Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Ottawa—Orléans for his very good question.
As far as the member for Winnipeg North is concerned, he is grandstanding, saying that basic principles are being undermined, when this bill is very important and has been thoroughly debated.
Hon. members know what Canadians think about this. I hope no one will have the audacity to say that it is no big deal if the amount of counterfeit goods has jumped from $7 million worth in 2005 to $38 million worth in 2012. We must do something about this. There is pressure to do so and we must keep that in mind.
As far as my colleague's second question is concerned, this is far from being a surprise. Two House committees have studied this in the past. Members of the House have spoken to this issue and they are well aware of the scope of the bill.
We should be pleased today. This is about Canadians' health and safety. It is about fighting organized crime and clamping down on cheaters who put fake labels on products. Canadian innovators are working hard, investing all their energy, resources, capital and time in order to contribute to the economy, and they have to deal with cheaters.
The primary duty of a responsible government is to put an end to all this because this situation is absurd. It is time to say enough is enough. Many groups in Canada support this measure regarding the economy.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address the House this morning to present the reasons I support Canada's economic action plan 2013, Bill C-60. This plan, introduced by the best finance minister in the world, is thoughtful and reasonable, and most of all, it will help Canada with its economic recovery.
The global economy is still weak, and the economies of several European nations are very precarious. The economy of the United States, our biggest trading partner, is shaky. Canada's per capita GDP has been higher than that of the U.S. since 2011. That is unprecedented.
According to the highly reputable World Bank, Canada's per capita GDP was $50,343 in 2011, compared to $48,112 in the U.S. The performance in our country is 5% higher than our southern neighbour's. The World Bank also stated that Canada's per capita GDP growth outstripped that of our neighbours to the south.
Since 2010, our per capita GDP grew by 8.9%, compared to 3.2% for our most important economic partner. According to Statistics Canada’s report “Canada at a Glance 2013”, our country’s per capita GDP is higher than that of Germany, France and the United Kingdom. However, the government does not boast about these achievements. I am probably the first intervener to share these statistics with the House.
Canada is essentially an exporting country, so our economic recovery continues to depend on foreign markets. Nevertheless, since the depth of the recession, in July 2009, one million net new jobs have been created, the strongest economic growth of all the G7 countries. Ninety per cent of these one million net new jobs are full time, and 80% are in the private sector.
Independent organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development predict that Canada will have the strongest growth of all the G7 nations in the coming years. Canada’s economic action plan 2013 has been so successful that the opposition has not had any questions for the best Minister of Finance in the world for several weeks. This plan proposes no tax increases. Small and medium-sized businesses have therefore been able to breathe easier since 2006.
In 2006, a typical small business with a taxable income of $500,000 paid, on average, nearly $84,000 in taxes. That amount has since dropped by $28,600, to $55,000. That is how we help businesses create jobs and drive innovation. While the opposition parties want to increase taxes on all fronts, the government has understood that low taxes are the best way to spur economic renewal. That is certainly why we were the last country to go into the recession and were the first to get out of it.
Thanks to our record of tax relief, a typical family will save more than $3,200 in 2013. One million lower-income Canadians will no longer pay taxes. We are on track to a balanced budget in 2015. That is great news. Thanks to measures to reduce spending and additional revenue, lower travel costs because of technology, the pursuit of measures to limit public service compensation and the elimination of tax loopholes benefiting a few taxpayers, we are even projecting a surplus of around $800 million in 2015-16.
That is a cautious projection. I should also point out that the net debt-to-GDP ratio is the lowest, by far, of all the G7 countries.
Moreover, before the economic crisis hit our country, the government paid down $37 billion of our debt, bringing it to the lowest level in 25 years, and we will balance the budget without doing so on the backs of the provinces, as the third party did in the 1990s.
In 2013-14, the federal government will transfer $9 billion more to Ontario than did the previous government. This funding will give Ontario a second wind, allowing it to pay for increasingly costly health care. By investing in transfers to the provinces, we will avoid the psychodrama that unfolded in Ontario with the closures of 44 hospitals in the 1990s.
