Mr. Speaker, in my last introductory speech on Friday, I laid out the history of prior budgets to stress the importance of having a good fiscal position. As a result, it is possible today to speak of a budget that is the right budget for this time.
I spoke about the action our government took early on. It lowered taxes, for instance, so that today's average family of four pays $3,400 less in taxes. Our federal corporation tax has been reduced from 21% in 2006 to 16% and will go to 15% to make businesses more competitive and allow them to invest in their businesses. That will give them an edge in global competition.
We also paid down our debt by $34 billion between 2006 and 2008, while still increasing transfer payments to the provinces. We gave our municipalities much needed revenue by way of gas-tax sharing and made it permanent to ensure predictability. We began tackling red tape and other irritants that have hindered businesses in the past and helped create a healthy economic climate so that Canada could position itself against global competition.
I could go on explaining why these measures have helped make Canada the envy of our G8 trading partners. It was because of these pre-emptive measures that this government was able to provide the necessary stimulus by way of the economic action plan, announced in budget 2009, when the world faced a financial meltdown resulting in a shocking recession, which some even called a depression, that still afflicts much of the world today.
The stimulus money from this economic action plan has helped thousands of communities right across Canada update or replace aging infrastructure. For example, in my riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex, this money has been used to repair roads and bridges, since this area has one of the highest concentrations of bridges in our country. We have reached a crisis point, with many bridges in need of repair and a municipality stretched to its full extent. There is water treatment in Leamington, community projects, and the list goes on.
Bill C-60 would build on all these past budgets. This budget would include a new building Canada plan with over $53 billion in new and existing funds. The gas tax fund would be indexed. There would be $14 billion allocated for major economic infrastructure projects that have national, regional and local significance. This is good news, again, for Chatham-Kent—Essex.
In addition to all this, the federal government would invest over $10 billion in bridges, meteorological services, national parks, VIA Rail, small craft harbours, ports, military bases and other federal infrastructure assets. Again, this is good news for Chatham-Kent—Essex.
The Windsor–Detroit crossing is critical to the economic well-being of my riding. Every day, for instance, trucks ship produce from our greenhouses in the Leamington area. Eighty per cent of what is produced in Leamington and the surrounding area, which is incidentally the largest collection of greenhouses in North America, is shipped to the U.S.
Anyone who has been on the Ambassador Bridge knows why it is so important to replace this aging bridge. Work has begun on the approach, and the project is well under way. This was made possible by budget 2009. I was pleased to be able to help open the Huron Church parkway project, and last fall I was also present when our Prime Minister signed the important agreement with Governor Snyder from Michigan to make the twin-span bridge a reality. All that was left was a presidential sign-off, and that was completed when President Obama signed off on this project just last month. This project will provide thousands of jobs in the next few years and until 2020, when the bridge is to be completed.
Included in budget 2013 would be additional moneys to keep this process going, making sure that there would be funds for permits, necessary licences, et cetera. They would be just part of our ongoing commitment to this important project.
Another part of our federal infrastructure asset fund that would affect Chatham-Kent—Essex would be the small harbour component. Few people know that the riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex has the largest freshwater fishing port in the world.
Wheatley Harbour is an important part of our community. Freshwater fishermen rely on the harbour, as does a shipbuilder named Hike Metal, which has built some very impressive ships throughout the years. The commitment by this government to freshwater harbours will enable me to go back to this community and continue to plan toward the success and improvement of Wheatley Harbour.
Like many places in Canada, my riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex was severely affected by the economic downturn in 2008-2009. As was the case in many other areas, the measures enacted by our government helped to get people back to work, but we are not finished yet. Budget 2013 will help Canadians connect with jobs through such measures as the Canada job grant. This will connect skills training directly to employers.
Budget 2013 will also help create opportunities for apprentices by working with the provinces to reduce barriers through using practical tests as a means of accreditation. A new generation of labour market agreements for persons with disabilities is also going to be introduced, along with new programs for first nations youth. All this will be supported by programs connecting Canadians with available jobs.
These are a few of the exciting benefits of budget 2013 and a description of how they will affect my riding of Chatham-Kent—Essex. The budget also contains measures to strengthen major manufacturing industries across Canada and investment in research and innovation, and it will support leading-edge research and infrastructure.
I wish I had more time to speak about how the budget will help promote entrepreneurs, as this is an area near and dear to my heart. If we look at any package in a grocery store, at name brands of automobiles, at electronic equipment, et cetera, we see one thing emerge: the name of a individual or a group of individuals who had an idea and went to work, and after falling down and getting up and trying again, they brought this idea to market. This required an entrepreneur, capital and a market.
I am proud that this government recognizes and will encourage entrepreneurs, including youth, to create a healthy economic climate the some assistance to help spawn the next Research In Motion or Westport.
Of course, none of this would be possible without our government's continued commitment to free trade, and we are aggressively pursuing it. We are very close to signing an agreement with the European Union that would give us access to 500 million people. Our government, our manufacturers, our farmers and business people who rely on free trade will be able to compete.
Our government understands the need to help stimulate the economy, but just as importantly, we understand the need to get back to a balanced budget. Our commitment continues: jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. This budget delivers on all of those.
The hon. member for Chatham-Kent—Essex will have eight minutes remaining for his remarks when the House next returns to the question.
It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.
Before I recognize the hon. member for Chatham-Kent—Essex on resuming debate, I will just let him know we only have about two minutes left before the interruption.
