Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour the many volunteers who make Canada great by contributing over 2.1 billion hours of volunteer work annually. Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission does not take a back seat when it comes to volunteering. In fact, 47% of those in our riding volunteer on a regular basis for charities and non-profit organizations.
Petals is an organization in my riding that provides a safe, warm environment for women downtown in Maple Ridge, specifically those who are marginalized by society. It assists women on disability and social assistance, those with mental health issues, sex trade workers and struggling single moms, all free of charge. There is always a home-cooked meal waiting for anyone who drops into a meeting. Every winter it provides a pair of boots and a winter coat for all members. Petals is run entirely by volunteers and community donations.
I want to thank Heather Chevrier and her team of volunteers at Petals, and the many other volunteers throughout the riding, who contribute so greatly to our communities.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission.
In 2007 our government released our science and technology strategy. It lays out a framework to guide strategic investments with the goal of fostering Canadian advantage in three areas: entrepreneurial advantage, knowledge advantage and people advantage. This strategy is guided by four core principles: promoting world-class excellence, focusing on priorities, encouraging partnerships and enhancing accountability.
In 2009 we announced Canada's economic action plan in response to the global economic crisis. As part of this plan, and consistent with the S and T strategy objectives, the government created the knowledge infrastructure program. More commonly known as KIP, the $2 billion program was designed to provide significant, short-term economic stimulus in communities across Canada while enhancing the long-term training and research capacity of Canadian universities and colleges.
Including funds leveraged from the provincial and territorial governments, educational institutions and private sector partners, this program resulted in a total investment of more than $5 billion in 190 communities across the country. The work at these facilities created and maintained jobs for engineers, construction workers and many others when they were needed most. But the impact that these investments had on research and training in Canada was truly remarkable and provided clear evidence of this government's commitment to research in Canada.
These projects contributed to the development of Canada's knowledge advantage by enhancing research facilities. KIP has improved the ability of institutions to conduct research in life sciences, information and communications technologies, energy and environment, and other disciplines, as well as in key sectors such as automotive and aerospace.
An example of our support for scientific research is our project at the University of Manitoba for its regenerative medicine renovation and development project. Thanks to funding from KIP and the province, a major renovation and expansion of the school's medical sciences building was completed. The expansion accommodated new labs, offices and study space to support new faculty, graduate students, lab technicians and post-doctoral fellows. The project enhanced the university's ability to educate future doctors and develop one of the top three regenerative medicine programs in Canada.
KIP helped develop Canada's people advantage by expanding training capacity at colleges and universities. In total, KIP projects added 2.2 million square feet to classrooms and training facilities, as well as 2.6 million square feet of laboratory space.
It may interest the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas to note that support under this category included a $39 million KIP project at the British Columbia Institute of Technology in his riding. Critical renovations to infrastructure at BCIT included state-of-the-art teaching technologies and sustainable building systems, including a micro-electricity grid. Furthermore, the project included completing seismic upgrades and modernizing safety and ventilation systems. The project was also designed to meet the requirements of LEED, leadership in energy and environmental design gold certification.
Also in the member's riding, the government funded a major overhaul of Simon Fraser University's chemistry facility. With $24.4 million in KIP funding, SFU completed a $49.4 million overhaul of the facility that brought the labs up to modern standards. Built to the LEED gold standard, the extensive improvements included a new exterior envelope and roof, seismic bracing, new fume hoods, lab benches, new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and upgraded mechanical, electrical and safety systems.
A total of 380 projects increased the energy efficiency of campuses, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 175,000 tonnes of CO2, which is the equivalent of the emissions of 34,000 passenger cars. These projects also provided estimated operational savings of $23 million per year.
One particularly interesting example is the construction of a 120,000 square foot environmental demonstration and training facility at the Nova Scotia Community College. The hon. member who just spoke might be interested in that. It incorporated solar panels, planted rooftops, living walls covered with vegetation, wind turbines, photovoltaic panels and geothermal heating and cooling.
Roughly half of all KIP projects resulted in significant health and safety improvements, addressing areas such as accessibility for persons with disabilities, fire safety, security systems, air quality, water leakage and resistance to earthquakes.
