Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to say that the budget is probably the most important instrument that the government can present every year. I am very disappointed that we were not able to hear the give his speech. The following week, many of my constituents told me how much they deplored missing the opportunity to hear the speech. Therefore, I would like to clarify a few things for Canadians today and for the people of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook.
My presentation on the budget today touches on a number of themes. The first one, of course, is veterans, followed by seniors, youth, housing—which is extremely important—and black Canadians. I will also, of course, make reference to my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook.
With regard to veterans, we have made some big changes, and they are really important to note.
The first part is about transition. Transition has been a challenge for all governments. The objective is to make it as seamless as possible. We have expanded the coverage and support in the transition formula to non-injured veterans. Previously, it was only for injured veterans, but now it includes non-injured veterans. We have also established a guide that will help veterans to follow the process in their My VAC Account, which is extremely important. This is one piece.
We have also expanded education and training benefits, which is another important aspect. We have expanded this to included the reservists. This is important, because it is something veterans have been talking about.
We have also invested monies for the recognition and commemoration of Métis veterans. I am on the veterans affairs committee. I had the opportunity to go across Canada to speak to many Métis veterans who fought for our great country, which is extremely important.
Finally, I have advocated personally in the last couple of years to ensure that we have what some call a new survivor fund for veterans' families for when a veteran passes. I do not know if members are aware of this, but if a veteran marries after age 60 and passes, his family does not have access to a percentage of his pension or to benefits. This is something our government has put into the bill. It is really important and would be much appreciated by many of my colleagues.
Let us now talk about youth, the young people of Canada. What we brought forward for them in this budget is quite impressive.
Two years ago, we talked about the idea that they would not have to pay back their student loans until they made $25,000 a year or more. That was a big help, and young people have mentioned it several times to me.
Now we have also taken out the interest rate for the first six months so that they do not have to pay it for six months after they graduate, which is crucial. In addition, after six months, instead of having to pay prime plus 2.5%, they will pay prime.
I would like to note that I am sharing my time with the member for .
What is also very important for young people is the first-time homebuyers' tax credit. This provides an opportunity for young people to get into the housing market. It is quite impressive. When young people buy a house for $400,000 and they put 5% down, that is $20,000. However, there would be a shared equity investment for another 10%, which equals $40,000. Therefore, a house for which they would have had a mortgage of $380,000 only needs a mortgage of $340,000. What does that represent? That represents a savings of $228 per month for 25 years. That is very important.
We have made some great investments as well in the construction of new rental units. We will have 84,000 new units.
Let us talk about seniors. Between 2011 and 2016, my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook had the greatest increase in the number of seniors in Nova Scotia. It is extremely important that we do more to support our seniors. We have the new horizons program, which supports community-based projects. Seniors can submit an application for investment support for equipment, programs and transportation. There are all kinds of great opportunities around that.
One of the most important things that many seniors ask about is how can they keep more money in their pockets. Some seniors work part time; that is a good thing, because the economy needs more people in the workforce, but they may make $100 on the one hand but lose $100 on the other hand. Our government made some major changes to the GIS. Before now, there was 100% exemption on earnings up to $3,500; now that exemption would go up to $5,000. There is also a 50% exemption on the next $10,000. Seniors are seeing a $6,500 differential. They will get to keep more money in their pockets, and that is what it is all about.
Let us talk about health. Health is the number one priority in Nova Scotia. Up to 26% of Nova Scotians have underlined clearly that health is their first and most important priority. In the health accord, our government not only increased funding but added funding for mental health and home care, which allows seniors to remain longer in their homes if that is what they wish to do. That is very important.
As well, we are building the foundation for a national pharmacare program. We have created a Canadian drug agency that will be responsible for negotiating better prices for drugs in all provinces and territories. This should save up to $3 billion a year, which is quite impressive.
We have a national strategy for rare diseases. Many Canadians face health challenges with rare diseases, and the cost is extremely high. We are going to increase coverage to support those individuals and their families in paying for their extremely expensive drugs.
Our government is investing some money into a national strategy for dementia. It is not that the disease is getting worse, but rather that more Canadians are living longer and are therefore facing challenges, including dementia challenges.
The last piece is about Ready, Willing and Able, an organization in Nova Scotia that supports individuals with intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder. It is looking to get into partnership co-op programs. These individuals do some great work and contribute to the economy, which is important. Companies like Air Canada, Costco and Shoppers Drug Mart hire many of these individuals.
