Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Prince Albert for his comments. He is fellow Prairie folk.
He spoke a bit about giving support to farmers. I just had the privilege of spending some time in Saskatchewan meeting with the growing number of people who are concerned that the government has killed a 75-year-old program called the PFRA. What the government has done is download the responsibility to farmers to be managing hundreds of thousands of hectares of very delicate land that provides habitat for threatened and endangered species. Does he not think it would have been useful to have, as his constituents are calling for, a lengthened time period for our wonderful farmers, growers, ranchers, first nations peoples and conservationists, who are trying to take on this program that was downloaded to them? What does he have to say about the fact that there is nothing in the budget to support their efforts to replace this program that was downloaded to them?
Mr. Speaker, it is great to be here this afternoon to explain and highlight to my colleagues some of the items in Bill C-60, the budget implementation act.
When I look at my riding and the province of Saskatchewan and I look at how well Canada is doing compared to the rest of the world, I must say that we are truly blessed people. In contrast to the global recession going on around the world, the province I live in has an unemployment rate of 3.7%. I live in a province that has good health care, good taxation, good policies and good law and order. I live in a great province in a great country. The things contained in budget 2013 will just make it that much better. This country is going to thrive as we go forward.
We are setting the stage for our kids. Our kids will have even better opportunities and a better qualify of life than what we have today, and that is because we are putting the proper platform in place for them to thrive and succeed.
There are lots of things in the budget implementation act that we could talk about, but I am going to talk about the Income Tax Act and the Tax Court of Canada Act and the changes to regulations. A lot of people do not realize some of the nuggets in there that need to be highlighted, and I would like to do that in the time I have to speak about the bill.
First I would like to talk about the adoption expense and tax credit. A lot of couples are looking to adopt a child, but they face many hurdles in order to overcome the fact that they cannot have a child themselves. This measure would allow them to get a tax credit when they go through the process of adopting a child. The adoption expense tax credit would allow them to use some of the expenses they incurred in the adoption process. It would actually become a tax credit. This would make it a bit more affordable for them as they go through the process. This measure should be highlighted, and it is something that I think everyone here in the House of Commons supports.
One of the other things I want to talk about is the first-time donor super credit. Members on the finance committee talked about what we could do to increase charitable donations, and this is a really good incentive plan that would get Canadians to start making charitable donations. The budget includes a 25% additional tax credit of up to $1,000 for first-time donors.
What a great program. What a great way to get Canadians to donate to good charities, and what a great way to get that money flowing through the economy and helping people who need it by supporting these charities that do great work right across Canada.
Another item that we could talk about is the mineral exploration tax credit, or flow-through shares for investors.
Last year I was in Toronto at the PDAC international convention. I spoke to a lot of mining companies and discussed the challenges they will be facing in upcoming years. We also spoke about what has worked successfully for them in the past. They told me that this program has actually saved their lives. This program enabled them to get the capital they required to develop the mines that Canadians need to see our economy thrive and grow. This tax credit basically allows an investor to take on some of the expenses of the project, and as the project comes into fruition, it can be turned into shares. This is a great, creative way to encourage this industry to grow and expand.
Saskatchewan is known for its agricultural industry. It is also now known for its potash, oil and gas, uranium and gold, and hopefully soon its diamonds. This province has a great mining sector that is expanding. Thanks partly to the mineral exploration tax credit, the sector is expanding even more quickly than it would have otherwise.
Some great farm machinery is built in Saskatchewan. The accelerated depreciation or capital cost allowance allows those manufacturers to buy the equipment they need to build more air seeders, cultivators, sprayers and harrow bars and get that machinery out to farmers, who are doing very well right now, so that they can get their crops in the ground.
Saskatchewan is a little white right now. There is still a lot of snow out there. It is going to be a tough spring for farmers. They are going to have a tough time getting their crops in the ground, so they are going to need those bigger air seeders, those harrow bars and those tools to get their crops in quickly so that they do not lose those crops when the frost arrives in the fall.