Finally, the program helped develop Canada's entrepreneurial advantage through new and expanded business incubation facilities that supported effective collaboration between academia and the private sector. These facilities are crucial in helping to accelerate the commercialization of the academic research into products in the marketplace, to expose more professors and students to real world applications and to encourage more private sector innovation and growth.
One of the best examples of this type of project is the MiQro Innovation Research Centre at Université de Sherbrooke. The Government of Canada partnered with the province of Quebec on this $218 million project to build a centre of excellence for electronic research and assembly. The new MiQro Innovation Research Centre is expected to become a world leader in assembling the next generation of microchips, thanks to collaboration with key local industry partners, including IBM Canada and Teledyne DALSA, Inc.
In just 31 months, KIP went from concept to conclusion and provided key stimulus to our economy at a critical time. In addition to supporting scientific research infrastructure, the program also clearly demonstrated the government's commitment to sound management of public finances.
The Auditor General's report examined the effectiveness of the implementation of all economic action plan programs, including KIP, and noted, “the total time needed to design, review, and approve programs was reduced from the approximately six months normally required to two months”. The AG's report held up KIP as “an example of speedy implementation”.
The report recognized the effectiveness of KIP's project monitoring and reporting systems, its speedy implementation and its effective collaborations with provinces and territories, as well as colleges and universities. Thanks to those partnerships, KIP stands out as a tremendous example of governments working together to take action during a time of great economic uncertainty.
We are quite pleased that the Auditor General of Canada confirmed that the program was delivered effectively and efficiently. KIP not only made a difference in meeting immediate economic challenges, but it also set the foundation for future prosperity in the knowledge economy. The program was an excellent demonstration of our strong commitment to supporting Canada's science and technology sector. The investments made provided a strong base for research and helped create new facilities that would help attract new students and provide a better educational experience for tomorrow's highly skilled workers.
The hon. member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission.
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. He will have 13 minutes to finish his remarks after question period.
We will move on to statements by members. The hon. member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission.
Mr. Speaker, because it is my first opportunity, let me thank the voters in Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission for the opportunity to be back here again.
I listened with interest to the enthusiastic comments made by my colleague. He said the move to change the political subsidies weakens democracy. However, I do not think he made his case. He kept saying it, but he did not ever make his case as far as I could hear.
He talked about the ability to do what he does in his riding in Hamilton, which is to raise money to run his campaign, and he seemed able to do that without difficulty. I think all of us have met that challenge.
Would he not agree that these changes that are being suggested in the budget in terms of removing the subsidy over four years, that really, we are then going at the national level to the same system we already have at the local level, that EDAs have to raise the money from individuals to run their campaigns? Would he not agree that is where we are going, that it works pretty well at the local level and it will work as well at the national level?
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the government and the good people of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission who support a strong Canadian economy, I rise in support of the jobs and economic growth bill.
Budget 2010 and the jobs and economic growth bill outline a positive and ambitious plan to strengthen Canada's economy, and a plan that is working. Indeed the IMF just forecasted Canada's economic growth to be at the head of the pack for the G7 and all countries with advanced economies this year and next year as well. The IMF also singled out Canada for praise, saying:
Canada entered the global crisis in good shape, and thus the exit strategy appears less challenging than elsewhere.
This follows an OECD report earlier this month also predicting Canada's economic growth will, by a wide margin, lead all G7 countries this year, so we are off to a good start this year.
Statistics Canada announced that Canada's economy grew by 6.1% in the first quarter of 2010, representing both the strongest quarterly rate of economic growth in a decade and the strongest growth in the G7. What is even better, Canada's economy continues to create jobs. In fact, May represented the eighth month of job gains in the past ten months. In May we saw 24,000 jobs created. This follows a record-breaking 108,000 new jobs created in April. In fact, overall, since July of last year, Canada has created almost 310,000 new jobs.
