's employment growth rose by just under 9%, the best of the G7. Japan unfortunately actually lost jobs during that period, which is sad for Japan. However, Canada, among the countries we often measure ourselves against, was the best performer in a period of economic crisis around the world.
We also look at real per capita GDP. This is not GDP that has been inflated due to some inflationary growth or GDP that has been inflated due purely to population growth, because we know those two things can skew the numbers, but real per capita GDP from 2006 to 2012. Again, among the G7 countries, Canada is up 12%. That means the real economic value of what Canadians take home and of what Canadians create is growing; not just the total because we have more people, not just the notional amounts because we have changed the numbers due to inflation, but the actual wealth of Canadians has grown in the last six years. That is how it should be.
As technology advances, as new efficiencies come into the market, as new and better ways are learned to create growth, that is what should happen. However, none of our G7 competitors performed that well. One of our competitors in that same period due to fiscal issues, economic issues, and so on, had an 11% drop in its real per capita GDP. While we think these things are automatic and we think these things should be normative, we see throughout the world that they are not that way.
The Great Depression is something we read about in history books. I was just beginning to really understand the broader world around me when the Trudeau recession of the early eighties hit Canada. Those things are part of our history and they are aspects of our economic history that impact on Canadians' livelihoods that we do not want to repeat.
What are some of the best and most positive things that the government has done, particularly in light of the quote I gave about increasing freedom, increasing Canadians' ability to make their own decisions rather than having special interest groups dictate to people how they should live? Let us look first of all at what this government has done as far as business taxes are concerned.
Frequently, people who are not in favour of cutting business taxes criticize them because they view business taxes as a benefit to the rich, a group that they are implicitly criticizing. Business taxes are often just the first step in a tax system that goes forward, because ultimately all taxes are paid by individuals.
One of the reasons why governments have pushed to decrease business taxes is because business taxes discourage jobs and job growth. If we look at the Nordic countries, which opposition members sometimes refer to because of their perceived social democratic history, business taxes are often very low. Personal income taxes may be high in those jurisdictions but these countries have done it, along with their free trade orientation and their history of international trade, to promote business growth and job growth.
The marginal effect of rate of taxation is not just the nominal rate, but what we get when we factor in what really gets there, because there are deductions and various other ways to calculate it. Over the same 2006 to 2012 period, this government has brought that down from 33% to 17%. It is very interesting when we read the budget documents to look at it that way.
There is one other area I want to note that really helps to promote freedom and economic growth, because the two are tied together, and that is lessening the regulatory burdens.
I am sure all members of Parliament have had many constituents come into their offices, businessmen, individuals, who have had difficulties dealing with the Canada Revenue Agency. It is one of the interesting things when we start to go through the budget streamlining various aspects of dealing with the GST, HST, and other reporting requirements. These are things that are put together in this budget to help Canadians run their businesses, to have more freedom, and ultimately to have more prosperity.
I want to congratulate both the late minister of finance and the current one for taking an agenda forward that increases prosperity and freedom. Ultimately the two are linked. While no budget document is perfect, just as no member of Parliament or no government is perfect, this budget brings that forward in a positive way. It is the reason why Canada has outperformed other countries. It is the reason why we are in a period of economic growth. It is one of the things we can see that differentiates parts of the country one from another. Areas that have followed similar policies to those of this government are doing, in general, better than those that have not.
Mr. Speaker, this is the second time that I have had the opportunity to speak to another omnibus bill. What most concerned me the first time was the famous Champlain Bridge, an issue on which little progress has been made.
Believe it or not, this bill contains some provisions that are very important to the greater Montreal area, especially to the people in my riding of Chambly—Borduas.
Having said that, the last time I spoke to Bill , we focused on the fact that the bill was eliminating the government's responsibility to comply with the User Fees Act, consult Canadians and ensure that a future toll follows the guidelines in order not to create problems or put further pressure on the economy. At present, this is the problem we see: people living on the south shore and in Montreal are being asked to pay for infrastructure that already exists.
At the end of the day, the major issue with the bridge in this bill and in the changes made is the toll being imposed, as my colleague from often says. All the elected officials, business people and residents feel that the was either unable to consult the public or simply did not want to do so. This still has not been done.