That is one thing that manufacturers understand in Saskatchewan, companies like Bourgault Industries, Morris Industries, Conserva Pak Seeding Systems and Seed Hawk. These companies will embrace the program. They will modernize their shop machinery, employ more people because of it and continue to provide first-class, first-rate machinery throughout the world.
If we look at the tax relief for Canadian Forces members and police officers deployed on international missions, that is just the right thing to do. I think most Canadians would agree with that. When we put our folks in harm's way and send them abroad, should they not have some sort of tax benefit or tax relief for doing that? I think we could all agree in this chamber that our forces are deserving of this type of acknowledgement. This is a no-brainer, and it is here in the budget implementation bill. It is just another reason all groups should get together and support this area.
The registered disability savings plan for adult beneficiaries is, again, a small program, but it means a lot. It actually helps Canadian families cope and move forward and help their loved ones who have disabilities.
There are so many other things we could talk about. We could talk about tax relief for Canadian consumers. That hockey helmet and other sports equipment would actually cost less. It would be tax relief for Canadian consumers so that they could actually buy those items at the store at a cheaper price. I think Canadians will respect that.
Our government, since it came into power, has lowered the income tax on Canadian families by some $3,200. That is after-tax dollars. That is real money they can go out and spend on their families. They can put their kids into different sports events and different cultural and arts events. That is serious money they can utilize.
When I go back to my riding, that is one thing a lot of my constituents talk about. They notice it. They feel it in their back pockets. They know they have a little more cash to spend on their kids, and they express their gratitude for having that amount of money left in their back pockets. Of course, they do not want to see anything that takes it away.
When I was in the riding the last little while, one of the things I noticed, with our 3.7% unemployment rate in Saskatchewan, was that we have a shortage of skilled workers. However, we have a population in the aboriginal community that needs to acquire skills. That is where the skills training program could be such a major factor in the province of Saskatchewan. It could have such a strong benefit for our kids and our aboriginal kids going forward. Here is a program whereby the employer, the provincial government and the federal government get together and provide the financing for an individual to get the skills he or she needs.
If I look at a mechanic at an ag dealership, for example, and a 19-year-old coming out of school, that dealer can now train that person right up to journeyman status over three or four years. People will have skills they will use for the rest of their lives. It is the right thing for us to be involved with. It is the right thing to do, and it is appreciated.
I made an announcement at a science college in Prince Albert, where they are adding the fourth-year journeyman's program. It used to be that when someone went for a journeyman's certificate for electricians, he or she had to go to Moose Jaw for the final year to get journeyman's certification. Now, thanks to our government's funding to SIAST, plus this program, these kids will no longer have to travel to the southern part of the province. They can actually take that training in Prince Albert and be closer to their families and closer to job sites.
There are so many nuggets in the budget. I have touched on just a few. When I look at the budget and the budget implementation bill, I see so many common sense things that are here for Canadians and Canadian families. I cannot see how anyone would actually vote against it. In fact, I just looked at the benefits for families and the $3,200 each family has had in the past. This is a good budget. This is a good implementation bill.
I encourage the opposition members to actually, as my colleague said before, put away the partisan politics, look at the actual paper sitting in front of them, look at the benefits Canadians and Canadian families are going to receive from this and get behind it. Let us improve it and let us move forward.
Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure to enter the debate on budget 2013, our economic action plan.
Before I begin, I would like to congratulate the member for Prince Albert for his excellent speech. Also, since a few moments ago members paid tribute to the outgoing leader of the Liberal Party, I would like to acknowledge the member for Toronto Centre for his tremendous contributions in the House and for his affable ways. He is a great retail politician. I think we all give him credit for that.
Speaking to this issue, I want to back up and provide some background. Budget 2013, of course, builds on the measures in the previous two budgets. We have to reflect on what happened in 2008, when we were hammered by an economic tsunami: a global economic crisis, une crise mondiale, as some would call it, beginning with the subprime mortgage meltdown and the economic collapse in the United States. The government was compelled to come up with a strategy to respond quickly to provide unprecedented economic stimulus and support for displaced workers and unemployed and underemployed Canadians and to stabilize our economic institutions. The plan worked. This economic action plan is following up on those measures. They were the right measures for the right time in a troubled period.
