Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to stand today on behalf of the residents of Nanaimo—Alberni and enter the debate on extremely important federal legislation.
Bill C-4 is an act to implement measures contained in budget 2013. It is the second such bill therefore we could refer to it as BIA 2, the budget implementation act 2. Budget 2013 continues our government's drive toward creating jobs and promoting economic growth in a highly competitive world. It also continues our steadfast drive toward returning to fiscal balance by 2015. Why this bill is relevant and how it is managed is extremely important to the lives of each and every Canadian.
First, let me remind those watching the debate that Canada was slammed by an economic tsunami in 2008, one that was not of our making, but one that crashed across our borders. It started south of our border with a subprime mortgage meltdown. As the credit crisis and housing defaults put financial institutes in peril, the U.S.A. and other nations backstopped the banks to prevent panic south of the border. They spent billions of public dollars in bailout money to institutions like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
Businesses had trouble maintaining cash flow and major industries, like the auto sector, danced along the edge of insolvency. It quickly spread around the globe. Many nations were faced with huge financial commitments to stabilize their financial institutions and prevent wholesale collapse.
As the world economy spun, our government had to act fast to keep Canadians employed and provide incentives and retraining programs. Part of the economic action plan was targeted short-term spending on infrastructure, investments that would generate economic activity, keep people employed and improve the quality of life in communities across Canada.
Our plan worked. In fact, it worked so well that since the depths of the recession in July 2009, we have generated nearly a million new jobs, more than 80% of those in the private sector. We have been driving toward balanced budgets year by year with targeted measures to keep our economy moving forward. Canada has the best job creation record in the G7, the most stable banking sector and the lowest debt to GDP ratio.
Why is this important? It is important because debt is strangling economic opportunity and competitiveness in many nations. The commitment of this government and the Prime Minister is that we will bring Canada back to balanced budgets and we will do it without raising taxes and without slashing transfers to the provinces for services upon which Canadians depend.
I am pleased to report that we are on track to do exactly that. Our Minister of Finance recently reported that we would achieve this objective not only on time, but ahead of time. We will, barring world circumstances beyond our sight or control, achieve that objective and a healthy surplus by the fiscal year 2015.
Budget 2013 and Bill C-4 continue to drive toward balanced budgets. There are provisions that impact British Columbia in a significant way, such as $92 million for innovation in the forest sector. These funds will help our forest industry continue the transformation to compete in new global realities.
Budget 2013 includes measures to protect the iconic west coast Pacific salmon. In fact, the entire Pacific salmon stamp, collected from recreational fishers on the coast, is valued at just over $6. For years, $1 from that stamp used to go to the PSF, the Pacific Salmon Foundation. Now the entire value of that stamp, which would be a value of about $1.2 million, will go to the Pacific Salmon Foundation and into projects that restore salmon habitat. In partnership with local environmental groups, we have salmon enhancement societies and streamkeepers, which share great interest in bringing them back stream by stream, which is the model of the Pacific Salmon Foundation.
In addition, this budget brought in the recreational fisheries conservation partnership program. That is a further $10 million over two years to help activist groups, like the ones I mentioned, advance causes that help restore fisheries habitat, improve the riparian zones and remove obstacles that prevent fish from getting up to their spawning grounds.
This is like one project that was announced in my riding. A major highway culvert was eroded and it was restored so the fish could get past that obstacle and up to the spawning grounds. These projects, collectively, have a huge impact on helping our great iconic salmon resource on the west coast.
The funds dramatically increase the reach of our premier salmon habitat restoration institute on the coast. Doing so allows mother nature to do her thing. As we remove obstacles and improve the riparian zones and spawning grounds, it helps mother nature help the salmon do what they do best, which is to reproduce successfully and create opportunities commercially, for first nations through their food cultural ceremonial programs and recreational anglers. One of the reasons many people move to British Columbia and coastal B.C. is to take part in a tremendous fishing opportunity.