Since I last spoke to Bill , we have been able to mobilize hundreds of volunteers on the south shore and collect thousands of signatures from people who are against this toll. A day of action was held on May 3. That was really an opportunity for us to see the extent to which people in the region, like many Quebeckers in fact, feel that they are being treated with contempt by the Conservative government. This is a very good example of the government's contempt.
The rises in the House to say that it is a local bridge and it is too bad if there are no consultations. In reality, I believe that over 14% of Quebec's GDP is based on the ability to cross the Champlain Bridge. Billions of dollars of economic activity are at stake. This bridge is by no means a local bridge. When we consider the economic issue and the importance of the greater Montreal area, I think it is very important to show respect to the public, the elected officials and the business community.
It is no coincidence that the mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre, the mayor of Longueuil, Caroline St-Hilaire, and the mayor of Chambly, in my riding, Denis Lavoie, have spoken out against this bill, together with chambers of commerce and the public.
We feel that this problem is symptomatic of the Conservative government's contempt for Quebec, but often also for various jurisdictions, in its discussions with the provinces and its dealings with the municipalities.
That being said, the government is demonstrating a clear lack of vision when it comes to the Champlain Bridge. I had the opportunity to sit on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. When we heard from witnesses from Transport Canada, namely those responsible for the project, we asked them questions about the terms and conditions set out in Bill because that was the topic on the agenda that day. They told us that the terms and conditions served to speed up the process. They did not want the Champlain Bridge to be subject to the User Fees Act because they wanted to speed up the process.
As we know the minister postponed the deadline, which is somewhat problematic given that the government does not seem to have done much and seems incapable of proposing a real business plan.
I have family friends and constituents who use the bridge every day. Given the safety issues at play here, everyone in the House would agree that a new bridge is needed ASAP, as we say.
The government is neglecting its obligation to consult in order to speed up the process, but it is unable to say how much time that will buy and what difference it will make. The government claims to be eliminating legal uncertainty in order to make the process faster, but how much faster? Will this buy us days, weeks, months? The government cannot tell us. This shows once again the government's lack of transparency, rigour and consultation in this matter.
The government's lack of consultation or failure to do its homework is another problem. Take for example, the regional impact study that was conducted by the Government of Quebec's department of transport. It is extremely important to determine what impact the new bridge will have on the other bridges, which do not fall under federal jurisdiction, and on traffic in the greater Montreal area, whether it be on the island itself or on the south shore. After all, if there is a toll on one bridge but not on the others, it is safe to assume that this will have an impact on which bridges people use. The report published by the Government of Quebec makes that very clear.
In committee, we asked the witnesses whether the federal government had carried out such a study. The federal government has been talking about this issue and working on it for a long time, since before the 2011 election. After all, this bridge is under federal jurisdiction. However, the federal government does not seem to be as aware as the Government of Quebec about the repercussions of a toll on the region. Once again, that says a lot about the government's failings and sloppiness. We will continue to oppose a toll, and we will do so in an accountable and transparent way by consulting the people, of course.
I would like to touch on another important aspect of Bill . This is yet another issue that does not really belong in a budget implementation bill, but it is very important to my constituents. I am talking about rail safety. Bill contains provisions relating to rail safety that give even more discretionary power to the Governor in Council, the cabinet, and the minister. That really worries me.
In the wake of tragedies such as the one at Lac-Mégantic, people have been demanding more transparency and more information about the dangerous goods being transported through their regions. What regulations is the government making, and how will they affect our communities? A railway goes right through the heart of my riding, through residential neighbourhoods, and past several schools, including Otterburn Park, where my mother teaches. We know how important transparency is to reassuring people. People want to feel safe. That should be the government's primary concern. Giving cabinet, the Governor in Council, and the minister more discretionary powers and letting them make decisions without informing the public in a transparent way goes against that principle and does little to reassure people.
There is much more I could say. This budget implementation bill includes two transportation files, and that speaks volumes about the shortcomings in the process. The government has used this bogus process many times since it came to power. There are many other components that will affect the people of Chambly—Borduas, but those are two key concerns for my constituents. We will continue with our demands on these issues.
