House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am talking about the connection between poverty and seniors. Unfortunately, a large percentage of people age 55 and over in the regions are losing their jobs. They are facing significant technological changes and they need help acquiring certain skills so that they can remain in the job market. These people, who are having difficulty reintegrating into the job market, along with those whose pensions will not be indexed to a reasonable level, will find themselves in precarious situations and, yes, there will be even longer lines at the food banks. According to all the information I currently have about my riding, food banks' budgets will not be increased this year.

Allow me to digress for a moment. My predecessor, who was a colleague of the members opposite, was supposed to attend a meeting to confirm $40,000 in funding for Moisson Kamouraska. He forgot to attend the meeting, which was scheduled to take place six months ago. Moisson Kamouraska is still waiting for the $40,000. I hope that this is not representative of the consideration the members opposite give to the needs of food banks.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House today to speak to budget 2011. I will be sharing my time with the member for Sarnia—Lambton.

I am very pleased with the excellent budget put forward by our finance minister . I want to note some of the accomplishments in the budget and how it will help Canadians significantly.

Prior to the budget that was presented, initially in March and more recently again, many members of Parliament embarked upon prebudget consultations in their own ridings. I had the pleasure of doing that in Barrie. In looking back on the comments we received in our community, it is interesting to see how this budget really reflects the aspirations and concerns of Canadians

At four different prebudget town hall meetings that I held, we managed to have consultations and submissions from a wide variety of people in the community of Barrie. We had submissions from city councillors, school board trustees, members of the Chamber of Commerce, doctors, nurses, emergency services personnel, seniors, students, business owners and the mayor of Barrie. We also had an active electronic survey and we received significant feedback through that.

Each of the participants provided insightful contributions from different aspects of our city. Many shared the same concerns as all Canadians: ensuring good jobs are available, keeping low taxes and investing in long-term growth. I heard about the need to better support small business and local industry. I heard about retirement savings, the rising cost of energy and the challenges facing our most vulnerable seniors. I heard pleas for more doctors in underserviced areas, concerns over the health of our citizens and the future of our growing city. I believe budget 2011 did an excellent job in meeting those concerns.

Initially I wanted to talk a little about infrastructure, for which this budget has a fair amount. The city of Barrie has had tremendous infrastructure needs. We have had a 6% growth rate over 10 years. The submissions made by members of the city of Barrie task force on my budget consultations were that stable infrastructure funding was important and that the gas tax revenues had been very helpful, but that it was the sense of stability, the sense of planning that was needed for municipalities.

John Brassard, a city councillor in Barrie, said how impressed he was with the funding toward municipalities and that the grant should continue. Councillor Brassard said that infrastructure was intimately linked to economic development and enables a city to compete for jobs.

Making the gas tax funding transfers to municipalities permanent is a welcome sign in budget 2011. I applaud the Minister of Finance for taking this critical initiative. Putting this into law, the permanent annual investment of $2 billion in gas tax funding for cities and towns will allow for long-term municipal infrastructure planning and budgeting.

When I was a city councillor in Barrie for five years prior to 2005, I remember how difficult it was for municipalities and how strained they were for resources. It is pretty significant that we now see municipalities with a stable partner with the federal government helping them with their infrastructure needs.

Prior to our government first being elected in 2006, Barrie was receiving just under $2 million a year. These transfers have steadily increased under our government and currently the transfer for Barrie is approaching $7 million annually. That is typical for cities across Canada. They have seen a steady and consistent increase.

The passing of budget 2011 means that Barrie can count on these funds year after year to assist in meeting our local commitments and will continue to help ease the burden on property taxpayers.

In terms of tax reductions, this budget also helps businesses and Canadians in many respects. I am pleased that our government did not follow the call from other parties in the House to roll back the series of graduated business tax reductions passed by a majority of parliamentarians in 2007. Some parties even wanted to roll back and increase the burden on business by saddling them with taxes surpassing the pre-2007 levels. These reductions were designed to keep Canada competitive with our trading partners and our government understood the strategy was working for Canadian business.

Sybil Goruk, the executive director of the Greater Barrie Chamber of Commerce, put it best when she wrote to me to voice her concerns about this alarming call for increases to corporate taxes. After she read the Bank of Canada January report, which noted that 44% of Canadian firms expected to invest more in productivity-enhancing machinery and equipment in the years ahead, Sybil wrote:

Consistency and reliability in government policy are critical factors in business decision-making. Businesses across the country have invested with the understanding that taxes would decline. A sudden change of course would constitute a broken promise to thousands of businesses and the many people they have employed based on that promise.