I have already talked about housing, but let me mention that for first-time homebuyers there is an increase in the permitted RRSP withdrawal from $25,000 to $35,000. That is very important.
We have invested in the construction of rental units. With the Speaker of the Nova Scotia legislature, Kevin Murphy—who is a former student of mine—I announced 13 units a couple of weeks ago in Porters Lake, Nova Scotia. I am waiting for many more announcements to be made in Nova Scotia and in my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook.
To conclude, our government has invested in black Canadians. I have in my riding the biggest indigenous black community in Canada. I also have in my riding the biggest black cultural centre in Canada. We are leaders. We have received investments and capital assistance for various projects and we also have community-based projects that will come forward on anti-racism.
Budget 2019 is a great budget. I am very proud of it, and the community of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, my province of Nova Scotia and in fact all of Canada will benefit from it.
Madam Speaker, I am thrilled to rise to speak to Bill , an act that would begin implementing budget 2019, a budget that builds on three and a half years of our government's hard work, a budget that shows our strong commitment to building a better Canada, a more inclusive Canada and a more economically prosperous Canada. That prosperity can be seen at home in Atlantic Canada and I am proud of the record investments our government is delivering for my region. Never have I seen a prime minister and numerous ministers pay such close attention and respect to the region.
It is no secret that Atlantic Canada experienced a decade of Conservative cuts and closures under Stephen Harper. We had a prime minister in Canada who made his feelings toward that region very clear. Atlantic Canada, Stephen Harper believed, was a culture of defeat. I can say first-hand that Atlantic Canadians are proud and hard-working. They are innovators and, in fact, game-changers. Atlantic Canadians overwhelmingly stood up against Stephen Harper's disdain for their region and sent a strong message in 2015 that they had had enough. We will not forget how the Conservatives treated Atlantic Canada.
Under the Conservatives' current leader, just a short while ago, we watched the Conservatives vote against funding for ACOA, the economic driver for Atlantic Canada. We watched them vote against funding for veterans, health care and so many things that are so important to Atlantic Canadians. I can say that this budget, just like our previous budgets, is very good for Atlantic Canada because we believe in Atlantic Canadians.
The best part of my job is seeing the economic decisions our government has made benefit my home riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. We know that our investments in the middle class are working. Since November 2015, Canadians have created over 900,000 new jobs and most are full time. Now the unemployment rate is at the lowest rate in more than 40 years.
Our investments in the middle class are complemented by our commitment to investment in small business. That is why it is important to us to create the type of environment where small businesses can flourish, grow and employ more Atlantic Canadians. We have lowered the small business tax from 11% to 9% and made numerous regulatory changes to remove the red tape that was holding businesses back. We can see the difference it is making across the country, especially in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
There has never been a better time to live in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The city is experiencing strong growth and innovation. We can feel the opportunity around us. Downtown Dartmouth is now the trendiest part of the municipality, with restaurants like The Canteen, Battery Park, Portland Street Crêperie, Stone Pizza, Humble Pie Kitchen, Souper Duper Soup, Yeah Yeahs Pizza and so many more. My favourite thing to do on the weekend is visit the Alderney Landings Farmers' Market. I grab a cup of coffee from Port City, grab a few things from some of the local vendors and listen to a little live local music. I always see folks hopping off the Halifax ferry to the Dartmouth side to attend the farmers' market.
All around Portland Street, entrepreneurs are breathing new life into the community with shops like Grund Designer Goldsmith, Janet's Flowers, New Scotland Clothing, Strange Adventures and so many more. Of course, there is Kept, Room 152, Custom Curves and Audrey's Little Shop of Plants, arguably the coolest name for a business ever, and that growth extends right into Cole Harbour. North Brewing will be opening soon on Cole Harbour Road. We have wonderful restaurants like Jamieson's, the Palladium, the Brass Rail and the brand new East Coast Dumpling House. The list goes on.
Dartmouth is also home to lots of great craft breweries, from Nine Locks to Spindrift, Brightwood to New Scotland and we cannot forget Lake City Cider. Plus there are amazing breweries and distilleries right across Nova Scotia. This budget finally proposes that the government remove federal barriers to the interprovincial trade of alcohol so that our breweries can continue to grow.