That is why we are opposing omnibus Bill , which is also known as an “omnibrick” bill. As the hon. member for said, it is 400 pages long. We are wondering how many hundreds of pages it will be next year and the year after that. We hope that this will be the last time but, unfortunately, the government is not giving us many reasons to trust its approach. We will continue to oppose the way this government does business.
Mr. Speaker, it is my absolute pleasure to speak to Bill , the budget implementation bill.
A solid middle class is the foundation of Canada's economy. Middle-class Canadians are the glue that binds our society together, and we recognize that our country can only be as strong as its middle class.
Fortunately, Canada's middle class has seen increases of about 30% in their take-home income since 1976, and the share of Canadians living in lower-income families is now at its lowest level in the past three decades.
A recent Statistics Canada study has revealed that since our Conservative government has taken office, the middle class has flourished significantly. I quote:
The median net worth of Canadian family units was $243,800 in 2012, up 44.5% from 2005 and almost 80% more than the 1999 median of $137,000, adjusted for inflation.
Another study, this one from The New York Times indicated that Canada's middle class is better off financially than that of the U.S. I quote:
After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada—substantially behind in 2000—now appear to be higher than in the United States.
Further, since 2006, Canadian families in all major income groups have seen increases of about 10% or more in their take-home incomes.
It may be hard for the opposition to believe, but even the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirms that our government has put $30 billion of tax relief back into Canadian pockets annually, benefiting low-income and middle-income families the most.
This is great news for Canada, and it reflects our government's careful navigation through the worst global economic downturn since the start of the Second World War.
Since the beginning of the recovery, Canada's economy has posted one of the strongest job creation records in the G7, with more than one million net new jobs created since the depths of July 2009.
At a time when other countries' financial systems were brought to the brink of bankruptcy, Canada's banks remained the soundest in the world. When other countries increased taxes, we kept taxes at record lows, and the federal tax burden is the lowest it has been in over 50 years, thanks to our tax plan.
Since 2006, Canadians have benefited from significant broad-based tax cuts introduced by our government. These tax cuts, which the opposition voted against time and time again, have given individuals and families the flexibility to make the choices that are right for them and have built solid foundations for our future economic growth, more jobs, and a higher living standard for Canadians.
Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from tax relief, with the low- and middle-income Canadians receiving proportionately greater relief.
In 2014, an average family of four is saving close to $3,400 in taxes, while one million Canadians have been removed from the tax rolls altogether. Unlike the high-tax NDP and Liberals, our government believes in keeping more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadian families.
That is why we cut the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%. It is why we increased the amount Canadians can earn tax-free. It is why we reduced the GST from 7% to 5%, putting more than $1,000 back in the pockets of an average family of four in 2014. We established the landmark tax-free savings account, the most significant advance in the tax treatment of personal savings since the introduction of RRSPs in 1957.
In addition, we introduced a variety of tax credits that recognize the costs borne by hard-working Canadian families. These credits include the child tax credit, the children's fitness tax credit, the children's arts tax credit, the family caregiver tax credit, and the first-time homebuyers' tax credit.
As a parent, I believe there is no higher calling than that of raising a child, and no reward is its equal. Canadians who have children deserve the government's full support, particularly when it comes to recognizing some of the additional costs borne by adoptive parents.
We heard parents' concerns that the adoption expense tax credit was not sufficient. That is why in economic action plan 2014 our government acted by enhancing the tax credit to support these parents even more. By better recognizing the costs of adoption through increased tax relief, we are making it easier for middle-class families to grow and to make Canada stronger.
At the same time, our government is committed to ensuring that the tax system reflects the evolving nature of the health care system and the health care needs of Canadians. We all use the health care system and we all want it to remain strong and sustainable so that it will be there for Canadians when they need it. Under our government, health care transfers are at an all time high, going from over $20 billion when we formed government to over $32 billion this year, and growing. Unlike the old Liberal government, we have not cut funding to provinces for health care and education.
I find it comical when we hear that the Liberals cut the deficit. Well, we are doing that too, but they did it on the backs of education and health care. We are doing it in a responsible and sustainable manner.
Similarly, health care transfers will also grow under our funding formula, and in a sensible and sustainable way. We will keep growing health care funding to ensure Canadian families can depend on our health care system today and in the future.