Since the peak of the recession, in July 2009, these measures have created more than 950,000 net new jobs, and 90% of those are private sector jobs. Canada was late, shall I say, later than our economic partners, going into the recession, and we were the first, as predicted, to come out of the recession.
Let me remind members that before the economic tsunami hit us in 2008, our Conservative government had paid down some $39 billion on our national debt. That was important. It was a wise and responsible decision. It prepositioned us to absorb the body slam, if I can mix my metaphors, of an economic tsunami, but it prepositioned us to take that better than many nations did. The outcome of our economic action plan has put Canada in the enviable position of doing much better than most developed western economies.
The evidence is that Canada's economy has expanded for six consecutive quarters. Canada's unemployment rate is well below that of the United States, the strongest showing in more than three decades. The World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking and monetary system the most stable in the world for the fifth consecutive year. Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio is the lowest in the G7 nations by far, at about, if I have the correct figures, 35.8%. The next closest would be Germany, at 58.4%.The average in the G7 is 80.4%. Our net debt-to-GDP ratio is the lowest of the G7, by far, and is the envy of most other nations. Finally, all the major rating agencies—Fitch, Moody's, Standard and Poor's—confirm our solid AAA financial rating.
In budget 2013, our commitment is to continue to pursue jobs, employment and economic prosperity. On the job front, the Canada job grant is up to $15,000 per person. It is $5,000 federally, matched with provincial and territorial partners and with the employer. That is to match the unemployed and the underemployed with high-demand jobs in our country. It is striking that in the past year, some 250,000 job opportunities were not filled because of a lack of skilled labour in the right place at the right time. That is a real drag on our economy. It is a missed opportunity for unemployed and underemployed people, because they lack the skills training. This budget has very targeted initiatives to create opportunities for Canadians to get the skills they need to engage in high-demand jobs. This program is expected to benefit some 130,000 Canadians.
The budget is focused squarely on creating jobs, growth and economic prosperity. In broad terms, the EAP 2013 would have numerous programs to create jobs. It would renew the building Canada fund and would lay out the largest infrastructure funding program in Canadian history, at about $53 billion over 10 years. It would provide measures to promote our competitiveness, science and technology research, genome research, and innovation, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, with some $225 million. That would benefit our university communities and our research communities.
For forestry there would be some $92 million for innovation in forestry. That would be very important for the coastal forest industry in British Columbia.
This budget would keep us on course for a balanced budget by 2015-2016, with diminishing deficits year by year.
There would be opportunities for apprentices. The budget would create the opportunity for apprentices to get involved in government-funded projects. For example, we would put some $258 million per year into affordable housing, and there would be incentives to encourage the hiring of apprentices so that they could advance their skill level through the journeyman level and participate in meeting the need for those skilled trades. There would be measures to match graduates with job experience, with some $70 million for internship programs.
There would also be training programs for aboriginal students on reserve and for post-secondary education. AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo has laid out an ambitious goal for education for first nations students. One of his targets is education and economic opportunities. We want to support him in helping first nations young people gain the skills to participate in the economy of tomorrow. It is the key to a better future. Some $240 million would be set aside to help first nations youth in B.C. and across Canada access the skills and training they need to participate in large economic projects, such as those in the resource sector, that in many cases are happening right in their own neighbourhoods.
The commitment to long-term, stable infrastructure is extremely important to our communities. Just in the last couple of months, we have had many announcements in my own communities. Small communities have benefited from a program called the community infrastructure improvement fund. Under that program, there were projects like one in Oceanside Place in the Regional District of Nanaimo. Replacing all the lighting in that skating arena with high-intensity lights to lower electrical use and emissions and provide better lighting at the same time.
Through the same program we had announcements in Parksville about replacing the community sports field and upgrades to improve accessibility. The Lions Club put in an outdoor adult gymnasium. Our Parksville Lions Club members are tremendous community citizens. They have run a Lions venture park there for years for children, and now they are expanding outdoor exercise opportunities for adults. I am very pleased that the infrastructure program is there to help them with that project.