Budget 2019 makes strategic investments in programs and services that will create long-lasting, positive impacts on the community. From the new El training benefit to the national dementia strategy, our investments will make a difference in the lives of Canadians.
With some programs, it can be hard to see the direct impact that they have on the lives of Canadians. However, with Ready, Willing and Able, we can visit with entrepreneurs across Canada and see the positive impact the program is having in their lives and in their communities. Ready, Willing and Able helps create employment opportunities for persons with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disabilities. Some time ago, I had a chance to meet with Iain, the incredible young entrepreneur behind Dartmouth, Nova Scotia's Iain's Tartan Bakery. Iain bakes delicious gluten-free and dairy-free baked goods. We can usually find his breads and his sweets at the Alderney Landing Farmers' Market.
This program matters. It is why all of our members of Parliament in Nova Scotia rallied around this program and advocated very hard for its inclusion in budget 2019. This budget includes a $12-million investment in Ready, Willing and Able so it can continue to create good employment opportunities for persons with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disabilities.
With Canada's economy among the fastest growing in the G7, it is important that all Canadians have the opportunities that they need to succeed. The Nova Scotia Association of Realtors has advocated for stronger resources so more Nova Scotians can make home ownership an attainable goal. That is why we introduced the new first-time homebuyer incentive that will make home ownership more affordable for first-time buyers.
I firmly believe that national pharmacare would save the Province of Nova Scotia a significant amount of money that could be used to improve health care services in our province. As members know, I am a strong supporter of national pharmacare and our government is taking crucial steps toward making this a reality. We believe that no one in Canada should have to choose between paying the rent or paying for the prescription drugs that they need.
We know that good, strong, local infrastructure can make all the difference in our communities. As a former municipal councillor, I understand that municipalities are best placed to understand the infrastructure needs of their communities on the ground. Budget 2019 includes a game-changer for the Halifax Regional Municipality. Through this budget, HRM would receive a top-up of more than $26 million through the federal gas tax fund delivered this year. This is huge because the funds can be used for local infrastructure priorities like waste water, drinking water, cultural and tourism projects, and much more. It is a massive opportunity for our municipality and I cannot wait to see what projects are built with this funding.
Organizations like Nourish Nova Scotia have been advocating for a national school food program for some time. Recently, I visited Dartmouth South Academy and saw first-hand the difference that these programs make in the lives of our children. The budget includes a commitment for a national food policy, and I am excited that the budget also calls for the development of a national school food program.
As many folks in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour know too well, we must take action to protect pensions in Canada. Budget 2019 proposes the introduction of significant legislative amendments to make insolvency proceedings fairer and more transparent for pensioners and workers.
Low-income seniors want to know that they can work part time without worrying about their GIS being clawed back, which is why I am glad to see that the budget proposes an enhancement to the guaranteed income supplement that would provide increased take-home pay for low-income working seniors.
This budget is good for Canadians. I firmly believe that our investments in health care and our decision to move forward with national pharmacare will be a game-changer for my home province of Nova Scotia. Instead of austerity and cuts, we chose to invest in Canadians. We chose to invest in the middle class, in small businesses and in good, local infrastructure priorities. This budget is about making sure that all Canadians have the ability to succeed now and into the future.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak about the budget.
This is the fourth budget to which I have had an opportunity to speak. Each budget tends to have its own flavour, and I like to give them nicknames. In 2016, it was a shopping spree budget. In 2017, it was a virtue-signalling budget. In 2018, it was a nothing burger budget.
If I had to give a name to the 2019 budget, I would call it the recap budget. It is 460 pages long, but in actual fact if we took away everything that was just re-announced, then it would probably only be about 60 pages.
I will try to provide my usual balanced perspective today. I will talk about things in the budget that I am not happy about. Then I will talk about the things that I think would be good for Canadians. Then I will try to bring some helpful suggestions forward on what should really happen to the budget in the future.
First, I was dismayed to see that once again there are huge deficits going on in perpetuity under the Liberal government. The was elected on a promise to Canadians that he would run small deficits of $10 billion and that he would return to balance this year. However, $19.8 billion will be the deficit this year, and that goes on and on.
Why does that matter to Canadians? We have to pay interest on that debt, which is currently $15 billion, the debt we have picked up so far, and it will be $26 billion if we continue at the pace described in the budget.