At that time we almost lost the only francophone hospital west of Quebec, the Montfort Hospital.
There is an old saying that you can tell a good workman by his tools. Canada’s economic action plan 2013 is there to give Canadians the right tools so they can stand out internationally. It is statistically proven that a number of skilled occupational groups are having a hard time recruiting workers.
We see that 6% of scientific jobs are unfilled. The figure for skilled jobs is 5.2%, and the national average is around 3.9%. If the companies that are having trouble recruiting staff were able to find what they are looking for, the unemployment rate would certainly reach record lows. That is why the government, under Bill C-60, aims to match Canadians with the jobs that are available.
By involving the federal and provincial governments, and with the participation of the private sector, we will be able to invest $15,000 per person to help job seekers gain the skills they need to fill the jobs that are in demand. I want to emphasize the word “invest”, since this is indeed an investment that will pay off in the medium and long term.
We will also continue to invest in our youth, the future of our great country. Canada’s economic action plan 2013 will promote education in high-demand fields such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the skilled trades.
We want to support high school students at risk of dropping out with tutoring and mentoring. Giving these students a role model is one of the best things we can do so they can walk out of school with diplomas.
Because we need to prepare for the future, the government also proposes to support young entrepreneurs by awarding $18 million to the Canada Youth Business Foundation. Young entrepreneurs would benefit from useful advice through mentoring, learning resources and start-up financing.
The Canada jobs grant is not the only initiative that would make a big difference for the families of Ottawa—Orléans and elsewhere in the country. Before my first election to this House 2,693 days ago, I pledged to assist families who adopt children. Adopting a child is one of the noblest gestures someone can make in our society. It gives an often needy child a chance to find a home and role models, thereby giving the child a much brighter future.
Bill C-60 will help families who want to change a child’s life through adoption. To help adoptive parents with the costs they face early in the process, certain adoption-related expenses that are incurred before a child’s adoption file is opened will be eligible for the adoption expense tax credit.
Under this tax credit, Canadians could claim adoption-related expenses from the moment they registered with a provincial ministry responsible for adoptions or a government-certified organization or from the moment an adoption request was referred to a Canadian court. The tax credit would apply to all adoptions completed after 2012.
It is my fondest wish that this measure will help more young children find a home.
Families would also be supported through various other initiatives, including our expanding tax relief for home care services, simplifying funeral and burial program for veterans, improving palliative care and combatting family violence.
I am not just talking about what this government has done since 2006, such as the universal child care credit, the family caregiver tax credit and the creation of the registered disability savings plan.
On the subject of job creation, we should highlight the Minister of State for Science and Technology and his tremendous work with the National Research Council of Canada, which will celebrate its centennial in 2016.
This agency, the National Research Council, employs 4,000 people in 50 locations across the country, one of which is at the doorstep of Ottawa—Orléans. The NRC is one of the pillars of Canada's innovation system. Unfortunately, over the past few decades, many innovations have languished on dusty shelves and have not been brought to market. Therefore, the NRC, an agency I value a great deal and have been supporting for several decades, would become more closely aligned with industry.
Global competition is intensifying and getting more complex, and Canada must carve out a place for itself. We have an enviable standard of living, but it comes with no guarantees.
We need to take action: we must encourage business to invest even more in research and technology development so that our country can enjoy sustained economic growth.
In co-operation with Canadian industries, which are major job creators themselves, the NRC will address Canada’s technological gaps so that we can remain an economic leader.
As part of this new approach, the NRC would support Canadian industries in large-scale research initiatives. As stated in Canada's economic action plan 2013, the NRC would receive $121 million to support this new role, and under the economic action plan, the government would also invest in world-class research and innovation by supporting advanced research and business innovation and by enhancing Canada's venture capital system.
As many in this House know, the spirit of volunteering and community support burns brightest in the constituency of Ottawa—Orléans.
There are some 300 organizations in Ottawa–Orléans that run mainly on one of the country’s most precious resources: volunteers.