Since 2006, our economic action plan has cut taxes in over 150 different measures to make our economy more productive. As a result, the average Canadian family is saving about $3,200 each and every year in reduced federal taxes. That means more money to meet family needs and address priorities of their own choosing. On this side of the House, we think that is a good idea. It allows Canadians to manage their own money, invest in priorities that strengthen their families, help their children participate in activities that are meaningful to them and ensure the needs of their families are met.
Bill C-4 continues our drive to job creation and economic stimulus. I would like to refer to a few of these measures.
I will talk about renewing the hiring tax credit for small business and other measures, such as closing tax loopholes to ensure tax fairness. The one I mentioned earlier was the accelerated capital cost allowance in a question for the member opposite, a measure that would allow manufacturers to invest in equipment upgrades. There are other measures like extending the lifetime capital gains exemption to increase the rewards for investing in small business in Canada and closing tax loopholes to protect the inherent integrity and fairness of our tax system.
The number one priority of our government is creating jobs. The hiring tax credit recognizes the important role of small business in sustaining Canadian communities. Economic action plan 2013 proposes to extend and expand the temporary hiring credit for small businesses. The measure provides up to a $1,000 credit against an increase in EI premiums for businesses. Small businesses are the engines of job creation. This measure was first introduced in budget 2011. It helps defray the costs of taking on a new employee and permits local employers to take advantage of emerging economic opportunities. It is estimated some 560,000 small businesses could potentially benefit from this measure, saving them an estimated $225 million in federal taxes in 2013.
With regard to tax fairness, since 2006, including measures in the 2013 economic action plan, the government has introduced more than 75 measures to improve the integrity of our tax system. One example in budget 2013 is to close tax loopholes that permit certain individuals and/or institutions to avoid tax. Included are stiff penalties to curb a disturbing new trend, which is the electronic suppression of sales software that is designed to falsify records for the purpose of tax evasion.
Specifically, the following administrative money penalties and criminal offences apply. For using electronic suppression of sales software, there is an administrative monetary penalty of $5,000 for the first infraction and up to $50,000 on subsequent infractions. For possession and acquisition, there are even higher penalties for the manufacture, development, sale and possession. There are also criminal offences for those involved in this type of tax avoidance. Those measures are broadly supported by business and job creators across Canada. If I had time, I would quote the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, which issued a statement commenting on closing the tax loopholes and tax fairness measures in the budget. It concluded by saying that it supported efforts to maintain the integrity of our tax system.
The tax relief for new manufacturing and equipment is a very important measure, and there are many other measures in this budget that are important for advancing our economy and bringing us back to balanced budgets. I hope all the members opposite will join with us in passing these measures to keep Canada moving in the right direction.
Order, please. The member has been in the House for a number of years. He knows he is to address his comments to the Chair and not to other members.
The hon. member for Nanaimo—Alberni.
Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions today.
The first is from about 140 citizens in my riding of Nanaimo—Alberni. They are communities such as Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Coombs, Errington and Bowser. They wish to draw the attention of the House to concerns about genetically modified alfalfa. They note that it requires variety registration before it can be legally sold as seed in Canada, but it has already been approved for human consumption and environmental release and is currently planted in test plots in Canada. They are concerned about unwanted contamination by GM alfalfa and the impact that would have on organic farming.
Therefore, the petitioners are calling on Parliament to impose a moratorium on the release of genetically modified alfalfa.
Mr. Speaker, in terms of the early exchange that the member for Nanaimo—Alberni had with the member for Saint-Lambert, I wonder if the member would not agree with me that there is a difference between refugee claims, treating refugees and dealing with the refugee issue, and accelerating Canada's dealing with the immigration claims of those people who are seeking reconciliation with their families.
We have been arguing for a clear policy in the office in Beirut as well as in Amman that would allow those offices to deal on an accelerated basis with people who wish to be reconciled with their families in Canada and to make sure those claims are dealt with on an expedited basis because they are living in a refugee camp.