Let us think about what we could do with $26 billion, such as repairing some of the hospital infrastructure that is missing across the country or spending on palliative care, about which I am passionate. Let us think about what we could do with the $25 billion that currently will pay interest on a debt that is never-ending.
I definitely am not happy to see that we are still in deficit-spending mode.
That said, I think Canadians understand that from time to time, if there is something worth buying, they might take a mortgage on a house or sometimes run up their credit card if an interesting trip comes around. They understand that if they are getting something for it, there might be a point.
However, what are we really getting for these huge deficits that are proposed in budget 2019?
First, from a health care perspective, we are not getting very much. There was an incredible amount of hype in anticipation of the budget. The media was told that this would be a pharmacare budget and that people would be impressed. Everybody was all hyped up. Canadians believe that people who cannot afford their medications ought to be able to get it. Our universal health care system is about that. Canadians would like to see that.
What did the Liberals put in the budget for pharmacare? No money. There were $35 million to create another bureaucracy to add to the PMPRB, CADTH and the pCPA drug approval processes that already exist, that are arguably very long and very costly. That is not going to give medications to anybody in Canada. It is not going to do a thing.
This is after the health committee studied pharmacare for two years. It gave very reasonable recommendations about how different options would be available to help fill the gap for people who could not afford their medications. That was a real miss on the part of the government. It is clear that Eric Hoskins missed his deadline when it came to the pharmacare report that was supposed to be delivered in March, in time for the budget. That is probably why there was absolutely nothing in the budget.
One thing that is good is the money for rare diseases, $500 million a year. We know that one in 20 Canadians has a rare disease, so everyone can relate to a family member who has to spend, in some cases, up to $1 million a year for these medications. Something definitely needs to be done. However, it will be put out in year 2022. That means it is another election promise.
If the Liberals get elected, then they will put $500 million out in 2022. What is the Liberal record on keeping election promises: running small deficits, balancing the budget within the mandate and restoring home mail delivery, no; last election under first past the post, no; no more omnibus bills, okay. I could go on and on about the broken promises. Putting it in the budget and putting out that far means there is nothing concrete for Canadians. However, we need a solution of that nature.
Another big miss in the budget has to do with the Liberal government's response to the opioid crisis. This has been going on since the Liberals were elected. Four thousand people died last year. We just finished a health committee tour across the country. We looked at the methamphetamine and opioid crisis to see where the gaps in the system were. A lot of information is available. What did the government decide? We have heard there is not enough affordable housing, not enough mental health aids for supporting the healing from the trauma that causes people to get addicted and not enough recovery spots. We know people have to wait between six months and two years to get a recovery spot. Winnipeg and Vancouver are epicentres of this crisis.
Instead, the government has allocated $6 million a year to buy the addicts safe prescriptive opioids. That is the government's answer to this. People are dying. We know we need solutions on the prevention side, on the recovery side and we need affordable housing. The government has been all talk and no action on affordable housing for nearly four years now.
The Liberals recognized the need immediately and started to talk about it. However, we are still talking about it and these are the dying days of the Liberal government. Where is the affordable housing that people need? Homelessness is one of the key factors that contribute to people being addicted. Again, it is very disappointing. Although the Liberals recognize there is a crisis, the response to the crisis is inadequate.
That is the same story on suicide. We know we have a suicide crisis. We know we need prevention, especially in indigenous populations and in the north, among young people, among middle-age men. The budget allocates $5 million a year. If we divide that among 338 ridings in the country, that is less than $15,000 per riding to address suicide prevention. What are we going to do with that? It is another case where the government recognizes there is a problem, but has come in with a totally inadequate response.
There is another key miss on the health file. The health committee finished a study on diabetes. Eleven million Canadians have diabetes or are pre-diabetes. This is one of the most costly diseases in our system. We having an aging demographic, one in six seniors right now and one in four seniors within six to 10 years. People are moving more and more to chronic disease because of obesity, nutrition, lack of exercise, but what is being done about it?
Diabetes Canada came to us with a very cohesive plan, the 360 plan. The health committee reviewed the plan. One of our recommendations to the was that the plan be adopted. However, it is nowhere in the budget, not a dime for addressing diabetes, which is a huge cost and huge struggle for many Canadians. Once again, it is a total miss.
