Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House to speak to the 2013 economic action plan and what it means for my riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla. There are many reasons why I am in full support of the budget that are unique to my riding. However, there are initiatives that are in our national interest and I would like to briefly speak to those.
There are times when as Canadians we must rise above partisan interests and recognize areas that are of Canadian concern. I am not alone when I say that many of my constituents are concerned when they see temporary foreign workers taking jobs that many of us agree Canadians should be working. Let us also recognize that the program originates back to the early 1970s. It was always intended to be temporary and yet, nearly 40 years later, the program is now older than many members of the House. In fact, the origins of the program are older than I am.
What has changed over the past 40 years is that today the temporary foreign worker program is increasingly being accessed because of the lack of skilled workers available in local markets. Let us also recognize that there are massive amounts of provincial and federal tax dollars spent on post-secondary education. At a time when many of Canada's higher paying employers cannot find enough skilled workers, there are students graduating with degrees in fields in which they can find no employment. The reality is that academia has in many cases been slow to respond to the needs of local employers. That is unacceptable.
The economic action plan for 2013 is the first budget in close to 40 years to propose significant measures that would provide Canadians with the skills they need in our new economy. I commend the Minister of Finance for his vision in this area. It is one of the reasons why I am supporting the budget.
One thing I do with great frequency in Okanagan—Coquihalla is to meet with our private sector employers. They are the wealth providers and the true engines of our Canadian economy. Let us never forget that without a vibrant and prosperous private sector there would be no funds to pay for the public sector.
Recently, I toured a value-added lumber mill in my riding. My host, Mr. Nick Arkle of Gorman Bros., gave me a tremendous amount of insight into the many value-added wood products that his company ships to over 28 different countries worldwide. It was truly an impressive and innovative operation by any measure.
One of the things I learned is that if the company was not in the top 10% of the lumber industry for efficiency, it would be shutting the doors during the inevitable down cycles of the economy. In this industry, every cut of lumber is carefully analyzed. Any waste is considered lost revenue. Therefore, the many large-scale investments the company makes has made it a leader in its industry. The specialized machinery to make these cuts is very expensive. That is why tax relief measures in our economic action plan for new manufacturing equipment is critically important for this and other lumber mills' survival.
Let us also not forget that this new machinery requires skilled workers to operate and maintain it. I spoke with members of Mr. Arkle's saw technician team. In many cases, they will work up to a hundred saws in a single shift to minimize the loss of valuable wood to sawdust, while increasing safety and also prolonging the life of the equipment. It was remarked that at starting wages a saw technician is well compensated and it is a great opportunity for young people to stay in the southern interior of British Columbia, while providing for their families. They just need the required training and a desire to put those skills to work.
That creates new jobs and is another reason why I am supporting the budget, because job creation is as important for my riding as it is for our great nation.
Let us also recognize that lumber mills not only provide hundreds of well-paying jobs that help drive the economy of an entire region but also pay a very significant amount of property tax to local governments. As a former municipal councillor, I know all too well of the importance of industry tax revenues and well-paying jobs to the fabric of a community.
That brings me to my next point. The economic action plan would continue to provide support for both the community improvement fund and a new building Canada fund. This is long-term stable funding that helps communities plan their infrastructure needs in a manner that they can afford.
In the past, we have seen federal governments that have reduced funding to the provinces, which in turn leads to downloading onto municipalities. I hope that all members will join me in recognizing that the budget would maintain support for our communities and our provinces, and that is another reason why I will be supporting it.
Although I could easily go on for several hours on the many reasons why I support the budget, in the interests of time, I would like to draw attention to a final point. Many have overlooked this point but I think it is very important. The economic action plan has many measures that would support job creators. One is the 15% mineral exploration tax credit. When many people think of Okanagan—Coquihalla, they think of the beautiful vineyards and some of Canada's finest wines. On a side note, people can buy some of those fine wines directly if they happen to live in Manitoba and soon Nova Scotia. Hopefully, Ontario will be next.
What many do not realize is how critically important mining is to my riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla. Logan Lake has one of Canada's largest open pit copper mines. The Highland Valley Copper Mine directly supports 900 families and thousands more indirectly. For those who do not support responsible resource development, which is basically the entire opposition caucus and the opposition leader, Teck Resources Ltd., the operator of that mine, was recently named Canada's most sustainable company.
From speaking to Mayor Marlon Dosch, this mine plays a major role in the Logan Lake economy, both as a driver for local employment and a large contributor to the local tax base. It is my understanding that due to a number of retirements, it will soon be looking for more skilled workers. This is something that they welcome as a community, as it means new development and more families moving to Logan Lake and enrolling in their schools. All of this adds vitality to this rural community.
In Merritt, there is also a relatively new Huldra Silver copper mine. Although smaller, it has a workforce close to 60 people, including local first nations, and injects roughly $15 million annually into the local economy. President Sharp has made the employment of local first nations a priority. The measures in this year's economic action plan would support these goals and would thus support the area of Merritt and the Nicola Valley.
In Okanagan Falls, Unit Electrical Engineering is a specialty manufacturer of equipment that includes specialized mining components. UEE is the largest employer in that region and has produced equipment for some of Canada's largest mines.
Supporting the mineral exploration tax credit is important to many families in Okanagan—Coquihalla, who depend on these highly paid jobs within this important industry. That is another reason why I am supportive of the 2013 economic action plan.
Let us also not forget that the economic action plan continues to keep Canada on track for a balanced budget in 2015-16. It also builds on the principles that allow Canada to keep its AAA credit rating and it secures our internationally respected financial position as a leader among the G7 countries.
The opposition says we should increase spending and raise taxes, but let us not forget that other countries went down that road and they are still paying the price. In my opinion, Canadian values would have us live within our means.
Our country was not built on handouts, high taxes and a host of expensive social programs.
I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House and show support for the Minister of Finance's economic action plan 2013.