I hope the member would understand the difference between what we are asking for and what he is saying in terms of the broad issue of resettling all the refugees. I think everyone agrees that we do not resettle all the refugees until we can figure out whether there is a political solution available in Syria. However, that is different from the people who have a connection with Canada and with Canadians and whose claims are not being treated right now on an expedited basis.
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--
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Nanaimo—Alberni for his hard work and leadership.
In fact, today we are welcoming to Canada Peru's minister of national defence, Pedro Cateriano Bellido, and the commander of the Peruvian navy as well, admiral Carlos Roberto Tejada Mera.
Canada enjoys a strong relationship with Peru based on shared values, including democracy. I am pleased to tell the House that later today we will be signing a defence co-operation memorandum of understanding that will help guide our future defence relations in areas such as policy, peace, humanitarian operations, disaster response and military education and training.
This agreement strongly supports the growing ties between Canada and Peru and our government's leadership in the Americas.
Muchas gracias, mis amigos
Mr. Speaker, I can tell the member for Nanaimo—Alberni that Environment Canada enforcement officers are continuing their investigation into this alleged violation of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Environment Canada was not asked to approve this now self-confessed act. Environment Canada did not approve this demonstration of rogue science.
This government takes very seriously our commitment to protect the environment. Anyone who violates environmental laws should be prosecuted to the full extent.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand today and announce the first-ever “most likely to do the shuffle” awards.
Of course we start with the award for the champagne Conservative, the Minister of International Cooperation, but she should watch out because her colleagues are spending hard on limos and catching up.
As for the most costly photo op award, who else but our very own Minister of National Defence, who spent $47,000 on posing with an F-35 that cannot fly. It was not only very expensive, but also tragically ironic.
The be seen, not heard award goes to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. The minister spoke fewer than 600 words in question period. On his salary, that is $433 a word.
Last but not least, the award for least likely to make cabinet is a tie between the members from Kootenay—Columbia and Nanaimo—Alberni. Here is my advice: if they remove that independent thinking and insert talking points, they will be just fine in about 20 years.
I really do hope these awards help the Prime Minister as he tries to clean up this mess.
Mr. Speaker, Conservative MPs like the member for Nanaimo—Alberni are openly criticizing their government's decision to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard base and three marine communication centres in B.C. He correctly points out that B.C. is prone to regular earthquakes that can shut down communication stations and that maintenance issues with hovercraft will affect the crowded Vancouver port in English Bay. If the government will not listen to this House or to experts, will it at least listen to its own members and reverse this dangerous decision—
I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but I see many people rising.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Nanaimo—Alberni.
Mr. Speaker, I basically disagree with everything the member for Nanaimo—Alberni gave in his response to that last question, because he is just talking foolishness. However, I do respect my colleague a lot. He and I sat on the fisheries committee for many years, and I know he is very concerned about the fisheries.
Therefore, I ask him this: given the number of changes to fisheries and environment in this 425-page budget implementation bill that will change 70 pieces of legislation, does he, as a former member of the fisheries committee, really think that giving limited debate—and mainly to the finance committee—is fair to the fishermen and to the provinces concerned about fisheries? Does he think that the impact of basically transferring that responsibility from the feds to the provinces is really fair and does justice to this piece of legislation?
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to table, along with so many of my colleagues, a petition from 57,000 British Columbians who have stood up to say that we have to protect the north coast and legislate a ban on oil tankers to protect our coast forever.
These British Columbians who have wrote and have signed these petitions are from north Vancouver Island, Nanaimo—Alberni, Chilliwack, the North Shore of Vancouver, the Lower Mainland, Richmond and Surrey. They are also from interior communities in place like Kelowna, Prince George and Kamloops.
I now realize that these are communities where the MPs are Conservative. Therefore, we hope the government will listen to those 57,000 British Columbians who ask that it legislate a ban on oil tankers and protect the north coast of British Columbia forever.
Mr. Speaker, the Saskatoon Hilltops have done it again. In what is turning into a bit of rivalry, both on the field and, dare I say, on this side of the House, the Saskatoon Hilltops has once again defeated the Vancouver Island Raiders this past Saturday in the Canadian Junior Football League semi-final.