Our government kept its promise and I am very glad the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Barrie Chamber of Commerce recognize the importance of keeping business taxes low.

In terms of creating jobs, this budget is a victory for Canadians in that sense. Creating jobs in a community is as important as anything else. Small business plays a significant economic role in cities such as Barrie. It is the lifeblood of our economy. Business owners told me that investment in their operations would promote growth and create more jobs in the community.

All too often my community of Barrie has seen small businesses come and go, particularly in the downtown core. Rod Jackson, a former city councillor and a human resources manager, stressed that it was important the government have incentive programs for small businesses that could be implemented at all levels of government. These programs should not only help start up business, but should also help existing companies stay open.

Budget 2011 addresses many of those requests. Two examples are: extending the accelerated capital cost allowance to help manufacturers make new investments in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment; and enhancing programs to help businesses keep workers, like work sharing programs, the wage earner protection program and the targeted initiative for older workers.

However, the aspect of budget 2011 that will be really helpful is the hiring credit for small businesses. It is a terrific yet cost effective way of encouraging small businesses to hire workers instead of putting it off to another year.

In terms of helping young people, budget 2011 is a victory for young Canadians. Another aspect of job creation comes from young students who are making the transition from school to the workforce. In Barrie we are lucky enough to have Georgian College, along with many university partnerships with Georgian, supplying the city with well-educated graduates. Joe Rockbrune, who is a small business owner and was on our prebudget consultations, made the point that it was critical to find that transition and that it was important for young people to have help finding the jobs that await them.

There are several things this budget does to stimulate the economy and invest in job growth. I am also happy to see the government investing $20 million in the Canadian Youth Business Foundation. By supporting the youth entrepreneurs of today, we are helping our young people succeed and become leaders of tomorrow.

One of my favourite aspects of budget 2011 is the $100 million set aside for brain disorders. I had the pleasure over the last year and a half of sitting on the neurological disorder subcommittee in Parliament that studied the black hole we have with brain and neurological disorders. The one thing we heard again and again was that government needed to focus on this. I will be honest when I say that there was very little hope that something would happen this soon. To see our Minister of Finance focus on that area, which rarely gets attention, is a tremendous thing.

I think of people in my riding, like Derek Walton, who, despite having ALS for eight years and being restricted to a wheelchair, skydives to raise funds for research. I think of Jeanette Elliott, who is a volunteer working non-stop for the MS Society, or Greg McGinnis, who is doing the same thing for the Parkinson Society. All of these efforts are to raise funds for research. To see the federal government invest in such a meaningful way is something very special about budget 2011 in terms of its focus on neurosciences.

I just want to add one other point that was helpful in budget 2011, and that is the comments I heard from seniors about needing more help. There are lots of low-income seniors across Canada and Barrie is no exception. I know the increase to the GIS will be welcomed. It is a very helpful part of budget 2011.

I commend my colleague, the Minister of Finance, on delivering a budget that is responsible and proactive on behalf of all Canadians. The low tax plan for jobs and growth meets many of the requests I heard from my constituents. On behalf of the people of Barrie, I thank him and his team for their hard work.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I hear my hon. colleague talking about a budget that really reflects the concerns of Canadians, and I have to wonder.

Hearing my colleague's comments, I could not help but think of a single mother I met during the election campaign who is living in poverty and who was recently diagnosed with cancer. Long before her diagnosis, this woman had to fight to have access to health care, proper treatment and affordable drugs. She still has to fight today, although one would think the opposite given her situation. One would think she should be getting the help she needs and that she deserves.

How can the member call this budget a complete success when it does not offer sufficient measures to work with the provinces to improve public health care?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

June 13th, 2011 / 5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to have a question on health care because I believe that this budget was a tremendous investment in, and a tremendous victory for, health care.

We saw an increase of 6% to health care transfers. Let us look at the contrast with how it used to be. The last time there was a significant recession in the 1990s, the government of the day cut health care. To see a government invest in health care despite the fragile economic recovery and to invest in such a meaningful way shows that it is a government that cares profoundly about health care.

I would add to that. It is interesting to hear this question from the NDP members, because when they were in power provincially in Ontario during the recession their response was to actually cut medical enrolment. So the doctor shortages we face in Canada, especially in Ontario, are because of that ill thought-out decision. We cannot attack health care in the middle of a recession.