Some of these agencies support seniors, like the Club 60 Rendez-vous des aînés francophones d’Ottawa and the Roy G. Hobbs Seniors Centre. The Orleans branch of the Royal Canadian Legion is virtually at the centre of veterans' social life in east Ottawa. The list goes on.
These agencies must raise funds to support their activities. In addition to the work of their dedicated volunteers, they need donations to survive.
It is important to encourage philanthropy. That is what economic action plan 2013 is doing with its first-time donor super credit. This is a sensible way of encouraging new donors to make charitable contributions. The super credit complements the charitable donations tax credit by adding a 25% tax credit for a first-time donation of more than $1,000.
It is also innovative that couples can share the super credit.
With an economic recovery that was lagging due to economic instability in other countries, the government understood that it had to meet the demands of municipalities and move ahead with another plan for long-term investment in Canada's infrastructure.
The city of Ottawa and the district of Ottawa-Orleans have benefited greatly from this economic stimulus program. We need only consider the construction of a light rail line in Ottawa. It will be a total investment of $2.1 billion, $785 million of which is from the federal taxpayers through the building Canada plan and the federal gas tax fund.
Economic action plan 2013 is proposing $53 billion over ten years. The city of Ottawa has been dealing with waste water pouring into the Ottawa River for several years. Although sewers are obviously a municipal responsibility, the federal government has a role to play, since the waste water from the city of Ottawa is going into an interprovincial river between the provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
Alas, water runs downhill. That is why the government has invested close to $33 million to help the city carry out the first two phases of the Ottawa River action plan. There is still work to be done. The third phase has not yet received funding. I sincerely hope that support can be provided through the revamped building Canada fund.
These measures will help the great residents of Ottawa–Orléans regain full use of Petrie Island, treasure of this community. When I was a child, we could swim in the Ottawa River. That is not a good idea anymore, and we have to do something about it.
Building Canada is not the only infrastructure program under economic action plan 2013. The government has introduced a community improvement fund, which will invest $32.2 billion over 10 years through the gas tax fund and GST rebates to municipalities. The government also plans to renew the P3 Canada fund, which would invest $1.25 billion over five years to support projects through public-private partnerships.
As the House knows, I am a passionate advocate of our two official languages. Canada's linguistic duality is one of its greatest assets.
That is why I have given my full support to Bill C-419, which was tabled by the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent. I congratulate her on this bill.
Canada’s economic action plan 2013 introduces the most far-reaching and generous initiative in our history to promote our two official languages. The new roadmap will continue to support the learning of English and French as second languages, and will continue its support for minority school systems so as to foster the development of citizens and communities.
In short, Canada's economic action plan 2013 meets the high standards that we have come to expect of our Minister of Finance. It is a plan that calls us to action through sensible and targeted measures.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for your kind attention, and I assure you I will entertain my colleagues’ questions with the same respect.
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of personal privilege that I think will have some relevance to my colleague across the way, the House leader for the government, as well as the House leader for the Liberal Party.
I rise on a question arising from some troubling insinuations made last night over the course of debate. I have been reviewing yesterday's debate and I was surprised and, not somewhat, but very concerned by some serious allegations that were made by one of my colleagues across the way. These statements call into question the integrity of the House and the House leaders and I wanted to raise them with you today, Mr. Speaker, as soon as possible.
During the debate on vote 1 on the main estimates, while referring to Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code sports betting, the MP for Wellington—Halton Hills mentioned:
In fact, what transpired on Friday, March 2, 2012, was that the House leaders worked together to force debate to collapse before the full two hours of third reading had transpired, preventing members like me from “standing five” to request a full standing division on that piece of legislation.
By saying that, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills is insinuating that the House leaders had come up with some kind of conspiracy to bypass the parliamentary process. Not only does this show a lack of understanding of the legislative process, it puts the credibility of the officers of the House into doubt. Moreover, Mr. Speaker, it puts your credibility into doubt by insinuating that you would allow such a conspiracy to take place.
