Mr. Speaker, I am particularly pleased and honoured to rise today in the House of Commons to address the issue of the budget.
Our fourth budget continues the plan that is important for Atlantic Canadians. It is of particular importance to the people of New Brunswick in my riding of Fundy-Royal.
It is a plan that dwells on the competent fiscal and economic management that is reducing the deficit. It is a plan that is aimed at creating and continuing to create a climate for jobs and economic growth in both the short term and the long term. It is a plan that ensures the long term future for effective sustainable social programs and that invests in a stronger society through education, health and our children.
I will point out a few facts that have become very important especially to the people in my riding. Our fourth budget announces that this year's deficit is the lowest in 15 years. It represents the largest year over year decline in the federal deficit ever. By 1999 we will no longer need to borrow any new money from financial markets and we will have the lowest deficit in the G-7.
Our fourth budget is also the latest instalment in our efforts to clean up the unprecedented fiscal and economic mess that was left behind by previous governments. In January 1994 the deficit was at $42 billion and our unemployment rate stood at 11.4 per cent. Our indebtedness was threatening our very future and the very future of the social programs that are of such vital importance to Canadians, especially Atlantic Canadians. No wonder so many Canadians had given up hope until 1993. What a difference four Liberal budgets have made.
One thing our budget does not do is to sacrifice sound economic management and wise economic investments for short term political expediency. Other parties are only too keen to play politics with questionable across the board tax schemes, but this is not what Canadians want. With this our fourth budget we are trying not to let Canadians down.
When we took office Canadians knew that we needed to take tough decisions and that fundamental reforms were required. When we took office in 1993 Canada's fiscal mess was jeopardizing the very future of our cherished social programs. With more money going to bankers each year than to social programs, their prospects were increasingly bleak.
Throughout our mandate our government has taken steps to save Canada's social safety net. In just three and a half years, we have reformed all aspects of our social safety net. All aspects of our social safety net have been reformed: a new employment insurance system; a new Canada health and social transfer which provides the flexibility and certainty that provinces need to deliver services in health, post-secondary education and social assistance; an $11 billion cash floor in the CHST, not a cash ceiling; and a new seniors benefit which was created to better target those seniors in our society in the most need without affecting current seniors.
When we took office in 1993, Canadians had lost confidence but we knew that Canadians elected a Liberal government because they
trusted us to make decisions with compassion. We are building the social safety net of the future.
The 1997 budget announces the Canada child tax benefit, targeting more assistance to over a million Canadian families and their children to help those families escape the welfare trap.
Our youth employment strategy was announced to provide job opportunities for 110,000 young Canadians and to give young Canadians improved access to the federal youth programs which are presently worth more than $2 billion. We also believe it is important to ensure that all of our young people have access to good education. We have improved the system of student loans and education credits.
We have allocated $800 million for a new Canada innovation foundation which will be particularly helpful to our hospitals and universities in the province of New Brunswick.
We know that governments working together can do a better job in labour market training. Recognizing this, the federal government has turned over administration of labour market training to the provinces. As everyone knows, Alberta and New Brunswick have already signed ground breaking agreements.
The National Forum on Health recently made a number of recommendations to improve health care. The 1997 budget provides for $300 million over the next three years to implement key recommendations of the national forum. Social union discussions between the federal and provincial governments are setting out our principles of the safety net for the future and the management of our future.
Our commitment to the principles of the Canada Health Act is unequivocal. These principles will be enforced as they have been throughout our mandate. We will not only protect medicare, we will work in partnership with the provinces to improve it and to strengthen it.
We will take action to ensure that our health care dollars are spent more effectively and efficiently. We will bring the system up to date to respond to the changing health needs of Canadians and to respond to the advances which are being made to medical practices.
The National Forum on Health stated that the transition to a better system in the future requires some targeted investments today. That is why our fourth budget provides $300 million over the next three years to implement key recommendations of the national forum. Every single dollar will go to the delivery of better health care for Canadians.
We are also providing $150 million over the next three years for the health transition fund to help provinces launch pilot projects to investigate new and better approaches to health care. I believe the province of New Brunswick is already on the leading edge of developing important new projects for this important transition fund.
As I conclude, it is important to remember that today while unemployment is at 9.7 per cent, we will not be satisfied until every Canadian and every New Brunswicker who wants to work can get a job. We need to build on what works. Despite the cutbacks in the public sector, we have created 700,000 jobs since 1994. This year alone we will create 300,000 new jobs. Our jobs strategy is working.