Mr. Speaker, I think some of the flowers they picked were obviously dead. In any event, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-49, the budget implementation bill.
The bill would implement several measures of the 2001 budget. As hon. members will recall, the 2001 budget was introduced after the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11 in the United States.
While the budget builds on the government's long term plan for a stronger economy and a more secure society, it also addresses the immediate economic and security concerns of Canadians as a result of those events.
The government initially responded, and swiftly I might add, to the events of September 11 with legislation that takes aim at terrorism and enhances Canada's ability to identify, prosecute and punish terrorists, and measures to cut off sources of financing for terrorists.
The 2001 budget builds on these initiatives through a comprehensive set of security measures designed to keep Canadians safe, terrorists out and our borders open. It provides $7.7 billion over the next five years to enhance security for Canadians and make Canadian borders more secure, open and efficient.
Included in this amount is $2.2 billion in funding for air security and the creation of the Canadian air transport security authority which will deliver enhanced security services at airports and on board flights according to rigorous new national standards set up by Transport Canada.
Established under Bill C-49, the new authority is to be responsible for the certification of screening personnel and for providing pre-board screening of passengers and baggage, armed police on board aircraft and the acquisition and operation of screening equipment, including that used in searching for explosives.
An air travellers security charge that comes into effect April 1, 2002, will fund these new security expenditures. The charge will be paid by air travellers, the primary beneficiaries of these enhanced security measures, and will be collected by air carriers or their agents when airline tickets are purchased.
For travel in Canada, the charge will apply to flights connecting airports where the air transport security authority will be responsible for passenger screening. The charge on domestic travel will be $12 for a one way trip and $24 for a round trip.
The charge on a ticket to the continental U.S. will also be $12 and $24 for travel outside Canada in the continental U.S.
All proceeds from the charge will be used to fund the enhanced air travel security system and, if revenues exceed costs over time, the charge will be reduced. The government, as the minister has indicated repeatedly in the House, will review the charge in the fall.
This enhanced security system will assure air travellers that Canada's air transportation system remains one of the safest and most secure in the world.
Along with addressing the immediate security concerns of Canadians, the 2001 budget also addresses immediate needs through targeted investments designed to boost the confidence in the economy in a fiscally affordable way.
By investing in strategic infrastructure, skills, learning, research, health, aboriginal children, the environment and international assistance, the 2001 budget reflects the government's long term plan while providing important support now for the economy
One way in which the budget achieves this is through the Canada strategic infrastructure fund which would be implemented through Bill C-49.
The modern economy of the 21st century requires a backbone of sound fiscal infrastructure to sustain the nation's growth and our quality of life.
Previous budgets allocated funding to improve provincial and municipal infrastructure. The 2000 budget, for example, introduced both the infrastructure Canada program and the strategic highway infrastructure program.
The government recognizes the need for additional support for large strategic infrastructure projects which can bring lasting economic and social benefits while providing both stimulus and long term productivity benefits. To address this need and to implement other federal infrastructure initiatives, the government is creating the Canada strategic infrastructure fund with a minimum federal contribution of $2 billion in funding.
Working with provincial and municipal governments and the private sector, the fund will provide assistance for large infrastructure projects in areas like highways and rail, local transportation, tourism, urban development, and water and sewage treatment.
A moment ago I mentioned international assistance as one of the strategic investments in the 2001 budget. Canadians have not lost sight of their obligations to help less fortunate peoples of the world. At the G-8 summit in Genoa last July, African leaders presented their proposal for a new partnership for Africa's development and the G-8 leaders pledged to support this initiative.
Since then the Prime Minister has restated his commitment that the development in Africa will be one of the main themes in the G-8 summit that Canada will host in June in Kananaskis. In recognition of this commitment, the 2001 budget announced $500 million over three years for African development to help implement these objectives.
The new Canada fund for Africa, which would be created through Bill C-49, will establish a government program to provide funding for activities that will help reduce poverty, provide primary education and set Africa on a sustainable path to a brighter future.