Last year, I had the pleasure of hosting my colleague, the member for Nanaimo—Alberni, in Saskatoon where my colleagues and I won a friendly bet on the outcome of the 2010 Canadian bowl final.
I congratulate the Saskatoon Hilltops and wish them all the best as they take on the Hamilton Hurricanes this coming Saturday where they will defend their Canadian Junior Football League championship title.
Mr. Speaker, as this is the first time on my feet in the 41st Parliament, I will take a moment to thank the great people of Edmonton Centre for trusting me for the third time to be their member of Parliament. I, and we, will not let them down.
I also thank my wife Judy, our children, Jennifer and Robb, and our son-in-law, Jeff for their love and support. I give a special thanks to our 15-month old grandson, Tyler, for being such a little trooper on election night and making his grandpa look good, as good as possible anyway.
Finally, none of us would be here without the hard work and dedication of great volunteers. I was certainly blessed with such a group. None of us would be here without people like that, and I thank them all very much.
Before I go on, let me just say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Nanaimo—Alberni.
It is my pleasure to take part in this important debate on Canada's contribution to the NATO campaign in Libya. I believe that we can all be proud that Canada is at the forefront of an international response to the crises in Libya.
The leadership that Canada continues to demonstrate on the international stage is truly impressive. Increasingly we are positioning ourselves as a go-to country, a country ever more committed to defending human rights and democratic values, a country ever more committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with its allies and partners and a country with the capacity to act.
For three months, Canada has been making critical whole of government contributions to the enforcement of United Nations Security Council resolution 1973. We are helping the international community protect Libyan civilians under threat of attack by a brutal regime. We are effectively enforcing the arms embargo and a no-fly zone over Libya.
The Canadian Forces have been a key component of Canada's engagement in Libya. Operation Mobile is the latest example of our military's ability to respond quickly and effectively to crises and unfolding events around the world. When called upon in reaction to the events in Libya, the Canadian Forces showed impressive readiness.
Within one day of being tasked by the Prime Minister, our navy was able to equip, configure and deploy HMCS Charlottetown to the Mediterranean, complete with an embarked CH-124 Sea King.
Our air force was equally professional in its response to the Canadian decision to participate in the enforcement of UN Security Council resolution 1973. It took mere hours for the men and women of 3 Wing Bagotville to prepare highly complex CF-18 fighter aircraft for deployment overseas, a deployment to a mission almost 7,000 kilometres away. Our CF-18s are providing a vital capability to the NATO-led efforts in Libya, a capability that is necessary for the success of the alliance's campaign.
In addition, our air force is contributing two CP-140 Auroras. These patrol aircraft are conducting critical surveillance and reconnaissance missions along the Libyan coast and are providing precious information to the coalition. The air force has also deployed one CC-150T Polaris and two CC-130T Hercules to Operation Mobile to conduct refueling operations. They provide millions of litres of fuel to both Canadian and allied aircraft.
Canada's military operations in Libya demonstrate an enduring and proven truth, that the men and women who make up our Canadian armed forces are dedicated, professional and always ready to defend Canada and Canadian interests.
The government has made it a core priority to deliver the capabilities that our soldiers, sailors and air personnel need to provide this excellent service. For the Canadian Forces to have the ability to act quickly and effectively, they must be well equipped and the members well trained and motivated at all times.
Canadians expect our military to be able to provide a unique capability. They expect our military to be ready to respond to crisis situations, either at home or around the world, with the necessary personnel, equipment and expertise.
This is why the Canadian government introduced the Canada first defence strategy in 2008. The Canada first defence strategy is a solid plan to modernize our military. It is a plan to make the right investments in the right mix of capabilities. It is our investment in the strategy that allows the level of readiness we have seen in the Canadian Forces response to the crisis in Libya. It is our investment in our Canadian Forces that enables a timely deployment of our assets where they are needed, whether at home or abroad.
