Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to address the House in today's budget debate.
Before I go any further I would like to extend my sincerest congratulations to my hon. colleague, the Minister of Finance, on the presentation of his sixth budget. I have had the honour of representing my constituents in this place for more than 10 years. In all that time I have never seen a budget that was so well received by Canadians.
Average Canadians support the measures in the budget. I know frustrated members opposite are wondering why Canadians are feeling so good about budget '99. I will take the opportunity to explain it to them.
It is about balance. The budget builds on and continues the tradition of responsible, prudent fiscal management of its five predecessors, and provides the balance and fairness that Canadians want and expect.
It is not skewed to the left with incomprehensible spending, as some of the NDP would favour. It does not provide for the irresponsible withering away of the federal government, as the Reform Party demands. It certainly does not manage the nation's finances in the capricious manner the Tories were famous for.
The budget is balanced, balanced both fiscally and in what it provides Canadians. It is a good news budget for all Canadians. That is why it is being so well received across the land, in Toronto, Regina, Edmonton and in my home city of Winnipeg.
Since I have only 10 minutes to speak to this important issue, I will not spend too much on the minutia of the budget. Rather I would like to concentrate my comments on what the budget means for the average Manitoban and the good citizens of Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia.
First, let us look at health care. The budget increases federal cash transfers for health care to the provinces by an incredible $11.5 billion over the next five years. This is significant. It is a significant reinvestment by any measure and is the single largest investment ever announced by the government.
This cash infusion into our health care system fully restores the health component of the Canada health and social transfer to its level in the mid-1990s before the attack of the deficit curtailed expenditures.
As a result of this initiative, the Manitoba government will receive an additional $425 million in federal transfers to fund health care throughout the keystone province.
I would hope the provincial government in Manitoba would use some of that money to reduce waiting lines, augment staff and improve services at the Grace hospital, the main hospital servicing the needs of Winnipeg and Headingley.
Manitoba's health care system would also benefit from an additional $1.4 billion that this budget sets aside for new investments in health pilot projects, prenatal care, aboriginal initiatives and health information programs like the screening assessment and care planning automated tool recently announced by the health minister during a trip to Winnipeg.
Whether they live in the Courts of St. James or the Kiwanis Courts, well known senior citizens complexes in my riding, Manitobans want and deserve reasonable access to good quality health care. This budget goes a long way to securing that access.
Whether it be reductions in EI premiums or the introduction of the child tax benefit, every budget this government has introduced has included some form of tax reduction. In the past all these measures were targeted for special needs or to low income Canadians.
Last year, however, we began the process of introducing broad based tax relief. This year, I am happy to say, we have built on that.
This budget eliminates the 3% surtax introduced by the Tories in their unsuccessful attempts to reduce the deficit. It increases the basic personal exemption to $7,131 for every Canadian taxpayer. It also enriches and broadens the child tax benefit by a further $300 million. Combined with the measures in last year's budget, the 1999 budget delivers $16.6 billion in tax relief over the next three years.
The best news is that this is only the beginning. With the nation's finances firmly under control, this Liberal government is committed to reducing taxes further and will do so over the rest of this mandate and into the next.
What do these tax measures mean for the average Manitoban? It means that the single person living in an apartment on Portage Avenue and earning $20,000 a year will see his taxes fall by at least 10%. It means that the single mother living on Carriage Road and trying to raise her kids on an income of $30,000 will pay absolutely no federal tax. It means that the middle class family of four on Charleswood Road with an income of $50,000 will see its federal taxes fall by 15%. In fact, every Canadian will pay less federal tax as a result of this budget. Even the members of the Reform Party have to agree to that.
This budget is not only about health care and tax cuts. It is also about securing a strong and vibrant future for all Canadians. This budget invests more than $1.8 billion over the next three years in the creation, dissemination and commercialization of knowledge and jobs. This money will be used to boost funding for the Canada foundation for innovation, a fund that has been used to modernize the research infrastructure at the University of Manitoba, the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg and the St. Boniface general hospital.
Our university students will also profit from increased funding to the research councils and to the network of centres of excellence.
Manitoba's aerospace industry located in the main in my riding has already benefited from a $3 million technology partnership Canada investment at Bristol Aerospace. This investment helped Bristol secure a $100 million contract to supply composite components to Boeing creating nearly 300 jobs. TPC provides fully repayable loans to assist high technology companies develop and market new products. It will be strengthened by an additional $50 million annually.
While Manitoba is fortunate in having the lowest unemployment rate in the country, unemployment in the north remains high, especially among our aboriginal communities. This budget allocates additional resources for job creation and for aboriginal issues.
Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia is also home to CFB Winnipeg and headquarters for 1 Canadian Air Division. The base employs thousands of military personnel who welcome the $175 million increase in the defence budget and who await the implementation of the quality of life package by the government.
I would like to address one other issue that is of major concern to the citizens of Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia. That issue is the national debt. This government remains committed to the prudent fiscal planning that has eliminated the deficit and enabled reinvestments in health care, education, economic programs and tax cuts. We will not stray from this course. The nation's books will be balanced for a second year in a row, the first time since 1952 that the federal government has been deficit free for two consecutive years. Furthermore, we are committed to balancing the books next year and the year after that, only the third time since Confederation that the federal government will have introduced four consecutive balanced budgets.
The national debt is falling and will continue to fall in the future. This government has implemented a viable debt repayment plan that allocates the contingency reserve of $3 billion in each budget to debt repayment. This measure, coupled with a growing economy, will see our debt to GDP ratio fall to under 62% by the year 2000-01 and free up more money for programs and tax cuts.
I think Canadians appreciate this budget. They particularly appreciate the course that it sets out for the next few years.