Moreover, we recognize there are external health care costs that Canadians have been paying for out of pocket, such as service animals. For example, in the case of severe diabetes, alerts can be raised by diabetes alert dogs. That is why Bill has proposed an expansion of the list of eligible medical expenses. These important measures are just a handful of examples illustrating how we have responded to the needs of Canadian families and helped Canadians keep more of their hard-earned money.
Perhaps one of the most profound ways we are helping middle-class Canadians is by making sure future generations will not be paying for the past obligations of their parents and grandparents. We are doing so by returning to balanced budgets in 2015. In fact, that was one of my key motivations when I decided to run for the Conservative Party of Canada: I do not want our children's futures mortgaged.
Unlike the Liberal leader, who believes that the budget will magically balance itself, our government has made tough decisions to return to balance, and we have never wavered from our objective. In fact, I am reminded of how my husband and I sat down and talked about the importance of paying off our mortgage when we were younger. We needed to make tough choices. In the same way the government is doing now, we made responsible choices. The result is that we have no mortgage. The Government of Canada is doing that for future generations right now, and I am so proud of the work that is being done. By eliminating the deficit, we will ensure solid, stable prosperity for all Canadians well into the future.
Indeed, balancing the budget and reducing debt would ensure taxpayer dollars are used to support important social services, such as health care, rather than to pay to reduce the debt with interest costs. It would preserve Canada's low-tax plan and allow for further tax reductions, fostering growth and the creation of jobs for the benefit of all Canadians. It would also strengthen the country's ability to respond to longer-term challenges, such as population aging and unexpected global economic shocks of the kind our government so successfully withstood in the recent economic crisis.
Our government understands the importance of middle-class Canadians. As our actions have shown, we listened. We have ensured a middle class for our country that will continue to lead the world.
I am very proud of Bill . I am very proud of our government's responsible approach to deficit reduction. It is a measured and responsible approach. I sincerely hope that we can engage the opposition to support this very important budget implementation bill.
Mr. Speaker, last February, I gave a speech after the tabling of the 2014-15 Conservative budget. I told my colleagues in this House about my concerns with regard to the issues of housing for the homeless and infrastructures. Now I think I am going to be repeating myself.
Bill contains no proposals about community access to the Building Canada fund, and this is a huge flaw in a budget implementation bill. However, rather than repeating exactly the same thing that I have been saying about all the Conservative budgets, I would like to quote the people who are the most deeply affected by the government’s poor decisions.
First I would like to put things in context. In the 2013-14 budget, $14 billion over 10 years was announced for the creation of the new Building Canada fund. When the 2014-15 budget was tabled, one year later, we still did not know how to submit projects for the fund. It is always the same thing with the Conservatives: they pat themselves on the back when telling us about new programs, but always wait until the last minute before telling us any details about them.
Meanwhile, groups, other levels of government and the people who should be using these programs are worried about the possibility of breaks in funding, potential layoffs or construction seasons that are being threatened.
That being said, almost a year after the announcement of the new Building Canada fund, on February 13, 2014, the details were finally announced. However, when you look into what is happening at the municipal level and the positions taken by a number of mayors, it seems that the government failed to consult the municipalities before announcing the details of the new program.
I do not understand this. Every time he is asked a question, the spends his time giving us the same talking points: the municipalities have been consulted at every step in the design of the new Building Canada fund.
The Canadian Federation of Municipalities has in fact had an opportunity to make submissions on the broad lines of the new infrastructure program, but has the federation really been consulted on the details? The answer is no, and those are the facts.
The is always quoting the same statement by the immediate past president of the FCM, Claude Dauphin, to show that the municipalities were pleased with the announcement the government made on February 13, 2014. Clearly, they were pleased. They had been waiting for a year to get more details. The problem is that the minister did not read to the end of Mayor Dauphin's statement.
He went on to say:
However, important questions remain about how the rest of the New Building Canada Fund will be used to meet local needs.
Municipalities own a significant majority of public infrastructure [about 60%] and, for a fund that will span the next decade, we must be sure that it is used accordingly. This is the only way to ensure that local governments can address infrastructure challenges in their communities. We are also concerned by rule changes that could force municipalities to carry a larger share of infrastructure costs in the future, the eligibility rules for local roads, the screening process for projects structured as public/private partnerships (P3s).