I used to be the chair of the Status of Women. When I look at budgets, l like to look at them through a gender lens. The government does a lot of virtue signalling on the fact that we have a feminist , although with the way he has been treating women in his caucus and cabinet of late that is arguable.
Let us look at some of the key things that show the Liberals are all talk and no action. When I was first elected, I was put on a special committee to study pay equity. We made recommendations to the government. The government agreed that it would come in with legislation that would address pay equity in the federal government sector for which it had control. How many dollars are available in budget 2019 to address pay equity? Zero dollars and zero legislation. Once again, it is all talk and no action on that file. That is too bad because a lot of women's issues really do need to be addressed.
Two nice things are in the budget. One has to do with addressing ovarian cancer. There has been a lack of research in the area of ovarian cancer and it is one of the top reasons that women die. I was pleased to see that in the budget.
However, if we look at research spending as a whole through a gender lens, about 3% of the research dollars go toward anything that will impact women. The government should put on its gender-lens glasses again and take a look at what the balance is and whether it is really addressing issues that are so important to women.
One other good thing that I see in the budget has to do with organ donation. One of the members of the Standing Committee on Health, the member for , brought forward a private member's bill to give people the opportunity to organ donate by declaring it every year on their tax returns. It would be a very easy way of allowing people to do that. The government agreed and put money in this budget to facilitate increasing the number of organ donors. This will save lives. After the Humboldt tragedy, there was a huge increase in the number of organ donors, which saved many lives.
There are some areas where taxes have been taken off, such as for fertility services. I think people would agree that medically necessary services should not be taxed. The government is a little hypocritical on this file. When it comes to medical marijuana, it has put a 15% on that. People who are suffering are having to pay a lot of extra money. The government cannot just pick and choose which medical services should not be taxed. It should be consistent in its approach. If it believes that medicines and medical treatments should not be taxed, then it has to be consistent across the board.
Let us move on to infrastructure. There was a delightful little nugget that said we would get $2 billion of actual money in this year being spent for municipalities for infrastructure. While we may say that is very good news, we should remember that $15 billion was taken away from municipalities from the infrastructure fund for the repair roads and bridges and it was put into an infrastructure bank that would do projects. It is only doing one project, which is coincidentally being done with SNC-Lavalin.
Therefore, to give $2 billion back after taking $15 billion away still means the government took $13 billion from municipalities for building roads and infrastructure. It is woefully inadequate and certainly not doing anything in the Infrastructure Bank.
It would be great if the government returned more money to people in ridings like my own. I was disappointed to not see any money to repair the Sombra ferry border crossing in my riding. I have been speaking about this. It has now been over year that this border crossing has been closed because of the damage done by Coast Guard vessels breaking ice and crushing the causeway.
We need $2 million to fix this problem, restore a border crossing and restore the opportunity to increase trade with the U.S., which is on the other side. I represent a border riding. The government can find $12 million to give to Loblaws, but it cannot find $2 million for Sarnia—Lambton to open a border crossing. It is absolutely distressing.
We also have a trade corridor project, which was not funded in this budget. I hope that can be remediated. I would like to give the government chance to reconsider. That project would create 3,000 well-paying jobs in my riding, and the cost would be $6 million. Again, the government can find $12 million to give to Loblaws to put in freezers, a company that made $3 billion in profit and can afford it. However, on the other hand, there is a project in my riding that needs $6 million to create 3,000 jobs and that was not funded in the budget.
Palliative care is always something I love to talk about. I was pleased to see the government come with a palliative care framework after my private member's bill, and that spending is beginning. It is starting to fund training for paramedics, for example, to administer palliative care in their off-emergency hours. It is a very efficient way to get care to people, which is also a benefit to the people who have difficulties travelling to receive treatment.
However, there are a lot of things that should have been funded that are not. What about hospices? Canada has about 100 hospices compared to 1,300 in the U.S. There is a real opportunity to partner with communities and build hospices so people can get the palliative care they need. We know that 70% of Canadians have nothing. They have no opportunity for palliative care.
Another enabler for palliative care is broadband Internet. Therefore, I was glad to see a recognition that more spending was needed with respect to broadband Internet.
I had projects in my riding that we applied for in the first year I was elected that we have heard nothing about. We have continually asked the government to address that and it has not. I am not sure who will be the beneficiaries, but I would guess that it will be Liberal ridings.