By continuing to implement the Canada first defence strategy, we will ensure that the Canadian Forces can continue to demonstrate leadership abroad, that Canada continues to be a reliable ally and that we can continue to assume our duty when crises erupt, as we are doing right now in Libya.
We have already achieved great progress in the delivery of the Canada first defence strategy with solid investments across the four pillars that underpin military capabilities: equipment, infrastructure, personnel and readiness.
Over the past years, the government has invested in defence infrastructure development and renewal, new hangars, runways, housing units and medical facilities that are absolutely critical to the functioning of a modern military. Our men and women in uniform need the proper installations for research, development, training and maintenance of equipment.
We will continue to make these necessary investments as we strive toward our objective to replace or refurbish 50% of the existing defence infrastructure over a 20-year period. That is an awful lot of infrastructure.
At the same time, we are also investing in the Canadian Forces' most important asset: our people. We are fortunate to have such a highly dedicated and professional force. We ask much of our men and women in uniform and we have a responsibility to provide them with the necessary support.
We have taken many new measures to enhance care and support for serving members. For example, this winter the Minister of National Defence announced the launch of phase three of the Joint Personnel Support Unit with the opening of five new integrated personnel support centres. These centres provide a one-stop service for ill and injured Canadian Forces personnel, former personnel, their families and families of the deceased.
Last fall, the minister also announced new measures to address some of the needs of the Canadian Forces personnel who have suffered serious injuries in Afghanistan. These measures, amounting to $52.5 million over five years, will help us honour the sailors, soldiers and air personnel who have sacrificed so much for our country by establishing a legacy of care. We are also investing $140 million in a health information system that will help improve the care available to service personnel who need it.
Importantly, the government is also delivering on its commitment to renew core equipment capabilities of the Canadian Forces. In July 2009, the government announced that it would purchase new and upgraded existing land combat vehicles for the army. Replacing and upgrading these vehicles is essential to maintain the Canadian Forces' ability to effectively and successfully conduct the missions we ask them to undertake.
In renewing core capabilities, we also take advantage of emerging technologies that can further reduce the risks to our soldiers by offering them a higher level of protection. The upgrading of the light armoured vehicle III, as well as the acquisition of the tactical armoured patrol vehicle, the close combat vehicle and other vehicles improving force mobility are proceeding as planned.
We are pursuing a national shipbuilding procurement strategy under which the new joint support ships and Arctic offshore patrol ships will be built. We will also launch the definition phase for the Canadian surface combatant project, which will renew the navy's surface fleet by replacing our destroyers and frigates. These ships are essential to ensuring that the navy can continue to monitor and defend Canadian waters and make significant contributions to international naval operations.
We are also making great strides with the renewal of Canadian Forces' aerospace capabilities. We started to take delivery of our new fleet of CC-130J Hercules transport aircraft last year. The new aircraft is already a key contributor to military operations both at home and abroad. We are acquiring 15 F model Chinook helicopters, an aircraft that will become a crucial asset serving across the spectrum of Canadian Forces' operations.
Last year, we took delivery of the final updated CF-18 fighter aircraft, ensuring the extension of the fighter's life until the 2020 timeframe. The CF-18 modernization was essential to sustain the Canadian Forces' modern and interoperable fighter fleet.
To maintain our fighter capability beyond the 2020 timeframe, we will acquire our next generation fighter aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II. This will enable the air force to continue to operate effectively in the evolving security environment of the 21st century until well past 2050. Canada requires a fighter capability to defend the sovereignty of Canadian airspace, to remain a strong and reliable partner in the defence of North America through Norad and to ensure interoperability with key allies as part of international operations.
The current operations in Libya are the clearest demonstration of the need for a strong fighter capability, a fighter capability that allows the Canadian Forces to operate alongside our allies in NATO operations and a fighter capability that allows our military to continue to be a leader on the world stage.