There are 45 days before April 1 when the municipal construction season begins. The federal government needs to work with FCM on details of the New Building Canada Fund...to [ensure that] it delivers the best value for Canadians.
It is rather strange that the minister is telling us that he consulted the FCM, when the very day the details of the new program were announced, the president of the FCM asked the government to work with the organization to review the criteria. Did the minister hear that plea from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities? Once again, the answer is no, and the evidence is mounting.
An hon. member: He does not listen.
Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet: No, Mr. Speaker, he does not listen.
Less than two weeks later, on February 26, 2014, the mayors of 22 of the biggest cities in Canada met in Ottawa. These cities alone represent 65% of the population of Canada.
As he left the meeting, Régis Labeaume, the mayor of Quebec City, stated:
My colleagues, not just those from Quebec, but everyone around the table, support us in calling on the federal government to make recreational and sports infrastructure once again eligible for the program. [Both the UMQ and the FCM agree.] We are asking the government to listen to us a little bit...
The day before, the president of the Union des municipalités du Québec and mayor of Rimouski, Éric Forest, was very direct in his comments about the new Building Canada fund. He believed, in good faith, that the new fund would continue to provide one-third of the funding for recreational and sports infrastructure, as the previous program did. However, that is not the case.
When they got down to work in 2008 [when he says “they”, he means the Conservative government], we delivered infrastructure projects to help with the economic recovery. It is crystal clear that we spent money in anticipation of receiving funding. We went deeper into debt. If we were not there, who was going to do the work? We are currently out of breath, and we need that oxygen. However, they are slamming the door in our faces.
A few hours later, Richard Lehoux, the president of the Fédération québécoise des municipalités, said:
The federal government fanned the flames by refusing to allow the municipalities to use the amounts provided for in the building Canada fund for sports facilities. The municipalities need flexibility. We know our needs, and so we are in the best position to know how the investments should be used.
I would not dare suggest in the House that the minister was not telling the truth, but perhaps he twisted the facts.
The new Building Canada plan is supposed to be the biggest infrastructure program in Canada's history.
When the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the mayors of Canada's 22 largest cities, the Union des municipalités du Québec and the Fédération québécoise des municipalités say that they are unhappy and are surprised by the announced details of the program, which is supposed to address an infrastructure deficit in the country, I think there is something that is not working.
The municipalities hold more than 60% of the public infrastructure in Canada. However, did this outcry wake up the minister? The answer is still no.
I just came back from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' annual conference in Niagara Falls, which ended last Monday. Do you know what the delegates wanted to talk to me and my colleagues about? The criteria for the new Building Canada fund. They also came to talk to me at length about the issue of housing, but I will keep that for another discussion and another minister.
I would like to bring my colleagues up to speed on municipal news from the past few days. Just to provide a bit of context, when we asked him when he would unveil the details of the new infrastructure program and about municipalities' fears of losing the construction season if they did not know how to apply, the minister told us that negotiations were proceeding well and that the details would be available by April 1.
However, on May 9, more than one month after the start of the construction season and the implementation of the new infrastructure program, the past president of the FCM, Claude Dauphin, said:
We’re still in the dark. None of our members can apply because we don’t know how to apply...To tell the truth, we’re a little bit worried. We cannot afford to lose an entire construction season...
In other words, the money is there, but they still do not know how to access it. It was expected that construction work would be under way already, but that does not seem to be the case.
This is the last quote I would like to share, because if I were to quote every elected official who has weighed in with the media in recent weeks, we could miss question period.
This time I will quote someone from this area, the mayor of Gatineau, Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, who was attending the FCM annual conference. This quote is from the June 2, 2014, issue of Le Droit:
He pointed out that the City of Gatineau must make significant investments in many infrastructure projects such as roads, water filtration plants, libraries and arenas.
[According to him,] a city cannot manage all this with just property taxes...The Maison du citoyen renovations alone will cost $12 million....Ottawa and Quebec City have to be part of the solution.
Those are the facts, and I have spoken only about infrastructure today. I heard the same story at the FCM convention about the funding for social housing.
We will strongly oppose this bill because it fails our communities.
