Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be part of this debate on the 1998 federal budget and to share my perspective on how this budget will benefit Canadians today and tomorrow.
I am particularly proud to be part of this debate as the vice-chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. This year we completed the most extensive public consultation ever. My colleagues did an excellent job and made the many hours of deliberation pass quickly. Their support to me personally, especially on the road as we met Canadians in Regina, Winnipeg, Montreal, Fredericton and Charlottetown made chairing easy. To those Canadians who shared their ideas, their hopes and dreams and the benefit of their experience along the way and here in Ottawa, thank you.
During Burlington's prebudget meeting, the variety of opinions and suggestions was truly impressive, every idea born of experience and every suggestion a good one in its own right.
Balancing all of these special interests is not an easy task. In fact it is such a difficult task that some opposition members preferred not to consider special interests in their policy making. Our success is built on our commitment to ensuring that our policy decisions reflect the core values Canadians hold from coast to coast coast.
The 1998 budget reflects the hopes and dreams of Canadians of all ages. The Minister of Finance presented Canadians with a balanced budget, a focused plan which prepares and propels us into the 21st century. It is a Liberal balanced approach.
This budget signifies a turning point for all Canadians. Over the past four years our budgets have been about how to reduce our deficit and get our country back on track without kicking the legs out from the economy. They have been about making strategic small steps in areas we knew were desperate for help knowing that the dismal set of books left to us by previous governments limited our choices.
Our challenge then was about how to deliver very necessary services to Canadians under very restrictive circumstances. This budget is about pursuing those goals as individuals and as a nation. It builds on those baby steps and starts us walking freely and upright, proud of our accomplishments as a nation in working hard and getting our financial circumstances back in order.
This budget is about helping Canadians open doors. The Canadian opportunities strategy is a carefully considered well crafted initiative. It gives Canadians in every region something to look forward to, to count on, to believe in and to invest in. It builds on our commitment to getting Canadians back to work, to being financial responsible and to preparing our children for healthy productive lives. While time will not permit me to expand on all seven steps in the strategy, I will highlight a few.
The Canadian millennium scholarship foundation says to bright young Canadians they do have a chance for post-secondary education in spite of their families' limited circumstances if they work hard and produce results in high school. It ensures our next generation has a fighting chance.
The strategy includes grants of up to $3,000 to students with children allowing parents to take advantage of post-secondary education they only dreamed of in the past.
The strategy allows those who wish to increase their employability to do so by allowing them to withdraw tax free from their RRSP to enrol in full time education and training. This is particularly helpful to those on whom the economy has forced a second career at age 45 or 50.
In partnership with families the Canadian education savings grant provides added reasons to put a few dollars away for a child, a niece or a grandson, for their future post-secondary education. It builds on our previous initiative to remove some of the risk of that investment.
These are concrete examples of how much this government believes in its greatest resource, the Canadian public. Equal to this accomplishment and a critical commitment to Canadians was our increase of some $400 million over the next four years to the granting councils.
We have made a commitment to Canadian researchers, university professors and post-secondary students. This measure reflects the government's commitment to ensuring Canada remains competitive in the next millennium. It says to our brightest and our best: Stay here in Canada. Make your discoveries here. Invent your inventions. As partners we recognize your work enhances our economy and international competitiveness.
Finally, there is the important issue of taxation. While it should be every government's dream to reduce taxation to its citizens, governments must not do so irresponsibly. That is why Canadians did not ask for broad tax cuts. It is why they told us in city after city to reinvest in their society, provide some relief for the sacrifices they have made over the past few years and pay down the debt. Canadians are not foolhardy, even if some of their elected officials in opposition pretend that they would be.
This budget does cut taxes in a strategic way. It supports families by increasing the child care expense deduction to more accurately reflect the true cost of child care allowing young families more flexibility in their budgets.
This budget removes the 3% surtax for those who need the biggest breaks. It is responsible and fair.
This budget is consistent with our last budget and the one before that. It delivers on our strategy. It reflects the core values Canadians have. It reflects their priorities because it was created in consultation with them. It is a budget that makes strategic investments in Canadians. It delivers on the hopes of Canadians and their commitment to work hard to accomplish their dreams.