Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to be able to speak today on Bill C-60, economic action plan 2013 act.
I would like to begin by thanking the Minister of Finance and the Minister of State for Finance for their hard work on behalf of all Canadians.
I have been engaging my constituents in Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar on what course of action our government needs to take to promote long-term prosperity for all Canadians. Their message is consistent and clear. Canadians are reasonable people; they expect a pragmatic government that is a cautious steward of our economy, a careful caretaker of our natural resources and one that focuses on job creation to ensure that every Canadian can have a job and succeed. They want low taxes and quality services.
As a parent and a grandparent, I want Canada to be the best place to live, work, raise a family and retire. I want every Canadian to be able to take advantage of all our great country has to offer.
Budget 2013 is good news for Saskatchewan and for Canada. The budget would invest in the success of Canadians. It would invest in our infrastructure and it would invest in our strong and resilient communities. It is a plan for a successful and prosperous future. The budget focuses on the priorities of Canadian families, Canada's young people, Canadian students, Canada's job creators and Canada's job seekers.
I would like to highlight how the budget would help Saskatchewan's families, our businesses and our communities. Allow me to state the obvious. Our most valuable asset as a country is our people. As a government, we have a responsibility to make sure every person has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. Right now in Canada, there is a clear mismatch between the jobs available and the skills held by job seekers in Canada.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has identified the current skills shortage as the number one obstacle to success for its members. There are too many jobs that go unfilled in Canada because employers cannot find workers with the right skills. If unaddressed, this labour mismatch has the potential to disrupt our economy and our prosperity. In fact, Saskatchewan's economy has been on such a positive expansionary phase that we are now facing labour shortages in many sectors.
I would like to talk about four areas of focus in the budget that would help Saskatchewan get the skilled workers it needs and allow us to fulfill the very potential that our first settlers saw when they came to the Prairies.
The centrepiece of economic action plan 2013 is the Canada job grant. The job grant would transform the way Canadians receive training by providing up to $15,000 per person to help ensure Canadians are able to access the training they need to get jobs in high-demand fields. The Canada job grant would take skills training choices out of the hands of government and put them where they belong, in the hands of employers with unfilled jobs and Canadians who want to work.
Second, economic action plan 2013 would follow through on budget 2012's commitment to increase women's participation in non-traditional occupations. Women now represent close to half of Canada's workforce, yet as a group they continue to be under-represented in areas of science, mathematics, engineering and technology, the very same fields in which we are experiencing labour shortages.
Our government, and especially my colleague, the Minister for the Status of Women, has taken a keen interest in this matter as it makes strong economic and business sense to have both men and women equally active in the workforce. It goes without saying that countries with strong labour force participation from both men and women typically have stronger and more durable economies. I am pleased that our government is delivering on our commitment to increase opportunities for women's participation in non-traditional occupations and keep our economy strong.
Third, Canada's young aboriginal population has tremendous potential for long-term success and prosperity, but remains under-represented in both the labour market and in post-secondary institutions. Since 2006, our government has made innovative investments to address these challenges, including efforts to strengthen on-reserve elementary and secondary education and skills training programming for aboriginal people.
Building on these actions, economic action plan 2013 would introduce a number of practical steps. The skills and partnership fund would provide project-specific funding to aboriginal organizations in an effort to improve labour market outcomes for aboriginal people.
The first nations job fund, totalling $109 million over five years, would fund the provision of personalized job training on reserves. Budget 2013 would also invest $10 million over two years for post-secondary scholarships and bursaries for more than 2,000 first nations and Inuit students annually. This would be delivered by Indspire, Canada's largest indigenous-led charity, which has a stellar track record of success.
Fourth, this government, under the tireless leadership of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, has made significant progress implementing long-overdue reforms to Canada's immigration system, with the focus on attracting talented newcomers with the skills and experience our economy requires. Earlier this year, our government opened up a new skilled trades immigration stream that will facilitate the entry of immigrants who have the skills needed to immediately find a job and begin contributing to our economy.
What I have outlined are just some of the many new steps our government is taking to address the labour mismatch that exists in Canada.
Our government knows that low taxes and a skilled workforce keep our economy growing, but as an exporter nation, we need to continue to work to open up new markets for Canadian companies to sell their goods. For the first time in our history, we are aggressively diversifying our markets and making it easier for business to trade with emerging markets.
Since coming into office, we have signed nine free trade agreements with countries like Colombia, Panama, Korea and Jordan, and we are currently working on free trade agreements with the European Union, Japan and China, just to name a few.
This pro-trade agenda is working for Saskatchewan. Earlier this year Statistics Canada announced that Saskatchewan had become Canada's fourth largest exporter of goods. Saskatchewan exports grew by over 10% last year, to reach $32.6 billion, and have more than tripled over the past decade. My home province's exports were also quite diversified. One-third of exports were agricultural products, one-third were energy products and the remaining were manufacturing and services.
This government is also putting in place the infrastructure Canada needs. For years, provincial and municipal governments, who are responsible for the majority of infrastructure in Canada, have been asking the federal government for a long-term plan to address these needs. This budget would invest over $70 billion in new infrastructure funding over 10 years in support of local and economic infrastructure projects.
This is the longest and largest federal infrastructure plan in Canadian history and is something I know every municipality in my riding, from Saskatoon to Sunningdale, would benefit from.
However, this budget is not just about the present. It is also about the future. Budget 2013 would keep Canada on track to return to balanced budgets in 2015. In fact, the deficit has been cut in half over the past two years, and Canada has the lowest debt to GDP ratio in the G7.
We have done so well maintaining and building on critical services. We are also keeping taxes low for Canadians and for Canadian businesses. Canada's federal corporate tax right now sits at 15%, down from 21%, and the federal sales tax now sits at 5%, down from 7% when our government took office.
An average family now pays $3,100 less in taxes than when we took office in 2006, and Canadians now have the lowest tax burden in more than 50 years. That is something that everyone in the riding of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar appreciates.
Our government's plan is working, not only for Saskatchewan but for all of Canada. Our government's goal is to make Canada the best place in the world to live, raise a family, work or start a business.
Bill C-60 would keep Canada on track for long-term prosperity, and I would encourage all members of this House to support it.