Our finance minister did the opposite. He invested in health care. I think that is a wonderful thing.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to thank the member for his work on the subcommittee on neurological disorders. He certainly deserves praise for that from all members of the House.

The other issue, if I may go to the health care issue just to point out something, he talked about a commitment the government is making and investments in health care. I think we had better wait until 2014 before we decide to make a decision on that. The mechanisms we are using now to invest come from 2004. Stay tuned is probably the best advice I can give on that one.

The other issue I want to talk about is municipalities. The member talked about infrastructure. One of the biggest issues coming out of rural parts of the country is just how difficult it can be to come up with that one-third commitment.

Would the hon. member consider the formula to be very difficult for some of the smaller communities? Would he suggest that the Treasury Board should consider changing some of these formulas so that it is easier for the smallest of communities to receive funding on infrastructure?

For example, there is a new waste water regulation that is going to be particularly onerous to smaller communities because they will have to come within regulation of the environment. It is going to be a devastating situation because a lot of these smaller communities just cannot afford it.

Would the hon. member consider that as a way for the Treasury Board to reconsider some of its formulas?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I remember prior to the economic stimulus program that there were questions and comments saying that there would not be enough applications because municipalities could not afford the one-third.

In retrospect, one interesting thing is the fact that the challenge was not having enough applications from municipalities hoping to have an economic stimulus grant, it is that there were actually too many applications. Municipalities and towns of all sizes were excited to have a partner in the federal government. There were literally hundreds and hundreds, and thousands and thousands of applications that flowed in with regard to infrastructure.

With respect to which formula works best, whether it is one-third or different percentages, obviously all levels of government have to share the burden of infrastructure costs. I think every level of government is pressed.

I believe the federal government has been very generous in infrastructure. If we look at the period of the last few years, this is a period of record levels of infrastructure investment. The federal government is certainly doing its part.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for sharing his time with me this afternoon.

It is a great honour to return to Ottawa as the federal representative for Sarnia—Lambton. I wish to thank my constituents for expressing their faith in me to carry forward their perspectives on issues of importance across our riding. I pledge to do this with honour and integrity.

I would like to take a moment to thank several people who worked tirelessly during the election. First, my family, Bill, Will, Tina and Josh; my campaign manager, Mike Hanki, who has led me through three successful federal campaigns; my EDA members who performed various roles during the campaign: the official agent, the computer team, the sign team, all the volunteers who worked hard to make my success possible and a big thanks to my dedicated volunteers who worked so many hours on the “get out to vote” aspect of the campaign.

Also, I would like to thank the citizens of Canada, who have decided that seven years of unstable minority parliaments were not helping our country position itself on the right track to prosperity and success. I thank these Canadians for electing a stable Conservative majority government; the first majority government to lead our nation since the year 2000.

I would like to express my congratulations to all parliamentarians who have sought and gained election to Canada's House of Commons in the recent 41st election. We should never forget that our communities sent us here to represent their wishes. We have a special responsibility to the regions we represent. I look forward to serving the 41st Parliament with all the members in the House.

I am speaking today in support of the 2011 budget document which is the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. I have full confidence in the fiscal agenda laid out for Canada in the budget. It is regretful that we have had to go through an election first in order to table this important business for our nation and in order to pass the urgent measures contained within the 2011 budget document.

However, we are now fully able to reflect the wishes of Canadians to provide a stable and prosperous economic blueprint for our nation.

With certainty, the most pressing issue for Canadians is with the continued prosperity of our nation. Strong fiscal leadership has been the prerequisite for international leaders since the great recession of 2008 and none has shown greater leadership than our own Prime Minister and finance minister.

We know that there are still very serious issues that Canada continues to confront, including a sovereign debt crisis across the eurozone and threats of increased conflict abroad. Even Mother Nature seems intent on doing all she can to make the recovery efforts of nations across the globe as difficult as possible.

With these issues in mind, Canada requires strong leadership on matters of fiscal policy. I would argue we have just that with the current team in place to lead Canada forward.

Speaking to the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, I am pleased to see several specific measures that will enhance Canadian prosperity during these difficult times. I am very pleased to also see several broad measures that I consider to be of the utmost importance moving forward for our national economy. This low-tax plan for jobs and economic growth will preserve Canada's advantage in the international economy. It contains measures to strengthen the financial security of Canadian workers, seniors, families and students, and will grant our nation the stability needed to move strongly into the future.

