Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to the 2019 budget. This budget is called “Investing in the Middle Class”. Improving life for middle-class Canadians has been our number one priority since we were elected.
Four years ago, the people of Brampton South elected me to represent them. Since 2015, I have been working in Ottawa to deliver on the promises I made throughout my campaign. Everyone in this House has made a commitment to serve Canadians. This is partly done by investing in initiatives that will boost the quality of life for all Canadians. The budget this year is an example of the opportunities that Canada can provide to Canadians.
Our government's commitment to serve Canadians through investment can be seen in Brampton. In 2016-17, Brampton was given almost $60 million through the gas tax fund, and in 2017-18 we introduced a one-time top-up to the gas tax fund for infrastructure investments. For the 2018-19 fiscal year, Brampton was given over $33 million.
Since November 2015, we have had millions of dollars in federal funding for infrastructure projects that will benefit the city of Brampton. In addition, Brampton will benefit from a federal investment in the GO Transit Metrolinx regional express rail. From the $1.9-billion investment, over $750 million will be invested in the Kitchener corridor to improve commute times for residents of Brampton, Peel, Toronto and Wellington.
People in the middle class deserve a government that recognizes their potential and encourages their growth. I believe that the budget represents our belief in them as it looks toward our promising future. Canadians have put their faith in our government to present new ideas and deliver results. The 2019 budget reflects the needs of families, employees, students and seniors. It is a solid plan to give them a better future.
A better future starts with investing in young people and their education. Students are often kept from pursuing their education because of financial obstacles. The 2019 budget would lower interest rates for students and give them a six-month period to pursue their future plans before gathering interest on loans. The budget also seeks to support students who are parents or have disabilities. It also promotes programs that encourage the enrolment of indigenous students in post-secondary education.
These are just some of the ways in which we advocate for the success of the next generation. Budget 2018 strengthened our economy and ensured a low unemployment rate.
This is also the time to address the climate emergency. Budget 2019 has a strong plan to create eco-friendly solutions while maintaining an affordable lifestyle for Canadians. The budget intends to make zero-emission cars $5,000 cheaper, as well as encouraging their building. The creation of a home retrofit program will lower electricity and energy bills for Canadians.
We have been fighting climate impact since 2015. We have invested $1.5 million in Brampton under Public Safety Canada's national disaster mitigation program for the riverwalk study. We committed $175,000 for an environmental assessment strategic plan and sustainability framework for it as well. We have also committed $10 million for 10 water projects in Brampton and $22 million in funding for erosion protection initiatives in the Toronto, Peel and York regions.
Thinking of the future generations also includes supporting new families. An issue we see come up again and again is the struggle for young families to invest in long-term housing. The 2019 budget introduced the first-time homebuyer incentive, which would encourage home ownership by making housing cheaper. The incentive would help thousands of first-time homebuyers over the next three years. Budget 2019 also makes plans to build 42,000 new rental housing units, as well as to provide $300 million to begin the housing supply challenge. Through these changes, we are promoting happy homes without unnecessary costs.
Access to affordable housing is essential to promote the security and well-being of all Canadians. When Canadians are provided with a comfortable home life, it is easier for them to do well in the workplace. So far, we have been successful.
However, because our workforce and economy are continuously growing, employees can be left without access to training that improves their professional skills in their present and future jobs. The 2019 budget introduced the Canada training benefit program, which would give working Canadians better and more consistent skills training, financial aid to pay for the training, employment insurance support and job security. This is the next phase in our plan to strengthen the middle class.
While the middle class flourishes, there is still a percentage that has been left behind. Without quality health care, Canadians face some of the highest drug prices, leaving them unable to afford the prescriptions they need. No one should have to choose between buying the medicine they need or putting food on their table.
I am proud to be a member of the health committee, where I helped study the development of a national pharmacare program. We then made 18 recommendations to the government through the report “Pharmacare Now: Prescription Medicine Coverage for All Canadians”. I am proud to see the government acting on the report.
Budget 2019 aims to make prescriptions more affordable by announcing plans for the Canadian drug agency, which will work to lower prescription costs. The Canadian drug agency will connect all provinces and territories, giving them access to prescriptions. Through this plan, Canadians will save $3 billion each year.
With less time spent worrying about their health, housing and job security, Canadians will have more time to focus on the things they care about. For many, this involves becoming more involved in their communities.
Infrastructure funding is necessary to get ahead with local and municipal governments, which is why we are investing an additional $2.2 billion into infrastructure funding, especially under the circumstances where certain provincial governments have not been doing their part. Budget 2019 recognizes that advances in public transit, housing and community facilities make all the difference.
Local projects and community services are at the heart of Canadian society. Included in these services are locally based projects that encourage seniors to be active members of the community. Seniors have made significant contributions in these areas and are now more than ever capable and interested in participating.
Budget 2019 aims to maintain the guaranteed income supplement to ensure seniors get the most out of their retirement. It also takes direct action to protect their pensions by automatically registering seniors who are 70 or older but have not applied yet to receive their retirement benefits with the Canada pension plan. This will help tens of thousands of seniors across Canada.
Our budget also supports pay transparency, something our government has pushed for relentlessly. These measures will make it easier for our government to look at wage gaps and begin to solve them. This will help improve the status of women further. We know that when women make only 87¢ on the $1 compared to men, something is wrong.
Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Germany, have pay transparency measures. Canada needs to join these countries in making wages available for public view. When we can inspire employers to act on unfair wage gaps, we will improve the status of women all over Canada. This is not only the responsible thing to do, but it is morally right.
Budget 2019 is not just a list of numbers, names and affected demographics. It is a detailed plan of action, which can lead Canada into a better and brighter future. By investing in the middle class, we invest in all Canadians. This budget represents what our nation's focus should be. Informed, careful and planned budgeting is what will lead to Canada's prosperity.
I urge my fellow members to support the budget.