My friend across the way knows this place well and knows the rules that govern the House. He has been here for some time now, so I find it passing strange that he has gone so far as to suggest that there was a coordinated effort to trample his rights as a duly elected member of Parliament. Perhaps a brief review of what happened in this case can help clarify the situation for him and for all, and perhaps invoke some retraction or apology to both yourself, Mr. Speaker, and the House leaders.
Bill C-290 was debated at second reading on November 1, 2011. During the debate, all MPs had the opportunity to express themselves on this bill. This opportunity was seized by the member of Parliament for Windsor—Tecumseh, the member for Windsor West, the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, the member for Edmonton—St. Albert and the member for Charlottetown. Following these interventions, because no other member rose to speak, the Speaker put the question to the House, as is proper.
This is the normal procedure at any time when no further members rise to speak on a bill. If the debate collapses, the bill can be adopted or rejected at that point, or a recorded division can be requested by any five members in the House. In the case of this bill, there was not a single MP from any party who expressed their opposition to the bill being read a second time and referred to the committee.
The member for Wellington—Halton Hills could have expressed his concerns at this time by simply standing up. He chose not to. During the committee study, any MP could have submitted their concerns on the bill or encouraged the committee members to recommend that the House not proceed with the bill at all. This is good legislation, so no member availed themselves of this opportunity and the bill was passed by the committee, once again without opposition.
Members had a third opportunity to express themselves at the report stage on March 2, 2012. Indeed, as prescribed in the Standing Orders, when a bill comes back from the committee and there are no amendments, the Speaker automatically puts the question at report stage. Once again, the bill passed through this stage without any opposition whatsoever.
The debate at third reading provided a fourth chance for the members to examine and debate the bill. Once again, representatives from all three recognized parties took the opportunity to address the bill. It was a lively debate. The member for Wellington—Halton Hills, as well as other MPs, had the chance to give a speech on the bill at that point, but they did not. For a fourth time, the bill was passed by members of the House, without opposition.
The MP for Wellington—Halton Hills had all of these occasions to speak on Bill C-290 and to move any amendments or changes, but he chose not to. The order paper shows us well in advance when a bill is to be debated. It is not a secret. However, instead of standing to speak his voice, he chose to stay in his seat or not be present. Now he claims that there was somehow a conspiracy against him, blaming his House leader, myself and the House leader for the Liberal Party of having conspired to prevent him the opportunity to use his democratic voice.
Moreover, the MP for Wellington—Halton Hills seems to think that it is unheard of for a private member's bill to go through all steps without a standing vote. Since the beginning of this Parliament, at least two bills from opposition MPs went through all stages in the House of Commons without a standing vote. This was the case for Bill C-278, An Act respecting a day to increase public awareness about epilepsy, as well as Bill S-201, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day.
There was also Bill C-313, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (non-corrective contact lenses) and Motion No. 319 from the MP for Ottawa—Orléans.
These four private members' business items all passed through the legislative process without a standing vote in the House. We heard no such cries of conspiracy or condemnation from the member who is raising the complaints now or from any other member because this is the practice of the House. My friend from Ottawa—Orléans knows this practice well and used it.
These assertions that have been made are broad sweeping and undermine the integrity of the House officers of the various parties by calling into question the work that we undertake on behalf of our parties. The member for Wellington—Halton Hills is calling into question the integrity of this House and the legislative process, a process he knows well. I hope that this is not what the member was suggesting or insinuating last night. Maybe it is just that the member has misplaced certain rules of the House.
If he feels that his rights to express himself in the House have somehow been violated, I also invite him to discuss this with his House leader or others who try to maintain an orderly and conducive debate in this place. He does not have to try and intimidate those of us in this House. We New Democrats, more often than anyone else in this place, believe in and defend the institution and the rights of members of Parliament to speak. We have opposed the 42 motions that have been moved by this government to shut down debate every single time. The insinuation that there is somehow a conspiracy to prevent certain members from speaking on a piece of legislation, simply because they are in opposition, is both offensive to myself and I would suggest to the other House leaders, although they will have their own positions and feelings about this.
I would also argue that this assertion puts your credibility into doubt by insinuating that somehow you would allow such a conspiracy to take place. I believe that these allegations constitute a prima facie breach of privilege.
