Mr. Speaker, the overall thrust of this budget has been restoring Canada's fiscal health. The deficit for 1996-97 will be no more than $19 billion; $5.3 billion less than the target of $24.3 billion set in the 1996 budget.
The target for 1997-98 is $17 billion and for 1998-99 it is $9 billion. By 1998-99 the deficit is expected to be 1 per cent of GDP with no new borrowings. On top of that these projections are based on prudent assumptions and include a contingency reserve to cover any unpredictable events.
There is more to this budget than just the figures I have talked about, particularly for the agricultural community. I know the chairman of the standing committee on agriculture is going to be very interested in what I have to say about this. This is the national advantage. It is by far a better way of looking at agriculture than what the Reform Party, heckling me from the other side, has come up with so far.
All stakeholders in our agriculture and agri-food sector stand to gain substantially in net benefits from being included within the larger Canadian federation. Together as a strong and modern unified nation we as an industry are indeed much greater than the mere sum of our individual parts. That is what the Reform regional approach is about.
By being Canadian we have access to a valuable domestic agricultural marketplace serving 30 million people, valued at more than $70 billion per year. While some interprovincial barriers still continue as impediments, over 90 per cent of our agricultural food products flow freely from coast to coast aided by federally developed standards. This is underpinned by the mobility of human technology and by financial resources and a single monetary system.
By being Canadian we all benefit from national regulatory policies which, for example, created and sustained our made in Canada supply management system for dairy, poultry and egg producers. No one province alone would be able to do so. The financial fiscal policies of this government have resulted in a dramatic drop in interest rates. That has saved thousands of dollars in input costs for farmers and the agri-food business in every corner of the country. It is by far a much better system than the tax cuts that are put forward by the Reform Party. National taxation policies which include unique advantages for agriculture are available to all Canadian farmers.
By being Canadian we all gain from Canada's international credibility and influence earned through 129 years of nationhood. Our reputation for the highest quality and reliability is an invaluable asset, something the Reform Party would try to destroy, the respectful manner in which we deal with our customers.
Our unified Team Canada approach to trade missions in dealing with trade disputes has had a strong role for Canada to play in the WTO, the Cairns Group, the Quad Group, the APEC the Commonwealth, the UN and the G-7. In short, worldwide goodwill about Canada gives us the advantage that could not easily be duplicated. By being Canadian we all enjoy substantial economies of scale. This is important for our bargaining clout in dealing with both consumers and competitors.
It is important in running a world class inspection and quarantine system, the cost of which would be prohibitive on a provincial basis. It is important in the field of science and technology where we have the leading edge in research and development facilities distributed nationally according to local natural advantages with all the accumulated knowledge networked to everyone regardless of location.
The 1997 budget funding for the Canadian Foundation for Innovation can be used in support of research into biotechnology and other agricultural sciences. Our national advantage is impossible to quantify but it is hugely important. It is a combination of
synergy, strength, equity and compassion which is the envy of the world, and our government is committed to building it even better.
Budget levels for the key responsibilities of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, research adaptation, safety nets and inspection, were maintained, ensuring the department would be able to continue to meet the needs of the sector. In maintaining spending for these key areas, the 1997 budget responds to the needs of the sector for stability.
The government is working toward a growing, competitive, market oriented agriculture and agri-food industry, one that is profitable, responsive to changing needs of domestic and international customers and less dependent on subsidization; one that contributes to the well-being of all Canadians and the quality of life in rural Canada and one that generates farm financial security, environmental stability and a safe and high quality food supply.
Significant progress has been made toward these goals but more remains to be accomplished. Strong partnerships with all the stakeholders are key to the further success. To this end the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has been consulted extensively with all the agri-food sectors in all the regions through a series of round table meetings across the country, a national conference on Canadian excellence in agriculture and agri-food held in Winnipeg in June 1996, and a prebudget meeting with all stakeholders this December. The output of this effort is a practical business plan which portrays the ambitions of our sector as we head into the 21st century and lays out an agenda for action for governments, farmers and farm organizations, agri-food business and other stakeholders as we together strive to achieve our future goals.
Examples of this consultative process between government and agriculture and agri-food sectors that reflect this desire to move together are numerous. It is hard to put a figure on it.
The Canadian adaptation rural and development fund, for instance, is providing $60 million annually to support diversification, value added processing, market development, innovation and job creation. The national biomass ethanol program will help support financing of ethanol plants across the country. This is the fuel of the 21st century. The pesticide management advisory council and economic management advisory committees are being established right now to better foster communication and co-ordination of pest management issues. The Farm Credit Corporation has introduced new programs which will provide long term stability. A national agricultural environment committee, made up of farm leaders, has been tasked with providing the federal government, the federal minister of agriculture, with advice on new policies, research and development and key agricultural environmental indicators. The Canadian Agri-Food Marketing Council will provide strategic sectoral advice on how to make the most of the available market development programs.
I could go on and on with this good news. We must continue to let more and more people know that agriculture and agri-food in Canada accounts for 8.7 per cent of our gross domestic product. Two million Canadians' jobs are dependent both directly and indirectly on the health of the agri-food sector which presently generates $17.5 billion in exports annually. We are going to go over the top of $20 billion by the end of the century.
The Canadian agri-food sector is on the leading edge of highly sophisticated science and technology. Canadian agriculture is a leader in environmental stability. It is one of our base industries.