Clearly our government is on the right track. Our economy is growing and we are creating jobs for Canadians, and it is being noticed around the world. The influential magazine The Economist recently called Canada “an economic star”. The OECD said that Canada's economy “shines”. Standard & Poor's, the world's premier credit rating agency, also said:
Of the other G7 countries...Canada is posting the best fiscal results. Canada also best weathered the financial crisis...is now well positioned to continue to outperform...
World leaders are also singling out Canada. U.S. President Barack Obama praised Canada, saying:
—in the midst of this enormous economic crisis, I think Canada has shown itself to be a pretty good manager of the financial system in the economy...And I think that’s important for us to take note of...
This reinforces what we said all along. While not immune from the global recession, Canada's economy did enter it, but will exit it in the strongest position.
However, the global recovery remains fragile. We must stay on track to ensure that our economic recovery remains strong. Our top priority remains the economy and implementing Canada's economic action plan to create jobs, lower taxes, foster growth and invest in better infrastructure.
Budget 2010 and the jobs and economic growth bill is one way our government is staying focused on the economy. I am here to speak about some of the budget 2010 measures that are laying the foundation for Canada's future economic prosperity.
Budget 2010 and the jobs and economic growth bill introduce measures that will help businesses access the financing they need to support the recovery, improve the framework of our financial sector and pursue a more forward-looking approach to protecting consumers of financial products and services.
Canada's financial sector has been widely acknowledged as one of the strongest in the world. The World Economic Forum, for example, rated Canada's banking system the soundest in the world. Well capitalized financial institutions and sound regulation have meant that financial institutions in Canada were better able to weather the global financial crisis than those in many other countries, perhaps all other countries. Over the past year, Canada's economic action plan provided measures to support financial institutions and the financial system in the midst of extraordinary circumstances. In particular, the global economic crisis made it difficult for Canadian banks and other lenders to obtain funds from international markets at reasonable costs.
To soften the impact of this crisis, Canada's economic action plan included measures to provide up to $200 billion to support lending to Canadian households and businesses. This helped to keep credit flowing to Canadian consumers and businesses throughout the crisis and helped Canada's financial sector improve its global competitive advantage.
Nevertheless, ensuring that businesses of all sizes have adequate access to financing to acquire vehicles and equipment is increasingly important as the economic recovery matures.
Our government is not content to rest on our laurels. We are continuing to find ways to improve the financial sector framework.
As outlined in the jobs and economic growth bill, Canada is home to a strong and vibrant credit union industry that provides financial services to millions of Canadian consumers and small businesses. To promote the continued growth and competitiveness of the sector and enhance financial stability, the jobs and economic growth act, Bill C-9, will enable credit unions to incorporate and continue their operations as federal entities. Allowing credit unions to grow and be competitive on a national scale will broaden choices for consumers by helping credit unions to attract new members and improve services to existing members across provincial borders.
Why would we want to delay such a positive part of the jobs and economic growth act? We need to pass Bill C-9. Indeed, let us read what the Case for Progress Committee, a coalition of several credit unions such as B.C. credit unions FirstWest and Vancity, had to say about this measure.
It said that the federal government’s plans to introduce legislation that would make it easier for credit unions to operate nationally was applauded and supported by committee, a group composed of credit unions across Canada. It said that the legislation would give Canadian credit unions more choices in their growth options by allowing them to operate outside their traditional provincial boundaries, and would also strengthen the credit union system. It said we were marking a ”historic milestone” today, that this new legislation would benefit all Canadians by increasing their choices in selecting a financial institution. It would strengthen the stability and competitiveness of the entire financial services industry in Canada.
From my home province of B.C., Tracy Redies, president and CEO of Coast Capital Savings, praised these measures, saying that credit unions are:
—a very, very vibrant part of the financial services industry in Canada and I think the pending legislation will enable it to continue to grow and prosper and...that's good for Canada.
I agree with her.
If we go to the other side of the country, we can listen to Jamie Baillie, president and CEO of Credit Union Atlantic, who said, “this measure will promote the continued growth and competitiveness of the sector and enhance financial stability...This provides a framework for a more competitive banking system in Canada and will enable further growth of the credit union alternative”.
