Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Winnipeg South.
Since taking office in 1993, the Liberal government, with the help of the Canadian people, worked hard to strengthen the fundamentals of the Canadian economy. With the 2001 budget we brought down our fifth balanced budget, a first in 50 years. We have had four consecutive surpluses including a record $17.1 billion surplus in 2000-01.
These surpluses will allow us to reduce the national debt by almost $36 billion, save $2.5 billion per year in interest payments, and to make $100 billion in broad based tax cuts over a five year period.
This prudent fiscal management will allow us to invest some $23.4 billion into health care and early childhood development. It will also allow us to weather the storm that we began to experience prior to September 11, 2001.
Budget 2001 is a balanced budget. The government expects to balance the next two budgets. However, because of the exceptional fiscal pressures our economy is faced with today, the government has decided to use part of the $3 billion contingency reserve this year and the next two years to meet some of our commitments. Any surplus in the 2001-02 fiscal year will be used to support programs like the strategic infrastucture foundation that will invest in communities across Canada.
The government's sound fiscal management has resulted in a falling debt to GDP ratio. Next year, for the first time in 17 years, it would fall below the 50% mark. At the same time the government increased program spending for 2001-02 with 75% of that program spending earmarked for health care, security, employment insurance and benefits for the elderly.
Prudent fiscal planning over the last eight years has prepared us to weather the current economic downturn and our long-term outlook is good. In fact we are faring better than any other G-8 nation at this time. Our economy would also benefit from the positive effect of the decline in interest rates announced by the Bank of Canada since the beginning of 2001. Canadians have taken advantage of low interest rates by buying cars and homes. In my riding, both the automotive and housing industries have benefited.
Budget 2001 would not only maintain existing programs and our $23.4 billion commitment to health care and early childhood development, it would commit significant new resources to initiatives that would benefit all Canadians and would protect our personal security. These initiatives would include: $6.5 billion over five years to enhance personal and economic security; $1.2 billion to make our borders more fluid and secure; $2 billion for strategic infrastructure projects; and $1.1 billion over three years to support skills, learning and research.
Overall, our government's investments, combined with tax cuts already made, will provide $26 billion economic stimulus equivalent to 2.4% of GDP. This will boost the economy and help Canadians get through these challenging times.
I would like to highlight some of the initiatives that will benefit our nation. Strong and sound infrastructure is an important foundation for any productive country. The maintenance and construction of bridges, highways and transit systems all contribute to a healthy and industrious economy.
Investments in infrastructure not only stimulate job creation and confidence in the short term but make our economy more productive and competitive. The Liberal government recognizes this and has announced $3 billion in infrastructure investment in budget 2001. This investment will go to four major areas: strategic infrastructure, affordable housing, government capital and border infrastructure.
A significant investment will be made into the strategic infrastructure foundation. Two billion dollars will go to the foundation for the construction of large infrastructure projects like highways, urban transportation and convention centres. This is a cost share initiative between the foundation and provincial and municipal governments.
There is a serious shortage of affordable housing in many cities across Canada. As urban populations grow, vacancy rates drop. This drives up the cost of rental housing reaching levels out of reach for many Canadians. My own community of Cambridge is a prime example of how a growing city finds itself in desperate need of more affordable accommodation.
I am pleased that the government will address this problem with the contribution of $680 million over the next five years to capital grants programs. Under this program funding for affordable housing will be provided for provinces and territories that could match federal contributions.
Another $256 million will help alleviate concerns about the health and safety of existing federal government infrastructure like government laboratories, veteran hospitals and fishing harbours.
Budget 2001 would allocate money for infrastructure projects along the longest undefended border in the world, the Canada-U.S. border. These projects would include processing centres that would speed up border clearance times and improving highway access to border crossings. These are very important measures for businesses in my riding that rely on cross border trade.
Budget 2001 would fully protect the government's tax reduction plan that would continue to unfold in 2002 and beyond. Corporate income tax installments for small, incorporated businesses would be deferred for six months, a measure that would impact significantly on the cashflows of many small businesses trying to ride out this current economic slowdown.
I am pleased that apprentice vehicle mechanics will now be able to deduct from their income the cost of new tools. My caucus colleagues and I have worked hard for several years to push for this change and I thank the finance minister for listening and acting on our recommendation.
Budget 2001 is a good budget. It is the budget to build confidence in our economy and personal security. It is a budget for a time when many of us are feeling anxious as a result of the events of September 11. The budget will help Canadians through the current slowdown and will position us to take full advantage of the recovery that is just around the corner. Had it not been for prudent fiscal management, we would be at a significant disadvantage.
Canadians remember the hard choices of the 1990s. The government will not play fast and loose with the finances of the nation but will ensure that all Canadians are taken care of.