The Canadian Forces are well equipped and well trained to make important contributions to the international efforts such as those in Libya. The government will continue to make the necessary investments in our military's capabilities in accordance with the tenets of the Canada first defence strategy. We will ensure that our men and women in uniform can continue to help build international peace and security like they are doing in Libya as we speak.
Sustaining our participation in NATO's operations will continue to demonstrate Canada's leadership, our commitment to NATO and our reliability as an ally and partner. I encourage parliamentarians to support the extension of the Canadian Forces' Operation Mobile and I am pleased to hear the general support I have heard today in Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Calgary Northeast on his re-election here.
I will blend the question that I posed to the member from Nanaimo—Alberni, along with the comments made by the hon. colleague from Winnipeg Centre, which is that the targeting of certain tax provisions is not making a lot of sense. Whether my three boys played hockey or took part in soccer was a decision made between my wife and I at the kitchen table. We did not sit down and say that we might save $70 this year because the government is giving us $70 back.
I am sure my accountant had access to those credits, but it is a loss to the treasury if there is not some kind of discernable positive change in behaviour. What we did not see was any increase in participation rates in this country because of that tax rate.
Are we targeting youth activity or are we targeting soccer moms?
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be engaging in this debate on budget 2011. I would first like to indicate that I will be splitting my time with the member for Calgary Northeast.
This budget was first introduced on March 23 in the 40th Parliament. We all know what happened at that time. The opposition parties avoided a vote on the budget by forcing an unwanted election, but it turns out it was an election that reshaped the political landscape. It proved to be politically costly for two of the three leaders. Mr. Ignatieff of course and Mr. Duceppe not only lost their own seats, but one lost official party status and the other party returned with a severely diminished caucus.
On May 2, Canadians returned to the 41st Parliament with a solid, stable, national Conservative government and an NDP official opposition. It was a surprise to some people. However, I find it interesting that in evaluating the electoral prospects the high school students apparently had it figured out before the pundits did. They selected a Conservative majority government with an NDP official opposition.
Allow me to express my congratulations to you as Assistant Deputy Speaker, to the Speaker and to the other Assistant Deputy Speaker, as well as to the Deputy Speaker on their elections and appointments.
I would also like to congratulate all of the members who returned to this House. It is an honour for them to represent the ridings that they come from.
As well, I would like to thank the electors in Nanaimo—Alberni for returning me for the fifth time to this 41st Parliament.
I would be remiss if I did not recognize my campaign manager and campaign team who worked diligently and my EDA board.
At our recent policy convention there were five resolutions from Nanaimo—Alberni brought up for discussion and two that actually passed into policy. There were very enthusiastic supporters from Nanaimo—Alberni. I thank them all for their participation in the process.
One thing that we heard from the caucus members, cabinet ministers and party activists at the convention that we took to heart is that we all have an obligation to engage our neighbours, to listen, to take the pulse of our communities and to stay in tune with what is happening in our communities. We are facing unprecedented change, not only in Canada but around the world and it will be incumbent upon all of us to ensure that we stay in tune with how these impacts are affecting our communities. I thank all of those folks who were responsible for that.
One other person I must thank is my wife of some 20 years now. These last 11 years in Parliament have been a big challenge for someone from the west coast who is travelling back and forth. We are away a lot from the island of paradise that we live on. Helen has stood by me faithfully all of the years I have been in Parliament. All members would know the level of stress that the commitment to our job can put on our families. I thank Helen for standing with me, for without her it would not have been possible.
This budget was well received on March 23. In fact, it was so well received that the finance minister thought he would introduce it again and on June 6 that is what he did.
There are many measures in the budget that we can discuss and that have been discussed today. There will be more to discuss as the debate continues.
One of the measures I want to highlight is the one involving seniors. Since coming to Parliament we have reduced the tax burden on seniors significantly. Over $2.3 billion has been given in annual tax relief since 2006 with the various measures that we have introduced taking some 85,000 seniors off the tax rolls. That includes pension income splitting, increasing the age credit amount by $1,000 twice for a total of $2,000 and doubling the pension income credit to $2,000. All of these measures together, along with increasing the guaranteed income supplement, are extremely important in lowering the tax burden on seniors.
