Mr. Speaker, during the last election, Canadians made a clear choice between the Conservatives and the NDP, which planned to have austerity and cuts, and our plan to invest in the middle class. Canadians can see they made the right choice.
Today's economy is one of the fastest growing in the G7. Canadians have created more than 900,000 jobs, and middle-class families are significantly better off. For all the progress made, many Canadians still worry about the future and their ability to spend on what is important now while saving for the future of their families.
With budget 2019, our government is making sure that all Canadians feel the benefits of a growing economy. That means helping more Canadians find an affordable home; prepare for good, well-paying jobs; retire with confidence; and afford prescription medications. While other parties continue to focus on cuts and austerity, our government is building upon our proven plan to invest in the middle class and make an economy that works for everyone.
Most importantly, this budget will have a positive impact in my riding of St. John's East, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador as a whole, as it continues to deliver on helping the middle class and those working hard to join it. In the lead-up to the budget, I spoke to each municipality in my riding and countless stakeholders about what they wanted to see and hear from our government. They were heard.
Some of the highlights of budget 2019's investments in Newfoundland and Labrador include an extra $2.2 billion, through the federal gas tax fund, to address short-term infrastructure priorities in municipalities and first nations communities, which includes $32.9 million for Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2019-20, major transfers will total $767 million, an increase of $17.2 million from the previous year. Since 2015-16, these transfers have grown by $73.6 million for our province.
Another highlight is up to $1.7 billion over 13 years, starting in 2019-20, to establish a new national high-speed Internet program under the universal broadband fund. As well, there is additional funding of $100 million over five years and $20 million thereafter for the new horizons for seniors program, to empower seniors in their communities. This is without even getting into the details of the Atlantic Accord, which provides $2.5 billion for Newfoundland and Labrador. This demonstrates the effectiveness our government has had in working with municipalities and our provincial partners to find solutions to the issues important to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Moving on to broadband, bringing high-speed Internet to rural, remote and northern communities is a commitment of ours. The government has been steadfast in its commitment to bring higher-quality Internet access to every part of our country, especially those areas that are underserved, including rural, remote and 151 northern communities. In budget 2019, the government announced its commitment to set a national target, in which 95% of Canadian homes and businesses would have access to Internet speeds of at least 50/10 megabits per second by 2026, and 100% by 2030.
To achieve this objective in the quickest and most cost-effective manner, budget 2019 proposes a new, coordinated plan that would deliver between $5 billion and $6 billion in new public and private investments in rural, remote and northern communities over the next 10 years, including those in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Included in this is the commitment to the universal broadband fund. The government will look to top up the connect to innovate program and to secure advanced low-earth orbit satellite capacity to serve the most remote and rural regions of Canada. As well, the Canada Infrastructure Bank will seek to invest $1 billion over the next 10 years and leverage at least $2 billion in additional private sector investment to increase broadband access for Canadians.
Another important topic in my riding is seniors. To improve seniors' quality of life and to better promote seniors' participation and inclusion in rural communities and workplaces across the country, budget 2019 proposes to provide additional funding of $100 million over five years, with $20 million ongoing, for the new horizons for seniors program. In St. John's East, a number of interesting projects have come forward, and I have had the opportunity to make announcements in my riding. Groups such as the Elks Club, the 50+ club, the MacMorran Community Centre and SeniorsNL have all obtained benefit from this program and are advancing important projects in their communities to enhance accessibility, improve seniors' learning to code and provide seniors in our province the opportunity to engage in libraries from coast to coast to coast. It is a great program and we are glad to see that it was expanded under this budget.
Also, to help low-income working seniors keep more of what they earn, budget 2019 proposes to enhance the guaranteed income supplement earnings exemption, beginning next year, in July, for the 2020-21 benefit year. The enhancement would extend eligibility for the earnings exemption to self-employed income, and it would provide a full or partial exemption on up to $15,000 of annual employment and self-employment income for all GIS or allowance recipients as well as their spouses. This will be done by increasing the amount of the full exemption from $3,500 to $5,000 per year for all GIS or allowance recipients as well as their spouses, and by introducing a partial exemption of 50% for which recipients can apply on an additional $10,000 of annual employment and self-employment income beyond $5,000.
This would allow seniors who work part time, who take on an extra job or who get money from other sources to deal with the higher cost of living or to pay for improvements to their homes so they can enjoy a more dignified and solid retirement without worrying about whether they can find the funds. It would also provide seniors with an opportunity to engage in their communities. They can take a part-time job to work at a centre, work with youth, work with other seniors, or do home care. In doing so, they can use their experience in life to help enrich their communities without worrying about the tax implications on them and, more importantly, the implications that work might have on their entitlement to receive the GIS or their allowance.
Pharmacare is one of the biggest issues in my riding. No Canadian should have to choose between paying for prescriptions and putting food on the table. While Canadians are very proud of our health care system, many are still forced to make this impossible decision.
With budget 2019, we are laying the foundation for the implementation of a national pharmacare program while we await the final report by our advisory council on its full implementation. This includes the creation of a Canadian drug agency. Together with the provinces and territories, this agency would negotiate drug prices for all Canadians, and we expect that this would lower costs by up to $3 billion per year. We are also putting in place a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases, which would help families most in need.
It is critically important to Canadians that we get the implementation of national pharmacare right and that we do not act irresponsibly. Instead, we will lay the groundwork while our government's expert panel continues to help us chart the right path forward.
To get back to a more local issue, I note our investment in the eastern Canada ferry service. Every year, federally funded ferry services in eastern Canada help move more than 800,000 passengers and 100,000 commercial vehicles. This includes services provided by Marine Atlantic, a Crown corporation operating between Cape Breton, Port aux Basques and Argentia.
Port aux Basques is in the riding of the member for Long Range Mountains, and Argentia is in the riding of the member for Avalon. These are essential services for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, because at least half of all goods coming into our province are delivered by the Marine Atlantic service. It is critical.
People visit our beautiful province in the summer, and when they come with their families to take advantage of our trailer parks, summer camps or national parks, they want to be able to drive in their vehicles to see the beauty that our province has to offer. They cannot do this without access through the ferry system. It is wonderful that budget 2019 includes funding for a new ferry that would help ensure that this service can be provided safely and reliably year-round throughout our province.
I have spoken about seniors, broadband and the ferry service, and now I would like to speak about housing affordability. It is something that affects not only people in Newfoundland and Labrador but people from coast to coast to coast. Everyone needs a safe and affordable place to call home. However, today too many Canadians are being priced out of the housing market. For 10 years, Conservative politicians like Stephen Harper did nothing to address housing affordability, pushing home ownership further out of reach and putting household debt on the rise.
With budget 2019, our government is making significant investments to help Canadians find an affordable place to call home. The new first-time homebuyers incentive would make home ownership more affordable for first-time buyers by allowing them to lower their monthly mortgage payments through a take-back equity mortgage with CMHC. It would be more flexible, and it would enhance the homebuyers plan that we already have with respect to RRSP contributions. In addition to this, under the homebuyers plan, young homebuyers can take $10,000 from their RRSPs.
I would love to have the opportunity to go on further to talk about the benefits for youth and benefits for people in my riding, but I will get to that in the questions and comments that follow.