Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to some of the key initiatives in Bill C-4, the economic action plan 2013 act no. 2.
As a government, we have much to be proud of. I am glad to see that we remain focused on the issues that matter most to Canadians, which are job creation, keeping taxes low and returning to a balanced budget.
Through Canada's economic action plan, Canada has experienced one of the best economic performances among the G7 countries, both during the global recession and throughout the recovery. We have created over one million net new jobs, of which 90% are full time and over 85% are in the private sector, which is an astounding figure.
Statistics Canada announced that 59,200 net new jobs were created in August and nearly another 12,000 in September. The national unemployment rate has fallen to 6.9%, the lowest level since December 2008.
I have seen the same recovery happen in my hometown of Barrie, Ontario. In September, the unemployment rate in Barrie fell to 7.2%, an improvement of nearly 2% from the September before, which is remarkably better than the 11.7% unemployment rate we saw a few years ago. Therefore, I am certainly seeing in Barrie the recovery that has occurred nationally. As Councillor Brassard said when I addressed the Barrie City Council in September, the federal government's initiatives have been the linchpin to this recovery.
Our strategies to create jobs are working. I am particularly proud of our government's support for job growth through the Canada job grant. As organizations grow, their success is often contingent upon knowledgeable staff. However, with a family to feed and a full-time job, it can be tough for staff to go back to school on a full-time basis. That is why our government created a program that would enable employees to train for better jobs without having to worry about the excessive costs to retrain. Canadians who have an offer of a new or better job might qualify for up to $15,000 or more to learn new skills to accept that job. This will serve as a tremendous help to both employees and employers looking to grow their business.
However, the job does not end there. There is still more to be done. While more Canadians are finding work, I sympathize with the many Canadians who are still searching for gainful employment. We are not immune to the economic volatility beyond our borders. This is especially true for Canada's key trading partners, the United States and Europe. With our big export consumers still on shakey ground, that will have an impact on Canada's economy. That is why our government is staying focused on the economy and creating jobs. One way we are doing that is through supporting small business.
As we all know, small business growth has been one of the key components of Canada's recovery. Since taking office in 2006, our government has supported small business by keeping tax rates low. Small business is the economic engine that drives our economy. Statistics show that 75% of workers in Canada are employed by companies with four or fewer employees. Our commerce relies on keeping taxes low to maintain our competitive edge over many of our trading partners. I have heard this in Barrie.
On September 23, I had the pleasure of having the President of the Treasury Board in Barrie for two round tables, one with Meridian Commercial Banking, hosted by Councillor Alex Nuttall, and one with the Chamber of Commerce, hosted by its executive director, Sybil Goruk. It was that focus on training and small business that we heard at both those local round tables and that they appreciate our efforts on both those fronts.
We have already extended the hiring credit for small business up to $1,000 for new hires, and over one million employers have benefited from that program. There has been some strong feedback from the small business community on this initiative. BIA 2 seeks to expand that recovery by freezing the employment insurance rates that employers and employees pay for the next three years. In Barrie, this means that businesses and their employees will be keeping more money in their pockets, which is great news for our local economy, especially our small businesses.
In my riding, I have seen first-hand how many local businesses have benefited from federal incentives and programs. Federal investments have also supported local businesses to create jobs. For instance, through a repayable contribution, Southmedic was able to take its plant from China to Barrie. It is providing medical masks. TNR Industrial Doors had a major expansion with another repayable loan. Those are good, high-paying jobs.
With a repayable loan, Wolf Steel, which does high-efficiency furnaces, was able to almost double the size of its company with an impressive expansion. Even more significantly, thanks to the southern Ontario economic development agency, we were able to convince IBM to put a plant in Barrie. A $20-million contribution has led to some of the highest-skilled jobs around just on Bayview Drive. Phase one is now open and phase two will be under way shortly.
I would also like to mention the federal contributions that led to the new wellness centre in Barrie. That was 400 construction jobs; 400 new full-time and part-time jobs for staff and faculty. The economic impact of this construction alone was approximately $98 million for my community, a pretty significant benefit.
Last week, the Minister of Finance released the annual financial report of the Government of Canada for 2012-13. This report shows the continued downward track of Canada's annual deficit. In 2012-13, the deficit fell to $18.9 billion. This was down by more than one-quarter, $7.4 billion, from the deficit of $26.3 billion in 2011-12, and down by nearly two-thirds from the $55.6 billion deficit recorded in 2009-10. I certainly hear from around Barrie that this disciplined approach to deficit reduction is applauded and appreciated across Canada.
This is an excellent example of our government's responsible spending of taxpayer dollars. Further direct program expenses have fallen by 1.2% from the year prior and by 3.8% from 2010-11. We have found these savings without raising taxes or cutting transfers to the provinces and territories. The 1990 approach by the Liberals was simply to slash transfers to the provinces and that meant huge cuts to health care and education. That certainly was not the approach we were prepared to make. This has been a much more fiscally prudent manner to approach the deficit.
Our support does not end there. Our government has also recognized the need for improved infrastructure. Not only have we recognized this need but we have taken action by investing over $4.5 billion into greater Toronto area infrastructure since we took office in February 2006. Since 2006, the City of Barrie alone, to give another example, has seen its share of the federal gas transfers not only become permanent, but they have risen from over $2 million a year to $8 million. There is a lot that can be done with that and the city certainly has. We have put $7.2 million into various road renewal activities, and $16.5 million into improvements of stormwater management, like Kidds Creek, Bunkers Creek, Sophia Creek, the Kempenfelt Bay shoreline, culverts and storm sewers. In fact, the City of Barrie got an FCM award this year for its excellent management of gas tax funding. We have also put $2.1 million into the landfill improvement projects up on Ferndale Drive.
Continued investments in my region's infrastructure have improved amenities for families across the board. Building a better community is something that we all have a stake in and a commitment to new infrastructure helps make Barrie an attractive area to live, work, play and invest. I am sure that is the case in every community across this country. Certainly, Bill C-4 provides those significant tools to build our communities.
Not only does Bill C-4 address this issue now, but it includes initiatives that will help Canadians into the future as well. Canada has free trade agreements in force with more than 10 countries and half of those agreements have been brought into force in just over the last four years. These agreements are strategic economic advantages for our country in a wide range of sectors. I think we see that in every community in Canada.
Bill C-4 also addresses the Government of Canada's intent to set public service pay and benefit levels that are reasonable, responsible and in the public interest. Through the much needed amendments to the Public Service Labour Relations Act, we will ensure that the public service is affordable, modern and high performing, as taxpayers expect.
There is one other item I want to mention that I was particularly proud of in Bill C-4. That was the investments that were made in Lake Simcoe. This government has put $59 million into the cleanup of Lake Simcoe. We have never seen a nickel put into Lake Simcoe before this government. Bill C-4 also puts in funds for protection against invasive species. Lake Simcoe is a tremendous jewel in our region. It contributes an estimated $200 million to our region and more than 400,000 people depend on the lake for drinking water. We have seen the phosphorous levels go dramatically down, and I am proud that our government has shown such significant leadership on Lake Simcoe.
I commend the Minister of Finance for his incredible hard work on Bill C-4 and the astute leadership he has shown, respecting Canadian taxpayer dollars and investing in a manner that supports the economic growth of our country.