I have heard some members say that the $600 a year for singles and the $840 for a married couple of the lowest income seniors amounts to nothing. I think they are remiss in not reflecting on the cumulative effect in shifting the tax burden away from seniors and doing our best to help our most vulnerable seniors.
There are many measures in the budget: a new children's arts tax credit of up to $500, a new family caregiver tax credit, a volunteer firefighters tax credit and extending the eco-energy retrofit. All of these are important for our communities. All of these benefit our communities. In some sectors of the community it takes the burden off people who contribute in a big way, like our volunteers firefighters.
I want to turn the children's fitness tax credit which was introduced earlier. It is only a $500 measure to help encourage people to engage their children in physical fitness. Many experts are concerned about the declining health of Canadians and we have to start with the children. It is a small measure, but it is a good measure. As we get to balanced budgets in the next few years, reducing that deficit year by year, we have a plan that is working. We will extend that measure, doubling it for children and extending it to adults as well.
I want to comment on that briefly. As a health professional for many years and a chiropractor for 24 years, a body man, I want to remind members that the human body has some 80 trillion to 100 trillion cells, some 200 different cell types and 25,000 miles of blood vessels. These cells do not last an entire lifetime. They are being replaced on a continual basis. There is some speculation. The exception is the nervous system, which is actually original equipment. Most of that is here for life and we had better protect it. We are replacing cells on a daily basis. Every 7 to 10 years, every bone cell is replaced.
This is relevant to the budget. Hon. members should be listening. They will enjoy this. When my wife and I are on the cycle path, when we are exercising, pushing the limits and pushing our bodies, we get a little tired sometimes. I encourage her by saying that it is tomorrow's body we are pushing for. It is today's activities that actually set the template for tomorrow's body.
In a similar manner the nutrition, the food we eat contributes to the body we are building for tomorrow. I hope as we move forward and as we are looking for sustainable solutions to our health care challenges that there will be more emphasis on wellness initiatives, more things that encourage positive health management on a personal health level and more incentives to promote a disease prevention strategy.
There are many measures in the budget to help people. I want to remind people that a couple of years ago in 2006, we hit an economic tsunami, a worldwide economic downturn. We had to act quickly, and indeed, that is what we did. We brought in some $60 billion in stimulus measures, outreach measures to help workers displaced, created incentives like job-sharing and a whole range of initiatives to help our communities. Part of that was the economic stimulus measures that brought jobs through some 25,000 projects across the country. On Vancouver Island many projects benefited our community. All of these projects helped to keep people employed during that difficult time.
Cumulatively, we have created over 540,000 jobs, all important, to keep people employed and keep our communities working. There was the home renovation tax credit during that phase that kept people working. In this budget we have the very popular eco-energy retrofit program extended that will encourage positive behaviour by encouraging people to invest in energy efficiencies for their homes: the windows, the doors, the insulation, the kinds of projects that keep people working in our community and contribute to energy savings in the community as well.
There is a whole range of issues that we have not addressed and I am down to my last minute, but there are positive measures for our small businesses with a hiring credit of up to $1,000 to encourage more hiring. There is support for youth entrepreneurs of some $20 million. We are reducing red tape. We are investing in clean energy technology and innovation and we are legislating the permanent gas tax funding for municipalities at some $2 billion a year. That is so important to our communities, many of which have infrastructure deficits and are counting on that money to help refurbish the infrastructure in our municipalities.
For all these reasons I encourage our colleagues to stand with us and support the budget. Let us work together and keep our country strong as we move forward, keep Canada's economy the best in the world. Let us develop all the potential we can in this country as we move ahead.
The electoral district of Nanaimo--Alberni (British Columbia) has a population of 121,434 with 95,882 registered voters and 286 polling divisions.
This action requires you to be logged into Politwitter. No regisrtation is required, just authenticate using your Twitter account.