Clearly, this measure is supported from coast to coast and deserves to be passed by the House.
However, this is not all the government is doing to support consumers and to promote the efficient functioning of the financial system. The Canadian payments system is a vital support to the economy, linking Canadians, merchants and financial institutions together and facilitating payment transactions through, for example, credit and debit card networks and clearing and settlement systems.
In November 2009 our government released for public comment a proposed code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry in Canada, which responds to issues raised by stakeholders in the debit and credit card markets. The code, which was developed in consultation with market participants, aims to promote fair business practices and ensure that merchants and consumers clearly understand the costs and benefits associated with credit and debit cards.
In April the government released the final code for voluntary adoption by the industry within a few weeks. To support adoption of the code, the jobs and economic growth act would provide the Minister of Finance with the authority to regulate the market conduct of the credit and debit card networks and their participants if necessary.
We have heard very positive responses since we announced it and participants have already agreed to sign on to the code. For instance, the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, or CFIG, commented:
The Code of Conduct is a very positive step and we are very pleased to note that many of the concerns CFIG has raised on behalf of independent retail grocers, such as negative option billing practices, have been heard and responded to, by the government.
CFIG also welcomed the decision by the Minister to bring in legislation that will give the government the ability to regulate the market if the voluntary Code of Conduct does not work...the Code...provides retailers with choice and ensures that our members can continue to compete as important members of the food industry and the communities they serve across the country.
The Canadian Federation of Business, the CFIB, was also very supportive. Its president, Catherine Swift, said:
[The] Code constitutes an important step and is timely as we enter the summer season that is so vital to so many businesses, especially coming out of a recession. We are particularly pleased that government is being proactive in helping to lay the groundwork in advance of major expected campaigns on the part of Visa and MasterCard in the debit card industry. These developments will create a better future for merchants and help ensure a fair and transparent credit and debit card market instead of just letting large industry players call all the shots.
This part was confirmed at the finance committee hearings from the Retail Council of Canada when it said:
[We] commend the minister and the Government of Canada for establishing a card payment regulatory framework, and for equipping the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada with the tools it needs to monitor and enforce compliance with the code of conduct changes, changes that are both contained in Bill C-9.
As the Retail Council of Canada correctly pointed out, many of these important changes to help our small businesses will only take effect with the passage of the jobs and economic growth act, Bill C-9.
That is not all we are doing to safeguard our financial sector in the jobs and economic growth act. A few other measures we are taking include: amending the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act in order to enhance the government's ability to protect Canada's financial system from money laundering and terrorist financing activities; amendments to protect depositors in the event of an institution failure; extending the due date for filing annual GST returns from three months to six months after year-end for certain financial institutions; and much more.
While not as high profile, these measures are nonetheless important to the efficient functioning of our financial sector.
The global economic recession clearly demonstrated the importance of a strong, well-regulated financial sector. Around the world, Canadians were bombarded with news of bank failures and bailouts. In Canada, we did not have any bank failures or bailouts, showcasing the strength of our financial sector to the world.
As a result of our strong financial system, Canada is doing better than our G7 partners. We entered this recession later and are exiting it in a stronger position than our international peers.
For the average Canadian this means stronger economic growth and more jobs for Canadians. It means that for the first time in a generation, Canada's unemployment rate is nearly 1.5% lower than the United States. It means that when Canadians go to their local bank branch, they do not have to worry that their bank will close its doors to them.
Clearly the continued strength of our financial system is important for our government and Canadians. While our financial system is strong, we will not rest on our laurels, as I have said, but we will continue to move forward and find ways to further improve our financial system.
Budget 2010 and the jobs and economic growth act would do just that. The actions and measures in this legislation are important and contribute to a well-functioning financial system that meets the needs of Canadians and supports our future economic prosperity.
We must pass Bill C-9, the jobs and economic growth act, to help build our financial sector for the future and, in turn, create the jobs and economic growth that Canadians need and deserve.
The electoral district of Pitt Meadows--Maple Ridge--Mission (British Columbia) has a population of 120,662 with 85,174 registered voters and 214 polling divisions.
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