Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to rise today to speak to the budget, which is currently being discussed by my colleagues on both sides of the House.
I would like to take the liberty of putting this new budget into context, so that its vision of where we are heading becomes clearer.
Many members of the House have spoken in the chamber about the budget. One unique perspective I would like to add is how the budget reflects the specific needs of communities, such as the one I have the honour to represent.
On that note, I would like to thank the constituents of West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country, commonly known as the most beautiful place on earth, for honouring me with the privilege of serving them a second time.
I also want to thank local leaders, including the mayors, the MLAs, the first nations chiefs and others who have worked so closely with me to generate the results achieved under the first phase of the economic action plan, which concentrated on economic stimulus and prepared the groundwork for the phase we are now debating in the House, the low tax plan for jobs and growth.
Together, we showed in the first phase of the economic action plan that we can achieve anything as a community. We Canadians are diverse, industrious and entrepreneurial, and the people I represent showed skills of communication and collaboration that allowed us together to initiate and complete over 120 projects under the first phase of the economic action plan.
The member for Burnaby—New Westminster said earlier today in question period that he yearned for open, transparent and honest public consultation. That is what we saw in the first phase of the economic action plan.
Time after time, we saw the magic of priorities driven by each local community in the riding I represent, including Squamish, Whistler, the Sunshine Coast, Powell River, West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Bowen Island and Lions Bay. The steps to strengthen cultural identity, develop critical infrastructure and invest in the health and safety of all of our communities were steps that we saw adroitly taken. Most important, we created jobs, including many of the 560,000 new jobs created under Canada's economic action plan since July 2009.
This is a plan that has put our country atop the world for our economic recovery. Why? Because our government worked closely with each local community.
What did we achieve in Squamish? We achieved support for the West Coast Railway Museum, for small craft harbours, for sewer and water main upgrades, for biking and hiking trails and for seniors' housing units.
What did we achieve in Whistler? We achieved support for the World Ski and Snowboard Festival and for Whistler Crankworx, the great biking festival; for the Whistler Public Library; for the arts council; for the Whistler Centre for Sustainability and for upgrades to Highway 99.
What did we achieve on the Sunshine Coast? Support for the pulp and paper industry, for public transit lines, for an improved Pender Harbour authority, for fitness centres, aquatic centres and highway improvements.
What did we achieve in Powell River? Support for the pulp and paper industry yet again, green energy hydro projects, harbour upgrades, water system upgrades and for sports facilities.
What did we achieve for the North Shore, for West and North Vancouver? We achieved a replacement of the ageing Blue Bridge; the provision of new bus lanes, which we commissioned only last weekend; upgrades to water and sewage facilities; a new artificial turf field, a spirit trail and other community amenities.
The magic that applies to all of these projects is not only that they generated jobs and stimulated the economy, but even more important that they came about as priorities generated by each community, borne of close communication and collaboration among all levels of government.
As we contemplate the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, the budget before us, Canadians are pleased to see once again their priorities reflected in the budget.
Uniformly, during the election campaign and throughout my first term in office, I heard members of my communities articulate three economic priorities for our government: first, to increase jobs; second, to support those in our communities who needed it most; and third, to respect our environment and, in doing so, drive the economy. I am proud to say that the low tax plan for jobs and growth embraces all of these priorities.
First, the budget before us will create more jobs. Notable is the hiring credit, which this year will encourage our riding's many small business owners to hire new employees and small business people across the country to do the same. On the international scene, our government continues to invest in the most successful Asia-Pacific Gateway project.
Second, our government is committed to supporting those in our communities who need it most. For our ridings' eligible seniors, starting in 2012 the low tax plan for jobs and growth will offer an annual benefit of $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples above what is currently offered.
For families with disabled family members, our government introduced and strengthened the registered disability savings plan. For our ridings' many students, our government plans this year to strengthen RESPs. We also plan to improve the Canada student grants program and the textbook tax credit. Our government will furthermore exempt scholarship and bursary income from students' taxable incomes, saving students thousands of dollars each year.
For families with children, programs, such as the universal child care benefit introduced in 2006, continue to offer greater choice in care by providing $100 per month for each child under six years old. I am particularly proud that our government has established a 15% volunteer firefighter tax credit, a measure for which I advocated on behalf of firefighters in our ridings. This credit will support the heroic men and women who voluntarily put themselves in harm's way to save the lives of friends and neighbours.
Third, our government is paving the way in making environmental sustainability a hallmark of our economic growth. The 2009 economic action plan provided $1 billion through the pulp and paper green transformation program, which assisted local employers in the riding I represent, such as those in Powell River and on the Sunshine Coast.
This year our government will build on that investment in our low tax plan for jobs and growth by contributing a further $97 million over two years for research and development of cleaner energy technologies. Such initiatives promise to help the people of our riding responsibly to enjoy the abundance for which we Canadians are famous.
These are concrete plans every Canadian can understand. We are on track, reflecting their priorities using taxpayers' dollars responsibly, creating jobs, helping people who most need the help and ensuring we act as efficient stewards of our most wonderful environment.
We are doing all of this without increasing taxes or cutting social services. We are doing all of this while wrestling the deficit to zero by 2014. We are doing all of this as a community. We, in West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, join together with all Canadians proving time and again that no good thing is impossible. We are doing all of these things together. Our government is serving Canadians for today, for tomorrow and for future generations.