The government is committed to providing every opportunity for Canadians to upgrade their skills. Whether through the education system, through on job training or through universities and other centres of advanced research, the government has long recognized the value of investing in people.
That is why we introduced the Canadian opportunities strategy in the 1998 budget. The 2001 budget further encourages the acquisition of skills and learning by Canadians.
For example, Bill C-49 provides tax assistance to help apprentice vehicle mechanics registered in a provincial program cope with extraordinary tool costs. Beginning in 2002, they would be able to deduct for income tax purposes the cost of buying new tools to the extent that these costs in a year exceed the greater of $1,000 and 5% of their apprenticeship income.
Another measure provides tax relief for adult students who receive government assistance for basic education at the primary or secondary school level. Bill C-49 exempts from income tax any tuition assistance for adult basic education provided under certain government programs, including employment insurance.
The bill also helps more students undertake lifelong learning by extending the education tax credit for people who receive taxable assistance for post-secondary education under certain government programs, including EI.
As hon. members know, the quality of life of Canadians is closely tied to preserving and improving our natural environment. The 2001 budget includes new spending and tax measures intended to ensure continued progress toward a cleaner and healthier environment.
One of these measures is included in Bill C-49 and concerns commercial woodlot owners who can currently be subject to income tax when transferring woodlots to their children. As a result, woodlots may have to be harvested prematurely to generate the revenues required to pay the tax on the transfer, which can be detrimental to the sound management of this resource.
Bill C-49 extends the existing intergenerational tax deferred rollover for farm property to intergenerational transfers of woodlot operations that are farming businesses managed in accordance with the prescribed forest management plan.
I should mention too that the budget initiatives with respect to renewable energy and energy efficiency are being implemented through the amendments to the income tax regulations which have already been released in draft form.
The 2001 budget also contained a number of other tax measures, all of which are designed to improve fairness in the tax system. The bill makes permanent the 1997 budget measure that provides special tax assistance for donations of certain securities to public charities, and the 2000 budget measure that reduces the tax on employment benefits for donations of eligible securities acquired through stock option plans.
Another measure improves the system for providing GST credits. Beginning in July 2002, GST credit entitlements for a quarter will be based on the individual's family circumstances at the end of the preceding quarter not at the end of the previous calendar year.
To provide a cash flow benefit for small businesses the federal corporate tax installment payments for January, February and March, 2002 would be deferred for at least six months without penalty. To make it easier for foreign investors to use limited partnerships in structuring venture capital investments, Bill C-49 would ensure their non-resident partners were not considered to be carrying on business in Canada solely because investment management or administrative services were provided by Canadian residents. The final tax measure would allow full deductibility for the cost of meals provided to employees at construction work camps where the employees could be expected to return home each day.
A remaining measure relates to improved parental benefits under the Employment Insurance program. The current 50 week cap on the combined amount of sickness, maternity and parental benefits an individual can receive under EI means women who become ill may not have full access to extended benefits. To enable a mother to receive her full entitlement to special benefits, effective March 3, 2002 the cap would increase by one week for each week of sickness benefits she took while pregnant or while receiving parental benefits. A second EI measure would improve on the parental benefits that could be claimed following the birth or adoption of a child. It would provide parents a window of up to two years within which they could claim.
I have given members a brief overview of some of the key measures of Bill C-49. I remind the House that the events of September 11 have not changed the government's fiscal resolve.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, the 2001 budget builds on the government's long term plan for a stronger economy and more secure society. It also responds to the short term concerns of Canadians. We will continue to invest in people, cut taxes, reduce debt and build a stronger economy. Above all, we will continue to pursue our long term plan to invest in the future without going back into deficit.
I will conclude by paraphrasing the Minister of Finance who said the 2001 budget was about dealing with the present so we could seize the future. The measures of Bill C-49 would help us achieve that. I urge hon. members to pass Bill C-49.