Out in Ucluelet, we had announcements for the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce through the community infrastructure fund.
The gas tax fund is important to our communities. We have had major water upgrades across Vancouver Island. I note many announcements in the Nanaimo and Parksville areas and at Qualicum Beach, with major water storage enhancement, over the last number of years.
This budget would implement pooled registered pension plans. Our colleague, the minister of state, was out in my riding and did a great job introducing that. B.C. brought in legislation to advance pooled registered pension plans.
I note that one of the members opposite talked about the previous Liberal government starting a $1 billion gas tax fund. We appreciate giving the Liberals credit for that. We raised that to $2 billion, and now we would index it to help communities come up with the infrastructure they need.
I would be remiss if I did not draw attention to the Pacific Salmon Foundation getting the $6 Pacific salmon stamp. That is all going back into community projects for the salmon enhancement project, “bringing them back, stream by stream”, working with local volunteers. The PSF has tremendous local support. I go to fundraisers for it every year. This would give it nearly $1 million more in funding for those great projects in my community.
Mr. Speaker, it is great to be here today. It has been a busy afternoon in the House of Commons, so it is nice to get on with the debate and the country's business.
I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Nanaimo—Alberni.
The people of B.C. are just as excited about this budget as the people of Saskatchewan, because there are so many good things in it for our constituents and Canadians right across Canada.
Canada has been doing very well throughout the global crisis. The World Economic Forum ranked Canada's banking system as the safest in the world. We have a good, solid banking system, so our constituents can take comfort in knowing that their deposits are safe and secure. Another thing to point out is that Canada has a AAA credit rating, the best credit rating in the world. Canada has been doing very well in light of the financial crisis that has been going on around us.
One of the other things we should talk about is job creation. While other countries are losing jobs and suffering massive unemployment, we are creating new jobs here in Canada. We have created 950,000 net new jobs since the start of the 2008 global crisis. That is amazing if we look at what is going on around the world.
Saskatchewan is in a unique situation when it comes to jobs. The unemployment rate in Saskatchewan is sitting right at 3.7%. That is basically telling me that anybody who wants a job in Saskatchewan can get a job.
When I go back to my riding and talk to business owners about what they require in order to see more expansion and growth, the common theme is the lack of employees. They are looking for ways to get not just new employees but skilled employees. They need plumbers and electricians. They need people with their journeyman status.
Canada's economic action plan 2013 addresses those needs. The first action our government took was to bring in the Canada job grant. This program would allow a maximum benefit of up to $5,000. The federal government will put in $5,000, the business will put in $5,000 and the provincial government will put in $5,000 for skills training.
When I talk to people like some of the ag machinery dealerships in my riding, they tell me that they need more heavy-duty mechanics. They can embrace a program like this and take advantage of it. With the free skills training, they can create heavy-duty mechanics out of a common employee. Those are the kinds of things that businesses require, and they are there in economic action plan 2013.
Another thing people in Saskatchewan are looking for is a way to get their journeyman status more quickly. This has been addressed in economic action plan 2013. We need more journeymen mechanics, plumbers and electricians in Saskatchewan. I am looking at remodelling a house, and I have to wait up to four months just to get a plumber. I have to wait up to three months for someone to put in a furnace. The skills shortage in my riding of Prince Albert is extreme, and this action plan will hopefully help to alleviate some of those concerns.
I want to point out some things that are unique to my riding of Prince Albert.
Aboriginal youth come to Prince Alberta from northern ridings looking for work. These are the people we need to get into the skills training program, and we have set up funding to do that. We are going to see more of that going forward. More aboriginal people are going to be participating in the economy. When we talk to chiefs with James Smith Cree Nation and Muskoday First Nation, this is something that they want. They want to participate in the economic boom going on in Saskatchewan, and this plan will allow their band members to do that. This is going to be great for Canada as a whole.