If you come to the same conclusion that I have, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion to have this studied by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
I look forward to the interventions by my colleagues across the way.
Mr. Speaker, we have some disagreement with the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, but we have always had a good relationship in committee and when we have disagreed, we have been done that in a cordial way.
I am excited to speak about this legislation, but before I do I want to point out the extraordinary work of the Minister of Canadian Heritage. I have only been here since 2008, but I have had the opportunity to be a student of politics and a student of our system and I am confident and secure in saying that he is the best Minister of Canadian Heritage that our country has ever had and I will tell the House why.
What the minister understands, and what previous ministers, including those who served on this side understand, is the importance of arts and culture to not only helping people around the world understand how great our country is, but understand that arts and culture is important to the country's economic growth, that it creates jobs and economic activity.
As a result of that, even when the country was going through one of the worst global economic downturns, this government made historic investments in arts and culture. When other G7 countries were reducing their funding, this government, through the leadership of the minister, was increasing funding to the Canada Council for the Arts to its highest level ever. We invested over $140 million in our national museums and we did that for a number of reasons. It is important that Canadians have access to their history and that they have pride in the institutions that are mandated to tell the stories of Canada. This is why we have made some of these important investments.
I have also heard from members of both official parties about the motion that was brought forward at committee. I want to speak briefly to that because it ties into this a bit. They talked about it being overly prescriptive. The motion actually says that we should talk about Canada and its history before Confederation and after Confederation. It says that we should talk about the 20th century and important developments in Canadian history. It referenced some important battles of World War I and World War II.
Why should we talk about that? We should talk about that because significant anniversaries of important battles in Canadian history are coming up for one. Second, there are still people in our country who can give us first-hand accounts of what they faced in battle. This is an opportunity to bring these people before committee before it is too late, hear their stories and celebrate them. It is not meant to be something like the end of it. If members were to read the whole motion, if they do honour to this place, they would talk about the entire motion. I know we will get co-operation.
We want to talk about the people, the places, the events, the things that have helped shape our country. Sometimes those things are good. Sometimes they are things we want to celebrate, things we want to commemorate, but there are instances when things were not good, but we need to remember them all the same. We talked about the internment of Japanese Canadians. We might not be proud of that part of our history, but it is important that we remember it. That is what we are talking about at committee.
We have heard a lot of people talk about how important it is that we go forward with this project. We have heard a lot of historians talk about how happy they are that we brought this initiative forward. We have seen over the last number of years, especially as we approach Canada's 150th birthday, a reawakening of Canadians' pride in their country, in their province and in their local communities. We have heard consistently that there is no way for them to share this pride in a tangible way across the country.
I want to share a story about something in my riding. About 200 metres from my home there was a discovery made in advance of a subdivision being built in the community, which changed entirely the way we think about our first nations, and there has been a documentary on this called the Curse of the Axe. We found, 200 metres from my home, a Wendat village.
Why is this important? It is because this village had 70 long houses. It was not a community of 10 or 12 houses as was first thought, but a city of 70 long houses. Thousands of people lived in this village and it completely changed the way we thought about these people in this area.
The excavators found that in order to support a village of this size the cornfields alone would have encompassed the entire city of Toronto. They found that these people engaged in trade with other nations, again changing what we thought about the relationships between our first nations at that time. It was revolutionary in how we thought of the Wendat nation.
There are no large communities of Wendat still in Ontario. They are now in Quebec. However, we had ambassadors from the Wendat nation come to my home town of Stouffville and they talked about how significant this find was for their people. They talked about how important it was that the rest of Canada and North America understood what they were doing, how they were doing it and how sophisticated they were. They were very proud of this.
We had the team that led the excavations come to our town a number of times and had displays of the Curse of the Axe. Hundreds of people from our community have come to learn about the local heritage that we just did not know about. Our own community was making headlines across North America. In the town of Stouffville, 200 metres from my front door, there was this amazing discovery. Now we have to find a way to make sure that all Canadians understand it so that we can update what people think of the Wendat and tell them how important and exciting this is.
