Madam Speaker, contrary to the comments of the previous speaker, I am quite proud to rise to speak on the budget. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Thornhill.
The first balanced budget in nearly 30 years is something to be really proud of, not only for the government but for all Canadians and for this Parliament. The budget reconfirms the value of the prudent fiscal approach we have taken over the last four years. We will continue that prudent fiscal approach so that Canadians can look forward to a government which is not run on credit cards.
I want to comment on the speech which the hon. member for Kamloops just delivered. His whole approach showed why the NDP has lost substantial credibility. He spoke about several things. He said the budget did nothing for employment. That comment shows clearly that the NDP does not understand what builds employment in a country.
He said that the budget would do nothing for poor children and for those who most need help. I will outline exactly how it helps those very people in society who most need our help.
Let me talk about employment first. Governments do not create employment. We have all seen the folly over the years of government throwing money into make work programs that are temporary and that do nothing to deal with the underlying causes of unemployment or to better prepare people to take part in the economy and the jobs that are available.
However governments do create the economic conditions that allow the private sector to create employment. That is exactly what our previous four budgets have done and what the budget continues to do.
It continues to ensure low interest rates. It continues to ensure low inflation. It continues to ensure that investors can have confidence in the economy of Canada because they can have confidence in the fiscal situation of the Government of Canada. Those economic conditions are very clearly supported and strengthened by what is in the budget as well as what has been in our previous four budgets.
Employment is built by research. Now, with the flexibility to make some choices, one of the major new investments we have made is to put money back into research granting councils: the Medical Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the National Science Research Council. We are restoring funding for those bodies to where it was in the 1994-95 budget. We will be increasing it further over the next few years. We know that the research we do now is the jobs of 10 years, 15 years or 20 years from now.
Another thing, and perhaps the most important thing, we are doing is investing in the knowledge and education of our population and not just our young people and children. There are measures in the budget to make it possible for more and more young bright people to have an education without assuming a mortgage of debt that can last, for some, the rest of their lives.
The tax treatment of education expenses and the ability to deduct interest on student loans from income taxes as they are being paid back are a couple of ways in which we are helping students to afford an education without being burdened with ongoing debt.
We are helping Canadians in the workforce to go back to school and upgrade their learning so that they can take advantage of new opportunities that are arising in a dramatically changing economy. We are supporting their tuition fees with grants. We are supporting their child care costs. We are making it possible for the parents of many young poor children, about whom my colleague from Kamloops talked, to get the education that will help them to have better paying jobs and to better support their families. As the member knows perfectly well, low income single parents, usually moms, cannot afford to go back and get that education. The budget will help them do it.
He mentioned that we are not investing in health care and that we are not investing in education. I consider that to be a statement that is not honest and is not consistent with what is on paper in the budget.
The member knows perfectly well that we are restoring $1.5 billion of cash money to the provinces for education, health care and social services. That is not counting the extra billions of dollars that come to the provinces through tax points that are being transferred from the federal government. That is not counting the equalization payments which are also transferring billions of dollars to the provinces to be used for those and other purposes.
However, if the member expects us to start transferring more billions to the province of Ontario which has cut more out of health care to finance a tax cut than any money that has been reduced by the federal government to health care, it will not happen.
I want to talk about poor children. The member made a special point of saying we are not doing anything to help poor children. In 1996 the Liberal biennial convention adopted as its top priority a resolution dealing with the issue of poor children. That was dealt with in our last budget and it is dealt with again in this budget. I am particularly proud of that.
The member also said that caucus members on this side had nothing to do with the budget. I want to tell him that the budget was developed by our caucus members. That resolution received the national support of Liberals plus the support of our finance minister. It was the initiative from my riding association, supported by the Nepean Women's Liberal Association, that made it a national priority, not only for members in the House but for Liberals right across the country.
The member may not have read the budget. I do not know how he could overlook an additional $850 million dealing with child poverty through the child tax credit. That is a total of $1.7 billion in two budgets. Maybe it is not enough, probably not, but there are other measures.
We are delivering a first broad based tax relief to Canadian taxpayers, starting with those most in need, that is, low and middle income Canadians.
Yes, the reductions in taxes are modest but they are targeted to those who need them most. Four hundred thousand Canadian families with children will no longer pay income tax because the basic deduction has been reduced. Families receiving under $30,000 will pay significantly less income tax this year. Poor families are the families of poor children. When we help families of modest income we help poor children.
I have no problem standing here today saying I am proud of the budget. I feel I have contributed to the budget. I feel every one of my colleagues on this side of the House has contributed.
We promised Canadians when we ran for election in 1997 that we would stay the course, that we would not fritter away the benefits that had been gained by their sacrifices across the country in order to put us in a sound fiscal situation where we are not seeing growing interest payments eating away at our ability to do anything for health care, for the economy or for children.
We have now broken the back of the deficit. We have a balanced budget. We have choices to make as Canadians. We have made prudent choices in the budget. We are heading in the right direction. I stand here proud of the budget.