Our leader, the member for , was actually warmly received at this convention with his credible partnership offer for Canadian municipalities. The municipalities are now even more aware of which party they must turn to in 2015 to advance their priorities.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to represent beautiful Langley, British Columbia, and to have the opportunity to speak briefly to the many strengths of Canada's new economic action plan 2014.
I would like to begin my comments by reflecting on what I have heard from the NDP. I was shocked, maybe I should not have been, that it does not want us to balance our budget. It wants us to continue all the different programs that have reached the end of their lives. They want to continue deficit spending. That is not what Canadians want.
We will continue to work hard creating jobs and an environment where the economy can grow and we can balance the priorities of Canadians.
I would like to highlight the important contribution that our natural resources, forestry, and agriculture make to the Canadian economy, which is a pillar of our government's economic action plan. These sectors create jobs and prosperity, particularly in rural communities across Canada.
For example, consider Canada's natural resources sector. This sector represents 18% of the economy and over half of our exports. It supports 1.8 million jobs directly and indirectly. That is where a large percentage of the money for programs is coming from. Furthermore, it generates over $30 billion annually in revenues to governments, which is equal to approximately half of all spending in hospitals in Canada in 2013.
There are hundreds of natural resources projects under way or planned in Canada over the next 10 years, representing a total potential investment of $650 billion. That is huge.
A significant element of this economic boost is represented by Canada's unique oil sands industry. This sector is an asset that will increasingly contribute to the prosperity of all Canadians, including the programs that the opposition NDP and Liberal parties want but do not want to pay for.
The oil sands is among the world's largest technological projects, contributing about 275,000 jobs across Canada and $48 billion in GDP, numbers that could grow to an average of 630,000 jobs and a contribution of $113 billion in GDP per year by 2035. That is huge. This is due to an increasing global demand for resources, particularly from the emerging economies.
Increasing global demand for resources like our oil, particularly from emerging economies, will create new economic and job opportunities from which all Canadians will benefit. However, Canadians will only reap the benefits that come from our natural resources once investments are made by the private sector to bring these much-needed resources to market.
Approval processes can be long and unpredictable. Delays and red tape often plague projects that pose few environmental risks. That is why our government has worked hard since 2006 to streamline and improve the regulatory process while safeguarding and protecting the environment.
A modern regulatory system should support progress on economically viable major economic projects and should sustain Canada's reputation as an attractive place to invest. That is why, as part of Canada's economic action plan, we are modernizing the federal regulatory system by establishing clear timelines, reducing duplication and regulatory burdens, and focusing resources on large projects where the potential environmental impacts are the greatest. That makes sense.
For example, we are implementing system-wide improvements to achieve the goal of one project, one review within clearly defined time periods.
In addition, we have invested $54 million over two years to support more effective project approvals through the major projects management office initiative. In our most recent budget, we announced $28 million over two years for the National Energy Board for comprehensive and timely reviews of applications and to support the participant funding program. We have also eliminated tariffs on mobile offshore drilling units used in offshore oil and gas exploration and development.
We also announced an extension of the mineral exploration tax credit to March 31, 2015. This credit helps the junior exploration companies raise capital by providing an incentive to individuals who invest in flow-through shares issued to finance mineral exploration. The credit is in addition to the regular deduction provided for the exploration expenses flowed through from the issuing company. Since 2006, this measure has helped junior mining companies raise over $5 billion for exploration. Promoting the exploration of Canada's rich mineral resources by junior mining companies offers important benefits in terms of job creation and economic development across Canada, including in rural and northern communities.
Our government has also amended the Coasting Trade Act to improve access to modern, reliable seismic data for offshore resource development. Since 2004, mobile offshore drilling units used in oil and gas exploration and development have been permitted to be temporarily imported into Canada on a duty-free basis under the Mobile Offshore Drilling Limits Remission Order. This remission order was extended in 2009 for another five years and was set to expire in May 2014.
Economic action plan 2014 proposes to eliminate the 20% most-favoured-nation rate of duty on imported mobile offshore drilling units. This measure would permanently eliminate the disincentive for exploration leading to oil and gas discoveries in offshore Atlantic and Arctic regions and would create a level playing field with other major oil and gas countries competing for offshore petroleum industry investment.