We can then talk about the parts of the budget that have to do with climate change and the carbon tax that is going to be put in place. I am distressed when I hear the government talk about how this is going to save the children and prevent floods. We should ask, at what price are floods going to be prevented? There is no relationship there. One is a tax grab, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the other. People want to talk about a global problem that needs a global solution, and Canada is less than 2% of the problem. If those regions that are 98% of the problem are not addressed, the problem will not be solved, and that is clear. The government definitely is off track when it comes to its environmental plan.
What about seniors? Earlier in my speech, I mentioned that one in six people is a senior, and that number is going to be one in four in a few short years. We see pretty much nothing in this budget that is going to help seniors. There is a doctor and nurse shortage across the country, and seniors who cannot afford to live. The measures that are prescribed here are, first of all, inadequate and also a recap. The government is recapping what it did with the CPP. It is taking $1,200 out of each working person's pocket, but nobody will see a benefit for 40 years. That is not going to help people who are struggling right now. More is needed to be done for the seniors, and there is absolutely no doubt about that.
I have seniors in my riding who are concerned that we do not have a plan for long-term care spaces. The hospitals are logjammed because there is no place for them to go. We know that several provinces are trying to build long-term care spaces. We are building 2,000 spaces in Sarnia—Lambton, and we probably need an additional 2,000 or 3,000. That is another area the government did not address that would have been very important for seniors.
Second last, I will talk about the training benefits. The government has decided that $250 a year is going to help people get the training needed to move on and get a good job. That shows how out of touch the government is. Does it not understand the cost of tuition, and the cost of training courses that are usually $1,000 a day? Therefore, $250 a year is not going to be very good.
There was an effort made to help first-time homebuyers acquire a home by allowing them to spend $35,000 of their RRSPs, instead of $25,000. I have two children who are of the age to buy a home, but I am not sure how many people of that age have $35,000 in RRSPs. Therefore, that was a miss.
As one of my other colleagues pointed out earlier, there are some restrictions related to a homebuyer's income as to how much support can be obtained. There will not be a lot of people who will be able to take advantage of that. Once again, the government has recognized that it has made buying a home, which is desirable for many young people, unaffordable, but it has done nothing about it.
I am coming to the end of my remarks. This budget has not met people's needs, and for that reason I propose an amendment.
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following: 'the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-97, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures, since the Bill does not balance the budget this year, as promised by the Liberals during the election, but instead the deficit will hit $19.8 billion and the debt will soar to over $705 billion.'
Madam Speaker, before I begin my formal speech, I cannot help but mention to the member for that, as she keeps quoting the Fraser Institute, that study has been debunked by just about anyone who knows how to use a calculator.
She should look at the OECD report that just came out this morning saying that the Canadian middle class has one of the lowest tax burdens of the OECD countries. That is largely due to the changes we have made by lowering taxes for the middle class and introducing the Canada child benefit, which is more generous and more progressive. I would suggest that she and other members broaden their horizons and perhaps look at sources other than the Fraser Institute, as that study in particular is just plain fallacious.
I am pleased to be here today to speak to and about the measures we presented in budget 2019 to strengthen the middle class.
I would like to use my time today to highlight some important measures we are proposing in this budget implementation bill that build on what we have done so far. I believe that this bill will help us continue to improve the lives of middle-class Canadians and those who are working hard to join the middle class.
Before I explain the various measures in this bill, which presents the next phase of our plan, I want to remind hon. members of how we got to where we are today.
Nearly four years ago, Canadians voted for a government that promised to invest in the areas that mattered most to them, like well-paying jobs and more help for families facing a high cost of living that keeps rising, strong, connected communities, and better opportunities for young Canadians. We have kept our promises. For nearly four years now, our government has been dedicated to strengthening and growing the middle class and providing real help to those working very hard to join it and to low-income Canadians, to make sure everyone has a real and fair chance to succeed and reach their full potential.
First, the government created the Canada child benefit to help families with the cost of raising their children. This benefit has lifted close to 300,000 children out of poverty over the past three years. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, Statistics Canada reported that poverty has fallen by 20% in Canada over the past three years. We have been able to lift more than 800,000 Canadians out of poverty thanks to these policies, which the opposition voted against at every turn.