In Sarnia—Lambton, businesses have been hard hit by the global economic downturn. Despite the difficulties that firms faced, I know that measures brought forward by this government in our previous budgetary responses to the economic downturn helped businesses survive as best they could in the past three years. This is why I support the initiatives taken by the government in the next phase of the economic action plan to support job creation. These measures include the provision of a temporary hiring credit for small business to encourage additional hiring in this sector. Small business needs this kind of support. It is a major incubator in not just Ontario but every province and territory. Canadian entrepreneurs need this support put in place and this budget will help them.

The extension of the work-sharing program, in addition to supporting the manufacturing sector through the extension of the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance, will have a significant impact on allowing businesses to expand during these difficult times and is supported by businesses in my riding of Sarnia—Lambton.

The same can be said for investments in the next phase of the economic action plan that will support innovation in Canada's farming, forestry, and mining communities.

As a member of Parliament with a strong municipal background from my years as both mayor and county warden of my community, I fully understand the importance of having long-term stable funding for infrastructure projects like road rehabilitation. This is why I strongly support the measure contained in the 2011 budget to legislate a permanent annual investment of $2 billion to the gas tax fund to provide stable funding for Canadian municipalities. I know with certainty that this is welcomed by municipalities across Canada and I ask my colleagues in the House to support this urgently needed measure.

Beyond the measures that target job creation in the next phase of the economic action plan, it is important to note the strong support we are prepared to give to families and communities. For example, we have provided financial support to increase the guaranteed income supplement for seniors who rely on the OAS payments to get by. We know there are Canadian seniors facing financial hardships and we want to help them out.

As a long-serving member of the Standing Committee on Health, I have a strong grasp on the issue of health human resources. I know it is difficult to get new doctors and nurses to go into rural communities to serve. In order to attract more doctors and nurses to these under-serviced regions, the Government of Canada has come up with a very practical solution. It will forgive up to $40,000 of the federal component of Canada's student loans for doctors and up to $20,000 for nurse practitioners and nurses. This is a very good first step toward addressing the shortage of health human resources in our rural areas.

Of course, there is more that can be done for families and communities. With this in mind, the Government of Canada is providing three new creative tax credits to assist families, including the new $2,000 family caregiver tax credit, the new children's art tax credit and a new $3,000 volunteer firefighter tax credit for volunteer firefighters who perform at least 200 hours of service in their communities. In addition, the Government of Canada has committed $870 million over two years to address climate and air quality issues, including the extension of the eco-energy retrofit homes program. Many people in my community called for the reintroduction of the eco-energy program.

Furthermore, I wish to speak in favour of this government's commitment to deficit reduction. The fiscal track record of this government is very strong, with billions being paid off our national debt up until the moment the global economic downturn struck our economy. During that recessionary period, the G20 world leaders determined that strong fiscal stimulus was required by member nations to ensure the global economy could bounce back. Canada tabled its own plan for stimulus, the original economic action plan that the 2011-12 budget is a continuation of.

During the first two years of our national response to the global economic challenges facing Canada, we did indeed utilize deficit financing in order to finance urgent infrastructure projects, to assist struggling industrial sectors and overall to help stabilize our economy in the face of the largest economic downturn since the end of World War II. I would be remiss if I were not to mention that although this government developed a very reasonable stimulus response, other parties in the House were calling for hundreds of billions of dollars in spending, a level that would have been irresponsible and negligent.

Canadians have spoken during the recent election and they support the Conservative Party of Canada's plan to get our economy back on track and to end the deficit spending currently taking place. Once we get back to a balanced budget, Canada will again be in a prime position to begin paying down our national debt or to take measures that may be necessary should a double-dip recession take hold due to outside pressures associated with the global economy.

The one last measure I would like to voice my support for is the call for the creation of the common securities regulator to act across Canada. With a single securities regulator, we will not only cut back on red tape at the provincial level, but we will move toward a more balanced and internationally recognizable system of monitoring our various financial sectors in Canada. I support the finance minister's actions on this file and I call on Parliament to stand behind the government and support us on this matter.

I appreciate the time today to share these important items with hon. members. I feel it is nothing less than urgent for all parties to support the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. Canadians have strongly registered their support for the new government and since we ran a platform based on this very document and won the most recent election to form a majority government, I feel it is incumbent on all MPs in the House of Commons to stand beside the Canadians they represent and support the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot of talk about job creation from the government lately. But I must point out in this House that the government has announced huge job cuts within the Government of Canada. This seems to be a bit of a “not in my backyard” policy.