The minister referenced Douglas Cardinal in his remarks. He said:
I love the fact that the museum keeps evolving and growing, and people still feel that it’s a national monument that can expand and serve all of Canada.
This is important because, although it has a long history, at one point the museum was called the Museum of Man. At the time, I suppose, that was okay. However, time moves on. As the member for Ottawa—Orléans points out, there was a time in this country when women were not even considered persons, but time moves on and we are better for it.
We changed the mandate of the Museum of Man, which became the Museum of Civilization. We got together and said that we had to do better and we did. The Museum of Civilization was brought forward and Canadians have been very excited about that. It has done a spectacular job. Canadians can now be as excited about the new museum of history as they had been about the Museum of Civilization, and for many different reasons.
It is a tragedy that over three million pieces or artifacts in the collection of the Museum of Civilization are in storage and not available for Canadians to see. It is a tragedy, especially when we have museums across this country that have made significant investments.
I look at my own community, the city of Markham, which has massive investments in its local museum. The people of Markham understand how important it is to preserve their local history, their culture. They have made massive investments. They are very excited about the prospect of a museum of history so they can share their collections with the national museum and so the people of Canada can understand just how important Markham was to the development of the GTA.
There are 40,000 people in my home town of Stouffville who poured millions of dollars into our museum. They did that for a number of reasons, predominantly because they knew it was a good investment for the community. They knew people wanted to know more about the history of our community, so they put more money into it. They did it also because so many people were coming, they needed to upgrade the facilities so they could host more people.
I looked at my own community. Last year we celebrated something called the Freedom of the Town for the Governor General's Horse Guards, a unit which, in part, has its history in the development of our community.
Even on that there was not complete agreement. There were people in the community who felt this celebration should not happen in because the community was founded by Mennonites, who did not necessarily support things like the war of 1812. We had fierce debate in the community, but ultimately we had the Freedom of the Town and thousands of people came out from our community to celebrate this historic unit.
However, that does not mean the people who disagreed with it were wrong. They disagreed. They talked about it. I may not necessarily have agreed with them, but they got their message out there. It shows just how exciting history can be when we present it to Canadians in a way they can debate, discuss and share. Then they can go to their local communities.
Think of what this could do to local communities across the country when they have the opportunity to see the last spike in their own little town. Think of what that would do for a local museum, the amount of people who would drive to that museum, the people who would be even more engaged to know about their communities and the things that have helped build our country.
Ultimately, we will always have disagreements in this place. It goes without saying. We are elected from different parties. We all have different attitudes on different things. I know full well that although we have different ideas, that all of us fight and argue, ultimately we are all very proud Canadians. We are all people who want to see our country prosper and do better. We also want to ensure that people around the world can understand what has made our country great. That is what this museum will help us do. That is one of the reasons why I am so proud and excited about this.
We also talked a bit in some of the speeches about the road to Canada's 150th birthday and why that was so important, the sesquicentennial, as the Minister of Veterans Affairs pointed out.
That is such an important time for Canada. It will be a time when we can showcase all the great things Canada has done. So many people came to us at committee and said that the 100th birthday of Canada was one of those remarkable things. Everybody talked about Canada's 100th birthday. I am almost jealous that I was not born then so I could have attended some of the 100th birthday celebrations.
We want to ensure Canada's 150th is the same. We want to really help Canadians from coast to coast to coast understand why they should be so proud of our country.
I had the opportunity to visit Yukon with the fabulous member for Yukon, and he took me to his local museum. That was my first visit to Canada's north. The pride he showed as he toured me around and showed me some of the important places in his community was something that all Canadians should know. Yet not all Canadians can get to the north.
When I looked at the treasures and the collection in storage at that museum and when I heard the minister talk about the opportunities with the new Canadian museum of history, to share these collections so we could be proud of what we had accomplished, I thought this was an excellent opportunity.
We see upstairs in this place a display of the Franklin expedition. We saw the pride the Minister of Health had because something so important to her community was not being displayed just outside the offices of the Prime Minister. It was being displayed and celebrated in other areas of the world, such as Norway. I had the opportunity to meet with the ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway and to talk about how important this was, how Norwegians were celebrating and wanted to continue to make connections with the Minister of Health's home town. These are things we have to celebrate. These are things Canadians have to know.