However, he can get under way, at least, and he will of course have the remaining time when the House gets back to business on this question.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that advice and will stick to that when I get to my questions and comments period. I appreciate the opportunity to rise and talk about this important issue.
Bill C-15, an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts is very underwhelming. It has been around since 2003 in several different forms. It has re-emerged with some improvements, but it has been kicked around this place for some time.
We are seeing it come to a conclusion. The mere fact that it does not have one of these targeted names that the government often gives bills is indicative of its mediocrity. It is named “an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts”. My experience in this place in the last number of years is that the government has introduced bills with very tempting names to try to promote them. In this situation, we do not have that. I think that is an indicator of where we are right now.
As New Democrats, we will support this bill. We will move it forward. The member for Beaches—East York has done a good job on this file, the best he can. The committee has as well, making amendments to the bill.
It is important, because it is about judicial systems and about judgment to our military families. I come from an area where military families are a tradition and an honour. The Windsor and Essex County area has been, since the birth of this nation, participating in the military on a regular basis. The first time was in 1749, a French militia, and subsequently in the War of 1812, the South African War, the First World War, the Second World War, Korea, peacekeepers, Afghanistan. We have been a regular recruitment zone for military service.
We have some of the strongest veterans' organizations out there. It is important. I have seen what happens to some of our officers and some of our regiment, and those who are supporting them, and their families when they have come home. I have had a chance to sit in on some sessions at the Legion, involving everyone from Afghan vets to World War II vets still talking about how difficult it is to get to the next day. It is very difficult, but at the same time they are very proud of those traditions.
I have a little personal experience with this as well. My grandfather, John Clifford Addison, was an ordinary code man who went down on the HMS Scorpion in the fall of Burma. I did not know my grandfather. I never met him. I do not know much about him. I have his medals. I have his soccer medals, as well.
I was very fortunate. Like so many others, my grandmother, Irene Attwood, was in England at the time. She married Fred Attwood. When he came to Canada, he treated me as his own grandson. I was at the house all the time, listening to my grandfather telling his stories, talking about experiences and his mates at the kitchen table. I can still smell the flavourful scones my grandmother would cook and the tea, with big band music in the background, as we sat and discussed what took place.
The reservation I have for this bill is that if justice is not served properly to those in the military, then we are going to have consequences outside when they finish their service. I have seen that. What worries me about this bill is that we have not done enough with regard to the amendments that needed to take place in order for this bill to be improved, whether it be giving the Chief of the Defence Staff the financial authority or whether it be making sure that the processing is done properly so that they can actually have justice at the end of the day.
There have been a number of witnesses who have come forward suggesting that this is not complete. We had a number of amendments made at committee that were not done. That concerns me, because this bill has been around this place for so long.
I am going to go through some of the changes we wanted to take place and that perhaps can get done at another date. I do not know if the current government is interested in doing that. It is a risk we have to take. The bill is going forward anyway, with some modest improvements, but I hope there is some sincere attempt to go further on the recommendations that came through a lot of work, thought, discussion and debate. As I noted, this bill has been kicked around this place for a number of years, and it is time to finally get something done, but it is disappointing that we have not had some of the other elements we wanted.
One of those was to conduct an independent wall-to-wall review of the military justice system and provide a legislative response to the LeSage report within a year. Neither the report in 2003 by the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer, nor the report from the former chief justice of the Superior Court, the Hon. Patrick LeSage, provided a complete independent review of the entire military justice system. We think it is time to do that. We think it is time to move that point forward, and I think there is enough support to do that.
Another thing we wanted to have is reform of the summary trial system. The Hon. Patrick LeSage said:
Suffice it to say I have very real concerns about obtaining a criminal record from a summary trial conviction. The issue of criminal records flowing from convictions at summary trial must be reviewed. The very damage that flows from a criminal record and the potential effect on a person's life is far too severe a consequence for most offences tried by summary trial.
This is where I get into my background of working with youth at risk and other persons who have disabilities, where stigmas are evolved or are created on a person and there are consequential effects. For example, if individuals have that on their record, it affects them in going for a job, in education, in their neighbourhood, with applications for credit or for any type of assistance, if it has to be disclosed. Those individuals are living with this cloud over top of them.
I see it on a regular basis, even in my home riding, where I have a good example with regard to a stigma staying left over. I have a Ford truck driver who smoked marijuana, got caught and has a federal conviction, so every time he goes into the United States, he is rightly pulled over because he has a record, but sometimes he is made to sit there for four or five hours. We have to intervene and say the authorities should pull him over and go through the vehicle and do all the inspections and enforcement they want to do, but the just-in-time delivery that the person is doing right there is important for both of our economies. He has to live with that type of stigma and that type of potential every single time he crosses the border. It is his own fault and he has to pay for it, but the reality is that there is a consequence.
Therefore, as an employment specialist on behalf of persons with disabilities and youth at risk, what I worry about is that even some of the minor convictions can make a difference in terms of a person being able to get a job or employment. It is critical that this issue is addressed in here, because if our military personnel have that, even if it is not something that is openly known in the community, they are still living with that bubble above them.
I have one last point. We want to expand on the service offences exempt from criminal records as well and, last, to reform the grievance system so that there are more appropriate opportunities for someone to grieve a situation.
With that, I appreciate the opportunity to speak in this chamber to this issue, and I welcome comments and questions and will be prompt in terms of my response.
The electoral district of Essex (Ontario) has a population of 123,872 with 88,847 registered voters and 226 polling divisions.
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