Another thing in the budget is the new building Canada plan. When I talk to my mayors, councillors and reeves, they tell me they want to see some sort of bankable method of payment from the federal government. The community improvement fund is a consistent fund of $32.2 billion over 10 years. Municipalities will be receiving funds they can bank on. They can use the money for a variety of different projects. They can use it for water or sewer, as may be done up in Nipawin, or they may want to use it for road construction in Kinistino. These are indexed funds that they can count on going into their coffers year after year. They are bankable and predictable, so municipalities can budget around them and plan on them and use them according to their needs.
The nice thing about this fund is that it is fairly wide open with respect to utilization. Municipalities can use it for a variety of projects. As I said, it can be used for a water project or to build a road or pave a street; those options are there. That is the nice thing about this fund.
I was talking to a couple of reeves over the weekend, who were very excited because these funds are bankable and predictable. It is something they asked for, and we actually gave it to them.
Then there is $14 billion for the new building Canada fund. One thing we have to recognize is that Canada is an exporting nation, but we need to keep building infrastructure. We need to take advantage of the resources we have, but in order to do that, we have to build infrastructure. We have to build roads. We have to put in infrastructure to get to the mines. We have to put in infrastructure to get the product to market. These are things that will be addressed by the $14 billion fund. Canadians recognize it as an important need and as something that will help our economy grow for a long time into the future.
We have the $1.25 billion renewal of the P3 Canada fund. The Province of Saskatchewan is embracing that fund. I know other provinces have embraced it. Here is a practical way to get projects built in a way that allows both the private sector and the public sector to participate, and the benefit is for the taxpayer, without a doubt.
Of course we have $6 billion under the current infrastructure programs for the provinces, territories and municipalities from 2014-15.
When we look at the new building Canada plan, there is over $53 billion over 10 years for infrastructure. That is a substantial amount of money, and it is probably the longest period of time that any money has been consistently given to the provinces and municipalities for infrastructure needs. It has never been done in the history of Canada for this length of a period of time.
Saskatchewan is an agricultural province that has gone from agriculture to mining. It has lots of resources, but it also has great world-class research. Genome Prairie is a good example, and it is nice to see core funding of $165 million going to the Genome projects that will be spread across Canada. That is groundbreaking research from which we will see benefits for years and years to come, and I am happy to see it in the budget.
We are also supporting and helping businesses to invest in innovation, thus making them more competitive and creating more high-paying jobs here in Canada.
Those are the items in the budget that will provide long-term growth and prosperity, not just for members sitting here but for our kids and our grandkids.
We cannot forget families. The family structure is such an important structure. We have to look at the variety of ways we can help families.
One of the things in the budget that is really great and unique is enhanced tax relief for families that are adopting children or those using home care services. That is important. That is actually something that families and taxpayers can use. They can look at it and say they have a government that appreciates their needs and requirements. It is in the budget, so I cannot see how members would ever vote against something like that.
I am a hockey player, and many of us have hockey kids. If parents can get baby clothes tariff-free and get cheaper, tariff-free hockey equipment, that again is supporting the family structure and is very positive.
We have $1.9 billion over five years going for homelessness and housing. The $1.9 billion is a substantial amount going into something that is drastically needed.
I wish I had a lot more time, because I could go on for 10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes, but I am going to speed up on some of the things I also see happening here that are important to highlight.
Last year I did the Nijmegen march. I went to Groesbeek Cemetery in Holland. Not a blade of grass was out of place. Every tombstone was correct. The respect the people from the Netherlands give to our soldiers is amazing. With the increase and doubling of the funeral service reimbursement, we can do that here in Canada for our veterans also. That is very important. Taking it from $3,600 to $7,300 is something that our vets deserve, and it is nice to see it in the budget.
In closing, I would highlight something that is very important to me because I come from Saskatchewan. It is the fact that we are going to get to a balanced budget. What other country in the world is going to talk about getting to a balanced budget after going through a global recession since 2008? In 2015-16, we are going to have a balanced budget.
In Saskatchewan we have had a balanced budget. The premier has done a great job in making sure spending is kept under control--
The electoral district of Prince Albert (Saskatchewan) has a population of 71,159 with 51,707 registered voters and 154 polling divisions.
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