Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, colleagues, for this opportunity. It's great to be here again, especially on the heels of our government's balanced budget, economic action plan 2015.
The balanced budget tabled on April 21 reflects our government's commitment to the fiscal discipline that supports job creation, economic growth, and long-term prosperity for Canadians. It also reflects our long-standing position that Canadian families should be able to decide how to spend their hard-earned money, and that's why we're returning more of it to the pockets of every family.
I mention this in the context of the matters related to natural resources because this approach is not shared by all. Obviously, our opposition has been vociferous in advocating for policies that would reverse these tax cuts and raise the price of everything through risky policies like a carbon tax. Let me be clear. This unilateral scheme will require, by necessity, a carbon tax, impose higher prices on everything that Canadians buy, and hurt the Canadian economy and competitiveness. This would be no more obvious than in its impact on the energy sector. That is why you will notice that absent from our economic plan is any mention of a carbon tax.
In terms of a budget overview, let me spend some time talking about what is in economic action plan 2015. As the finance minister said, our balanced budget is prudent, it's practical, and it sticks to our successful plan for creating and protecting jobs and opportunities for Canadians. This includes important new measures to help families and communities prosper, while ensuring the security of all Canadians, and it delivers timely investments for the natural resource sector that has helped to build this great country.
Members have often heard me talk about Canada's natural resources as key drivers of our economy. There's good reason for that.
Our resource sectors—directly and indirectly—account for almost one fifth of our nominal GDP and more than 1.8 million jobs across the entire country. They generate an average of $30 billion annually in government revenues—revenues that support important public programs and services, including health care, education and infrastructure.
That is why responsibly developing our natural resources continues to be a central element in our economic action plan for 2015. And that is why our government is proud to continue supporting sustainable growth through targeted measures in the forest, mining, nuclear and oil and gas sectors. We have also made significant investments to strengthen public consultation and environmental protection.
Let me highlight some specific details of the economic action plan 2015.
For forestry, we will continue to support the transformation of the forest sector by extending the forest innovation program and the expanding market opportunities program.
In mining, we are sustaining Canada's global leadership by renewing the targeted geoscience initiative to develop new and innovative ways of exploring for deeper minerals, unlocking rare earth elements and chromite production, extending the mineral exploration tax credit, and expanding the definition of Canadian exploration expenses to include the costs associated with environmental studies and community consultations.
On the nuclear side, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited will receive the investments it needs to maintain safe and reliable operations at the Chalk River Laboratories.
There is also continued support for LNG, from the accelerated capital cost allowance to a commitment to extend natural gas export licences from 25 to 40 years.
If you're in the business of natural resource development, then you are in the business of environmental performance and aboriginal engagement. That's why budget 2015 includes substantial investments and initiatives to maintain public engagement and improve environmental performance safety. There is funding to enhance the safety of marine transportation in the Arctic and further strengthen marine incident prevention, preparedness, and response in waters south of the 60th parallel. This is consistent with our approach to rail and pipelines.
As well there are some new investments to support effective project approval through the major projects management office initiative, to continue consultations with Canadians on projects assessed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and to support greater engagement with all Canadians, including aboriginal communities, with a focus on enhanced safety and environmental performance through the National Energy Board.
I will now discuss responsible resource development.
All of these measures build on our government's plan for responsible resource development, which is making the review process for major projects more predictable and timely while improving the safety of our offshore, rail, pipelines and nuclear facilities. Our government's message is clear: we are supporting the responsible development of our resources, but no project will proceed unless it is safe. Safe for Canadians and safe for the environment.
Let me now turn to the issue of lower oil prices. Clearly, this has had an impact on the economy in all regions of Canada, on government bottom lines, and on the oil and gas industry's investment plans, at least in the short term. While conditions are challenging today, Canadian crude oil production is expected to keep growing in 2015 and beyond. Canada's oil and gas industry has a long-term perspective and most projects already under construction are expected to move forward. And remember: the long-term outlook for energy is strong.
The International Energy Agency projects that by 2040 the world will need at least a third more energy than is being consumed today. With our extensive oil and gas reserves and our unparalleled expertise, Canada is well positioned to help meet that demand. However, we must build the infrastructure needed to get Canadian energy to global markets to ensure Canada gets the best return for its resources, whatever the market conditions.
This brings me to my department's main estimates. First, it's important to note that the main estimates are a snapshot in time of planned expenditures. Here are the details.
As you will see there are a number of substantial new investments and they include $22.8 million to renew the investments in the forest industry transformation program, an additional $19.7 million to define the outer limits of Canada's continental shelf in the Arctic, and an $18.4 million increase to manage low-level historical waste through the Port Hope area initiative.
These main estimates also include funding for the seven agencies under my portfolio, which are key partners in supporting our government's natural resources priorities. To ensure the National Energy Board can continue its important work we're providing an additional $5.6 million to carry out public hearings on major projects such as Energy East.
As announced in budget 2015, $80 million over five years will be invested beginning this fiscal year for safety and environmental protection as well as greater engagement with Canadians.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, our balanced budget main estimates demonstrate our government's responsible and targeted approach to realizing the full benefits that our natural wealth provides. As I said when last here, we're committed to developing Canada's resources in a way that's safe and environmentally responsible, and engage all communities, in particular aboriginal communities, in every aspect of development. These are not negotiable, frankly, and we will continue to take action to ensure these goals are met.
Thank you again for this opportunity. I'm happy to take your questions.