I have had the opportunity, as I am sure a lot of parliamentarians have had, to go to Pier 21. My parents came to this country through Pier 21. It is a shame to me, and one of the saddest parts of my life, that neither one of my parents was alive to see me elected. To go back to Pier 21, where they arrived in Canada, and see my parents' names on the manifest of the boat that brought them to this country, to stand on the pier and look out over the exact place they came to, was truly amazing. It was a truly amazing moment for me, and not just me. Others were visiting Pier 21, and it was easy to know who was going back. I could see them standing there and looking around. I could see in their faces how honoured they were to be there and to be Canadians.
We have to celebrate these things and let other Canadians understand. That is why when I hear things about the Historica-Dominion Institute talking to our veterans, getting first-hand accounts and making them available, that makes me proud. It is also talking to people who came to this country through Pier 21 and getting their stories about what they faced when they came to Canada.
My parents came from Italy. My mother always told me that she was depressed for the first 10 years she was in Canada, because the winters were so harsh and the summer was only a time for her to fear what was coming in the winter. It was brutal for her. My father was a very proud Italian, but also a very proud Canadian. He did not understand hockey at all, but he cheered for it, because he knew it was what Canadians did. He could not understand any part of the game, and he always tried to relate it to soccer, but he was fiercely proud of his new country.
Sometimes it takes going somewhere else to realize just how lucky we are and just how special this country is. Going back to my parents' home town, when I was 14, although it was a beautiful place, made me realize how lucky I was to be here. It also awakened me to something then, even that far back. The many Italians who came to Canada did not know enough about Canada. We have all heard stories of tourists who come to Canada in July with skis on their cars thinking it is going to be snowing. We could do a better job.
There is no problem with members disagreeing in the House about history. That is good. Let us disagree. That is what history is all about. It is not our job to write the history books. That is not what we do. It is our job to be in this place, debate, and make sure other Canadians have access to that history. That is what this new Canadian museum of history would do, and that is why I am so excited.
It is not just about a $25-million investment that will update the museum, as the minister said, after many years. Displays have to be changed. It is not just about that $25-million investment. It is not about the $142 million we have already put into arts and culture and into our museums. It is about giving Canadians access to the things, people, places and events that have helped make this country the best country in the world in which to live. Regardless of how we feel about the policies of one another, we can all agree on that. Surely we can all agree on the fact that everybody, not just Canadians, deserves to understand what has made this country so great.
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada; the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Science and Technology.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this afternoon and share my time with an outstanding person, namely the member for Ottawa—Orléans. He represents a community in the suburbs of the greater Ottawa area, which includes a large French-speaking community, and he serves it very well.
He also serves veterans very well. He is a member of the Royal Canadian Legion. I can always count on him. He always attends events organized for veterans. I want to thank him and tell him that I am extremely proud to be with him in a Conservative caucus that is working every day to improve the quality of life for the entire Canadian population.
I want to say in no uncertain terms that I will be supporting our government’s 2013 economic action plan without reservation, for three very simple reasons.
First, this budget is tailor-made for Canadian families. It is consistent with our policies. For example, we have the lowest taxation rate for families. What we want is for the money to stay in the pockets of our families, so they can use it for their many needs.
We want to be an efficient government that is at their service. That is why we have reduced taxes more than 150 times since 2006. As a result, an average family with four children has $3,200 more in its pockets because it is paying less in taxes. Young families, among others, are also receiving grants to raise their children up to age six. People are also paying less in GST. We are naturally staying the course on the economy, and a return to a balanced budget.
Second, every person elected represents municipalities or cities. I have the privilege of representing a large portion of the city of Lévis, with my colleague the member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière. Now, the city of Lévis has significant infrastructure needs in order to support families and economic growth, and to be able to provide a quality of life in a changing environment. The city of Lévis has infrastructure projects, but so does the municipality of Bellechasse and the Des Etchemins regional county municipality. I am also thinking of Beaumont, which is growing very quickly, and Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague. These municipalities have infrastructure projects.