The government also seems to be allergic to a certain type of economic development. Take, for example, the co-operative model in Quebec. Desjardins has been a huge economic success and is a great economic model. This model has not lost its place in terms of economic development. Economic development can take different forms.

Canada seems to have become much richer as a country, but in reality, it is 20% of our richest citizens who have increased their revenues and, therefore, their wealth. I have a quote from the National Council of Welfare:

Canada has posted the strongest employment growth in the G7, but it is also one of the G7 countries in which there are the greatest income disparities among families. Poverty in a rich country is not inevitable; it is the result of bad policies.

Does the government plan on introducing a real program to eliminate poverty?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the hon. member to this House and certainly look forward to working with her over the next four years.

We know that this new budget covers a wide aspect of issues. We also know, as the member across has stated, that Canada has done well in coming out of this recession, much better than other countries. We have done it because of the policies that have been put in place by this government and we will continue to do that.

The latest budget that the minister has put forward certainly covers many things that will bring great benefit to many people across a wide spectrum in this country. It involves job creation. It supports families, communities and municipalities. There is not just one thing in this budget. This is a budget that affects everyone in this country. It is a budget that has been widely supported and I would encourage the member opposite to support it as well.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member caught my ear when she made reference to this budget in that it is innovative for our farmers. The first thing that came across my mind was what the government is actually doing to the wheat farmers in the prairies of Manitoba.

The vast majority of the wheat farmers do not support the actions the government is taking regarding the Wheat Board. How is it that the government sees fit to give the impression that it is being supportive of the wheat farmer while at the same time the wheat farmer does not want to lose the Wheat Board?

Can the government not listen and at least allow for a plebiscite, so that we can hear and act firsthand on what the prairie wheat farmers actually want as opposed to the government of the day wiping the Wheat Board out without the support of the wheat farmer?

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the member back to the House. I look forward to working with him as well over the next four years.

This government believes in equality and that is one of the big issues. We believe that the western farmer deserves the same freedoms and advantages that other farmers in this country have and enjoy. That is one thing we stand up for very strongly.

There are many other things in this budget that are going toward the agriculture industry. There is $100 million over five years for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to improve food inspection. That is very important in this day and age, particularly when we hear of the food incidents that are happening. There are many things in here that are going to help the agriculture industry, the hog industry, and the commercialization of agricultural innovation.

We do believe in equality and we will try to help the agriculture industry right across the country.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

I want to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, and the other Speakers who have been appointed to be the pilots in the House of Commons to ensure that everyone gets fair and equitable time on the floor.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Kitchener Centre.

As this is my first speech in the 41st Parliament, I would like to take the opportunity to thank a few people who worked so hard for me in the last election. First of all, I want to thank my family, especially my husband and my children, who supported me in a major way to get re-elected.

I want to thank John Feldsted, who was my campaign manager, and Kaz Malkiewicz, who was my official agent and worked so hard to ensure that the campaign was run very well.

I want to especially thank the Kildonan--St. Paul Electoral District Association. These people are dedicated and they worked very hard.

My thanks also go to the number of volunteers who came in every day to go door-to-door and who worked hard to ensure I was elected. I am pleased to say that it was a resounding victory.

Last but not least, I want to say a special thanks to the constituents of Kildonan--St. Paul, who have asked me to return to Ottawa to represent their concerns and their values.

Kildonan--St. Paul is an amazing riding. It has diverse ethnic groups. I am just so pleased to stand here in the House of Commons to speak to this budget today representing those constituents.

As the member of Parliament for Kildonan--St. Paul, there is no more important responsibility placed on me than accounting for the finances of our federal government. I have to give a special congratulations to our Prime Minister. History will tell that we have the best prime minister that this country has ever had.

I also want to congratulate our finance minister, who has done yeoman's work. He listened to Canadians and associations, and groups all across this country to produce a balanced approach in the budget, an approach that will stabilize Canada's economy, an approach that will keep people working and families in their homes. The budget addresses many of the issues that families are concerned with on a daily basis.

I have to congratulate the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister for ensuring that commerce and trade, business, and public safety are well balanced. Our country is well ahead of many other countries. We have very strong leadership. The last election proved that to be true. Canadians have a stable Conservative majority government that will continue to serve the public in the next four years. This was a real vote of confidence from the people of Canada and a special thanks to the people of Canada for giving us this opportunity.

Today we live in an age of global fiscal uncertainty. However, our Conservative government has taken significant measures to ensure Canadians can prosper, provide for their families, and strengthen our economy.

