Mr. Speaker, I would like at this point to ask that my time be shared with my colleague from Etobicoke North.
I am pleased to participate in this important debate on the budget. As the House knows, the events of September 11 and their aftermath have had significant effects both in terms of economy and policy priorities.
I believe the budget addressed the challenges of the new global reality that people of duly elected democracies are facing on a day to day basis. I also believe that our government has listened carefully to the concerns brought forward by key stakeholders and by Canadians who were and who are concerned about the domestic economy, economic stability, personal security and defending our cherished freedom.
In the fall of last year I held public budget consultation hearings in my riding of Scarborough--Agincourt. I thank the people of Bridlewood Mall, Agincourt Mall as well as my staff, Kathy, Anton and Nina, for helping me. The response from my constituents was overwhelming. They voiced their concerns and appreciated the opportunity to participate in this national dialogue.
I would like to use the following format to illustrate how I believe the concerns of my constituents were addressed in the budget. Picture a chart with two columns headed constituent concerns and budget commitments.
Concern: the federal government should increase the defence department budget so that the equipment of our forces can be updated to better reflect Canada's recently redefined role in the war on terrorism. Commitment: the budget earmarked $1.6 billion for emergency preparedness and military deployment for such items as doubling the capacity of our forces, elite anti-terrorist units, the JTF2, supporting Canada's military participation in the war on terrorism, funding military equipment purchases, improving our ability to protect infrastructure such as water and energy, utilities, transportation and communication systems.
Concern: the budget for RCMP and CSIS be increased so that in the short and long term these organizations have more resources available to respond more effectively to domestic and international security issues. Commitment: the government has committed $1.6 billion over the next five years to the RCMP and CSIS to respond to our country's needs and to improve co-ordination and information sharing among law and security agencies in Canada and abroad.
Concern: the federal government must work in partnership with Canada's major cities and key stakeholders to build affordable housing and to update infrastructure and public transportation. Commitment: the government responded with a minimum of $2 billion for the strategic infrastructure foundation. Ottawa will work with municipalities, provincial governments and the private sector to finance large strategic infrastructure projects beyond existing programs. Also, the government reiterated its commitment of $680 million over five years for the construction of affordable housing both in large urban centres and in remote communities of this country.
I believe my constituents participated in a most valuable exercise last fall when they came to me with their views and their important policy issues.
In this budget the federal government listened to Canadians and responded with vision to their many concerns and in so doing it effectively addressed the ever changing national and international challenges of the 21st century.