I support the economic action plan because the huge sums involved will enable municipalities to invest in infrastructure not only this year, but in the years to come. More than $50 billion in infrastructure spending is planned. For example, we are making the transfer of the excise tax on gasoline permanent. That will enable our municipalities to invest. We will be partnering with the provincial governments to enable them to generate leverage with the investments they make in infrastructure. This will consolidate the economic prosperity of our country.
Third, I support this budget because it is designed to serve people who have put their lives at risk for our country. They have served under Canada’s flag. Whether they are still in the ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces or have left, they are our veterans and their families.
I would like to take a few moments to show how much this budget respects the government’s responsibility towards its veterans and their families.
In the economic action plan, we have, so to speak, an investment that will represent huge sums in the years ahead for veterans and their families. Among other things, there is one specific measure in the budget: the war veterans’ allowance. For this measure to come into force, however, the economic action plan must be supported. I will talk a little more about it.
What struck me first in the budget with respect to benefits for veterans and their families is the need for support when a veteran dies. The funeral and burial program has been substantially improved with respect to funerals for eligible veterans. We are receiving constructive comments from the veteran community on this matter.
We are also improving our contribution to the important date coming up in 2017, namely the 150th anniversary of our country. That will also be the 100th anniversary of a landmark event in our history: the Battle of Vimy Ridge, where Canadians fought together for the first time. We were victorious, but we suffered substantial losses. That is why it is important that we, as a nation, make sure that people do not forget their sacrifice. That is also why we will be investing $5 million in an interpretation centre at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.
The measures contained in the economic action plan 2013 take our unprecedented support for Canada's veterans and their families to the next level and demonstrate our continued commitment to veterans. We can see this commitment clearly in our government's response to a Federal Court ruling last spring.
The judge who made the decision did not specify its scope. However, he did indicate that there is no connection with the programs provided by National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada. That said, under the leadership of our Prime Minister and with the support of the Conservative caucus, our government has decided to go beyond this decision, which involved only National Defence, so that the harmonization of our programs also covers those delivered by Veterans Affairs Canada.
This is an envelope of nearly $1.9 billion. Our government therefore decided immediately to go beyond the court’s decision and to stop deducting the disability pension from Veterans Affairs Canada in calculating the monthly payments as an allowance for lost revenue from the department and as an income support allowance from the Canadian Forces. We were able to do it immediately because that was what we wanted to do.
We wanted to accomplish a third item: the war veterans allowance. To do this, we need regulatory changes. That is why we need support from all parliamentarians for the approval of this measure, which is included in the 2013 economic action plan. Some 2,500 modern-era veterans and survivors should benefit from these changes in the first year alone. We also intend to adjust this veterans allowance in the same way.
Economic action plan 2013 calculates that the total impact of these measures, when we combine National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada together, would be $1.9 billion over seven years. That is an extra $1.9 billion in the pockets of disabled veterans and men and women in uniform. We think this is the right thing to do and we seek support from the House to do so. This includes an additional $95.4 million to veterans above what was announced previously when calculating the earning loss benefit and the Canadian Forces income support benefit.
I want to reiterate how important it is as a government to support the budget for three reasons.
The first is the major increase in the funeral and burial program for those who need it.
The second is the support for the commemorations that would occur at the Vimy memorial centre, which is important. We actually have the Vimy memorial on our new $20 bill. It is our duty to remember.
The third is the harmonization of all of our programs, especially the veterans war allowance.
That is why I invite members to support the budget not only for all Canadian families, but especially for what it does for our veterans and their families.
I thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans for his intervention. Members of course do know that referring to other members in the House either by their riding name or their title is the appropriate thing to do. Characterizations otherwise invariably take us in the wrong direction for what are healthy debates in the House.
We will continue with questions and comments. The hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.
The electoral district of Ottawa--Orléans (Ontario) has a population of 109,950 with 85,456 registered voters and 228 polling divisions.
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