On June 6, 2011, the Minister of Finance presented the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a low tax plan for jobs and growth. The budget focuses on four key priorities: first, supporting job creation; second, supporting families and communities; third, investing in innovation, education and training; and fourth, preserving Canada's fiscal advantage. This is very important to the economy and growth of our country.

During the last election, many of my constituents took the time to share with me their concerns and priorities. Among the issues raised, there was a clear and consistent theme: my constituents wanted our government to provide for Canada's seniors, who have invested their lives to build our great nation.

They wanted support and tax relief provided for their families. They wanted our streets to be kept safe from violent criminals. In particular, they wanted to support small businesses because, like infrastructure, they are the engines that support our economy all across this nation. As well, what continually came forward was providing support for our brave volunteer firefighters.

Having listened carefully to the presentation of the budget last week, clearly I am delighted that our Minister of Finance has carefully and thoughtfully constructed a budget that addresses the needs of my constituents in Kildonan—St. Paul and indeed addresses the needs of Canadians all across our nation.

Since 2006, our government has provided significant assistance to seniors. It has provided over $2.3 billion in annual tax relief for seniors and pensioners, and removed over 85,000 seniors from the tax rolls. However, there is more to be done in my riding and across our nation.

By enhancing the GIS, eligible low income seniors will receive an additional annual top up benefit of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples. During the last election, as I was having coffee parties and speaking to seniors groups, they were absolutely delighted with that. It was a long time coming. They were very happy that this would happen under a stable Conservative government. This represents an investment of more than $300 million per year. This measure will further improve the fiscal security and well-being of more than 680,000 seniors across our nation.

An additional $10 million was put into the budget for the very important new horizons for seniors program to promote volunteerism, mentorship, the social participation of seniors, and to expand awareness of elder abuse. This enhanced support will further the program's objectives by funding a greater number of projects. In my riding, this new horizons for seniors program has done much good. Seniors get together, they socialize, they learn, and they grow. It has been a catalyst for promoting many wonderful things for our seniors.

Also, an additional $50 million will be used to extend the targeted initiative for older workers.

Support and tax relief for families has been well-established through this budget. That is why the 15% non-refundable new children's arts tax credit of up to $500 in eligible fees for programs associated with children's artistic, cultural, recreational and development activities is something that is very beneficial to families.

Many families are in what we call the sandwich generation whereby they are taking care of elders. The 15% non-refundable new family caregiver tax credit on an amount of $2,000 for caregivers of all types is very important, especially for relatives that they are taking care of.

There are many other things such as the enhanced medical expense tax credit; the eco-energy retrofit program, that the member from Sarnia has just talked about; and the benefits to help students. These have enhanced families to such an extent that they can balance their budgets, look forward to educating their children, and look forward to having a balanced, stable budget from the government.

We have cut taxes over 120 times since forming government. We have cut the personal income tax rate to its lowest level of 15%. We have removed over one million Canadians from the tax rolls. We have increased the amount Canadians can earn tax free. We have reduced the GST from 7% to 5%, putting nearly $1,000 back in the pockets of an average family. We have done many more things. We have introduced the universal child care benefit, offering families more choice in child care.

We have done many other things to build families, enhance their ability to grow their families, and to prosper in this country.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, in its budget, the government talks about helping businesses and entrepreneurs, but who will truly benefit from this help? Some people are worried, and that is understandable. We need only look at the billions of dollars that have been given to the most profitable companies.

In my riding of Pierrefonds—Dollard, there are many small family businesses. They are very common in my riding. I would like to know what this government plans to do for these businesses in my riding.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the new member to the House of Commons. It is so great to see younger and very enthusiastic MPs, as we all are.

Job creation is one of the most important things that our government has supported. The next phase of Canada's economic action plan is investing $1 million over two years to ensure that more employers and unions benefit from Labour Canada's preventive mediation program.

Ultimately all Canadians, including those in my province of Manitoba, will benefit from fewer work stoppages and greater economic stability. That speaks to some of the concerns the member has expressed this afternoon. This has been a big issue in our country.

Our finance minister and the Prime Minister have addressed that, and it is just one of the many issues they have addressed.

Financial Statement of the Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question for the hon. member is a very specific one.

On several occasions the member mentioned the word “non-refundable”. She talks about tax credits for artistic programs for young people. She talks about a home caregiver tax credit, again non-refundable. She talks about a tax credit for volunteer firemen, again non-refundable.

Does she appreciate the fact that people on low income will not be able to take advantage of these because they do not have taxable income? What does the member have to say about that disparity?