Offshore oil and gas developments create jobs and support economic growth in Canadian communities. Continued exploration activity is required to bring new projects to communities and to sustain these economic benefits over a long term. However, it depends on modern, reliable seismic technology and data. That is why amending the act would ensure that companies have the information they need to identify potential resource development opportunities.
In addition to supporting responsible resource development, we must not forget the important contribution our forestry sector makes to our country. Canada's forestry sector directly employs over 200,000 workers in all regions of the country, including in 200 communities that rely on the sector for at least 50% of their economic base. Our government has helped keep this vital industry strong. The investments in the forestry industry transformation program, introduced in budget 2010, has been successful in enabling Canadian forestry companies to lead the world in demonstrating the viability of innovative technologies that improve efficiencies, reduce environmental impacts, and create high-value products for Canada's world-class forestry resources. Through programs like the IFIT, we have seen an over 1,000% increase in exports to China, which has helped the sector weather the economic downturn in the U.S. Economic action plan 2014 would build on this success by providing $90.1 million over four years, starting in 2014-15, to renew the IFIT program. Our government will continue to work with the forestry sector as it invests in innovative new products and pursues new markets for Canadian forest products.
Finally, the last topic I would like to highlight is our support for the agriculture and agri-food sector. The agricultural and agri-food sector in Canada accounts for over $100 billion in economic activity and provides employment for over 2.1 million Canadians.
Langley is an environmentally friendly community, but agriculture is also very important. I invite all members during the upcoming summer to spend some time out in beautiful Langley, British Columbia. Also, I encourage all members in this House to support Canada's economic plan. It creates jobs, it creates prosperity, and it is the right thing to do.
Mr. Speaker, I was not digging for a compliment, but I appreciate it. I was simply looking to increase the visibility of adoption as an issue in this House.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on Bill , our government's budget implementation act, to speak about the importance of the budget that we put forward for Canadians. Obviously, we are focused, as a government, on the economy, creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for all Canadians. We do have the strongest job creation record of any country in the G7, with over a million net new jobs, with over 85% of those being full time and in the private sector. I am proud of our government's record.
We have been able to keep taxes low while we are growing the economy, maintaining or increasing transfers to our provinces on an ongoing basis. That was not the Liberal record back in the 1990s, where the taxes went up and the transfers went down. We have been able to do both and grow the economy.
We have also made difficult decisions. Budgets do not balance themselves. They do take time, especially post-recession. To bring the government's budget back into balance, it takes some tough decisions. We have been making them. We are on track to balance the budget. That is good news for Canadians because ongoing structural deficits, like those they have in Ontario, lead to tomorrow's taxes. We do not want to see that situation. That is bad for the economy. In fact, our tax increases save the average Canadian family about $3,400 a year, and that is very good.
Obviously, we recognize that for economic recovery the outlook remains fragile, when we are looking globally at the G20 and beyond. Growth among these countries continues to be uneven, as it is here in Canada. We must continue to do more. That is why this budget and the implementation act become very important to us.
I do want to highlight a few of the items that I think were really critical, with respect to what the government is doing on its budget, including the significant investments in a new international crossing between Windsor and Detroit. We put $631 million down over the next two years as cash to begin to really accelerate projects to bring that into reality.
We heard recently that the Coast Guard in the United States, only yesterday or the day before, gave the final permit for that bridge to move ahead.
Obviously, we would have a binational authority to oversee the project, which would be populated with important Canadians and Americans, to move that project forward. We look forward to that development.
That initiative, though, would build upon the tremendous record of this government, beginning back in 2006, with the gateways and border crossings fund, with a significant down payment in 2007 on what is now the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway. That was a $400-million down payment. There were investments to begin purchasing land on the Canadian side of the border for a plaza, a customs inspection plaza, connecting to that Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway. There was the Bridge to Strengthen Trade Act, which came in a prior budget in this House, to insulate the DRIC from further lawsuit on the Canadian side. We have done our best to move that forward. This will be a P3 project that would be very significant for our region, not only in terms of construction jobs when it comes, but for the long-term business investment that Windsor-Essex county needs, not only for the auto industry, but for every other industry in the region to continue.
That was also fulfilling an important component of our national auto strategy that we announced in 2008.