Over nine million Canadians are benefiting from the middle-class tax cut, which is helping them save more and buy what they need.
The new Canada workers benefit also encourages more people to join and remain in the job market. It provides real help to more than two million Canadians working hard to join the middle class. It helped lift 70,000 people out of poverty. The enhanced Canada pension plan provides current and future Canadian workers with increased income security upon retirement.
Historic investments through the national housing strategy are helping more Canadians find safe and affordable housing.
Overall, these measures will have a long-term impact on all Canadians.
With our government's plan, the Canadian economy created more than 900,000 new jobs, most of them full-time. This has led to the lowest unemployment rate in the past 40 years. There were particularly significant job gains for women.
We know that we cannot rest on our laurels. If we want to continue growing the economy and the middle class, we must continue these efforts, which have proven to be successful these past four years. This is what budget 2019, which we are presenting today in the House, is all about.
Through budget 2019, the government is taking further steps to help build communities that Canadians can be proud to call home.
Managing household costs is one example of where some Canadians struggle. For instance, the price of electricity is a rising concern. Rates keep going up, outpacing salary increases, making it more and more difficult to make ends meet. Therefore, our government is doing more to make sure that families can afford their monthly electricity bills. Budget 2019 proposes to invest more than $1 billion to increase energy efficiency in residential, commercial and multi-unit buildings, a measure that is included in this budget implementation act. This money could go a long way toward making Canada's homes and buildings more energy efficient, which would help reduce Canadians' electricity bills, whether they are homeowners, renters or building operators, and it would help build more sustainable communities.
Further to the point of building up communities, sometimes spending allocated from the federal government to provinces and territories is caught up in bureaucratic deadlock. When this happens, it prevents cities and towns from making progress on important projects, such as road maintenance, water infrastructure, public transit and recreational infrastructure.
Budget 2019 proposes to support municipalities' local infrastructure priorities by doubling the federal municipal infrastructure commitment with a further $2.2 billion in 2018-19. This would give municipalities and first nations communities the funds needed to pay for crucial repairs and other important local projects. By supporting this BIA, hon. members would be supporting this $2.2 billion injection that would provide much-needed infrastructure funds for communities of all sizes across the country. The legislation before us today would ensure that the money would get to where the needs are.
Building communities Canadians are proud to call home also means ensuring that these communities are prepared to respond to an emergency. When tragedy strikes, every second counts.
Since 1985, the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service, STARS, has provided rapid and specialized emergency helicopter ambulance services to patients who are critically ill or injured in communities across western Canada, including in indigenous communities and in national parks. Thanks to STARS, Canadians who live in rural and remote communities have better access to emergency care.
In recognition of the vital role STARS plays in delivering access to emergency care in the communities it serves, budget 2019 proposes to provide a one-time investment of $65 million in 2018-19 for STARS to replace its aging fleet with new emergency ambulance helicopters. Support for today's legislation would directly support this measure.
On housing, as I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, our government is taking important steps to make housing more affordable and more accessible.
Buying a house or a condo is probably the most important investment most Canadians will make in their lifetimes. However, too many Canadians are not able to enter the market. That is why, through budget 2019 and with Bill before us, our government would build on Canada's national housing strategy and take action to improve the affordability of housing, especially for first-time homebuyers.
To help more middle-class families find affordable homes today, we would offer new, targeted support for first-time homebuyers through the first-time homebuyers incentive. The idea is to reduce the monthly payments required to buy a home to give first-time homebuyers greater flexibility, both in purchasing a home and in managing its ongoing costs.
Under the first-time homebuyers incentive, eligible first-time homebuyers who had the minimum down payment for an insured mortgage would apply to finance a portion of the home purchase through a shared equity mortgage with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, CMHC. With a shared equity mortgage, first-time homebuyers would save money every month, giving them more money to pay down their traditional mortgage sooner or to spend on their priorities.
As we all know, one of the hardest things for a first-time homebuyer is to scrape together enough funds for a down payment and to cover the associated costs of a home purchase. To help Canadians on this front, this legislation proposes to increase the homebuyers plan withdrawal limit to $35,000 from $25,000. With these new measures and improvements, the dream of owning a home would be a reality for more and more Canadians.
Realizing this dream is also in good part a function of Canadians' ability to get good, well-paid jobs so they can afford that first home.
to that end, we must—