Both Bill and our budget, also, would take important next steps with respect to the Regulatory Cooperation Council and our beyond the border action plan, another part of our auto action plan strategy in 2008, where we could see greater harmonization of standards particularly important for the auto industry, where they now produce a North American car, so to speak, instead of cars for various balkanized regulations across North America. That is important, in terms of the productivity and the forward-looking projections for that industry. This is an important component that we had to have, and we would make further progress on that in Bill C-31.
Our budget also included significant investments for rural broadband. I know that, just since the announcement, our Essex County Council has already been working hard to update its strategy for not only extending broadband to its last remaining regions but for upgrading the speed on that.
There is nothing more important, in my humble estimation, if I want to speak to an issue of real passion for me in Bill , than the adoption expenses tax credit.
In 2008, I brought forward Motion No. 386. It was calling for a study at the human resources committee, where we would take a look at the supports that were available on the federal side for adoptive parents and adopted children. That laid the groundwork, with its ultimate hearings and report, and a solid foundation for us to begin to look at it in a systematic way, to see what we can do from the federal side to improve adoption outcomes across Canada.
Anybody who has been paying attention to the adoption issue will know there are some important things that need to be done. One is baselining the actual number of children we have and what forms of temporary care they are in across Canada. The provincial and territorial systems report very differently on these matters, but we know that there is an emerging crisis in child welfare across the country, if we look cumulatively at what is happening.
From that, we know that there are an estimated 30,000 Canadian children who are at the stage where they are ready for adoption permanence, but there is no plan for adoption permanence for them.
When we looked further, in our study, we looked at areas where maybe the federal government could help. One of those is financial supports. The process for adoption, unless one goes through a public agency, can be very expensive.
I remember my interventions with then-minister Jim Flaherty in pre-budget consultations for budget 2013. He asked what we could do, and I suggested that the first thing we needed to do was expand the eligible criteria to more accurately reflect the range of costs that parents would face if they were choosing adoption.
Prior to that, the adoption expenses tax credit only covered the post-placement costs, those costs that are incurred once a child is placed and going forward. We note, for those who have to incur a home study, for example, that they can be very costly. In Ontario, people have to undergo what is called “PRIDE training”, important courses to understand the types of transitions that parents and children are going to go through in the situation of an adoption or a foster-to-adopt. Those can be very expensive as well.
That was the first thing we did with economic action plan 2013. Our government, to its credit, knew that there was more to be done. It did make a commitment in the last throne speech that it would do more to help with respect to adoption. That is why, in our economic action plan 2014, we would raise the adoption expenses tax credit from just a little over $11,700, where it has currently risen by way of index. Now we would raise that to $15,000, and it would remain indexed over time, as well.
That would apply to adoptions that are finalized, beginning in 2014 and going forward. That should be encouraging news. We do know that the cost of adoption is one of the two major financial obstacles.
The other, of course, is the environment that happens in the provincial and territorial systems, which we cannot touch from the federal side, and that is the process of adoption and how the child welfare systems work. I certainly would hope that at some point the Council of the Federation will speak of this issue in a structural, ongoing way that they need to have more adoption outcomes as a result of their system.
Currently, they only conclude cumulatively about 2,000 domestic adoptions a year. Meanwhile children are continuing to go in the front end in alarming numbers in crisis intervention, so they would do well to encourage themselves to target an increase in the number of adoptions that they finalize over time, and to monitor their improvement over time, as well. I certainly hope they do that.
These are some of the aspects I spoke of last spring in my national adoption action plan in this House. There is so much to do on this particular issue, and I am proud to say that our government is doing its particular part. Those financial obstacles are a very fundamental key, one of the two keys that parents will face in a decision about whether to adopt.
The more we can bring that a lot closer to affordability for them, the more chance that these children are going to get into permanent, loving, adoptive families. It is critical they do. What we know from kids who age out of the system is that they are more likely to end up in poverty, more likely to end up homeless, more likely to have poorer educational outcomes and poorer relational outcomes over time, including intergenerationally. We know that they are more likely to end up either in the mental health stream or the criminal justice stream. Society is paying for this on the back end. We are looking at ways, obviously, over here where we can pay a little bit on the front end to help get them into situations that are a whole lot better.
I think that is worthy, and I think it is something all members of this House can support.