Madam Speaker, while I was the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of the Environment way back in 1996-98, I was unfortunately not the parliamentary secretary to the current minister. However, perhaps I can bask indirectly in his compliment.
I am pleased to speak to and support budget 2003, a budget that takes advantage of the sound state of the nation's finances to deliver important new initiatives that will benefit all Canadians. Allow me to begin with a few impressive statistics, some of which have already been raised by other members but bear repeating.
Canada led the G-7 in growth in 2002 and expects to do the same this year. Canada is the only G-7 country expected to record a surplus in 2002-03. Canada saw 560,000 new jobs created in 2002. This is more than any other G-7 nation and it is our largest 12 month gain on record. This is the government's sixth consecutive balanced budget. The Canadian standard of living has grown faster than that of any other G-7 country.
As I said, these statistics tell a remarkable story, but as we know, a budget is merely a collection of numbers and projections. One might ask, what is the human face of the budget? What will it really mean for the people we represent? Unlike some of my colleagues across the way, I have never believed that the bottom line of government begins and ends with balanced books, even though we have done an excellent job of that.
The purpose of government is not to count the beans well. Rather, it is to provide for the health and well-being of our people. It is to invest in Canadians, to constantly seek new advantages for them. For some, money spent on poor children, for example, is interventionist or social engineering. I say that it is money extremely well spent. Such programs reflect our moral obligation to improve the lives of Canadians. Those who would simply hand every excess dollar back to tax cuts conveniently forget that it is our great social programs like health care, employment insurance and the CPP that Canadians point to first when asked what governments are for.
Allow me to touch upon some of the key investments that budget 2003 makes in the future of our country. First and foremost is health care. As we know, this is the number one issue for Canadians, including the constituents of my riding of York North. Our national health care system will receive an investment of $34.8 billion over the next five years, which is a massive commitment of resources. Noteworthy in this is the $16 billion health reform fund for the provinces and territories to target primary health care, home care and catastrophic drug coverage.
There are a number of very important announcements in this budget that will improve the delivery of health care. Let me mention two. First, the separation of health moneys from the Canada health and social transfer is very good news and will enhance transparency, as will the new accountability framework agreed to by first ministers. Also, the money targeted for home care and the new employment insurance benefit for six week compassionate care leave will go a long way in alleviating the stress and suffering many Canadian families face when a loved one is gravely ill or dying.
Budget 2003 also contains good news for small and medium sized businesses. Small business will benefit from the increase in the small business deduction from $200,000 to $300,000. Additionally, the EI premium rate will be reduced and the federal capital tax will be eliminated over the next five years.
My constituency of York North is home to the Chippewas of the Georgina Island First Nation. I am pleased to note that budget 2003 provides additional funds for aboriginal peoples: money for aboriginal people in urban centres, for education and training opportunities, for health programs, for first nations policing, for language and cultural centres, and for the Aboriginal Business Canada program. As well, $600 million will be dedicated to upgrading water and waste water systems in first nations communities.
York North is also home to many farmers. Under budget 2003, agricultural producers will see an increase in funding support through a variety of measures, as well as increased funding to Canada's veterinary colleges.
Let me briefly mention some other key investments in the budget.
Canadian families will benefit from an infusion of $965 million to the Canada child tax benefit. Some $1.7 billion will be invested to further strengthen research and innovation. As well, $285 million will be devoted to improving skills and learning opportunities for Canadians.
I am also encouraged by the significant allocations in the budget for sustainable development initiatives. First among these of course is the $2 billion over five years to help implement the government's climate change plan for Canada.
The budget will also invest an additional $1 billion for other environmental measures. As part of this, there is a commitment of $74 million over the next two years to help establish 10 new national parks and five new national marine conservation areas. This falls short of the recommendations of the Panel on Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks which called for a larger five year funding commitment, but I hope that we will see significant funds in future budgets to complete the action plan for national parks.
In addition, there are new moneys to implement the species at risk act and the significant improvements made to the legislation by members of all parties during its review by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.
I would now like to turn my attention to initiatives successfully undertaken by the Arctic research caucus.
Last year I was approached by an eminent Canadian Arctic scientist, Professor John Smol, who told me about the grave funding crisis in Arctic science. With the support of the former secretary of state for science and technology, the member for Vaughan—King—Aurora, the Arctic research caucus was formed.
In recent years the government has created a number of initiatives that reflect our distinctive identity as a northern people. These include the Arctic Council, the Arctic University, the northern dimension of Canada's foreign policy and the ratification of important international agreements, such as the Kyoto protocol and the Stockholm convention.
Arctic research is of enormous importance to all Canadians. It contributes to our understanding of so many issues facing northern communities. Ecologically for example, the importance of Arctic research is not limited only to climate change. It is also the pillar upon which our knowledge of all northern scientific issues rests, such as ozone depletion, transboundary pollutants and the changing nature of Arctic ecosystems.
I am pleased to say that budget 2003 has recognized some of the urgent short term funding needs for Arctic research. It provides $16 million over the next two years to expand federal programs in northern science. The polar continental shelf program will receive an additional $6 million over two years. There is a requirement in the budget documents that a portion of the $125 million in new funds given to the granting councils be devoted to northern research. This is good news.
However, as our Arctic research caucus has discovered through its work, there are long term, more deeply rooted problems with the state of northern science. Chief among them is the fact that no one minister or department is responsible for a coordinated approach to the development and delivery of northern science policy and programs.
Other issues remain, including how research is conducted in the north and the ways that northerners, particularly aboriginal peoples, are included. But this budget takes important first steps by providing new funding to crucial programs that support northern research. As well, the budget speech recognizes the unique contribution that Canada can make to the scientific study of the north.
In closing, a budget is more than a mere tally of revenues and expenses. It is the articulation of a vision for the future of the country. As budget 2003 so clearly outlines, our future is bright, our path is bold and our commitment to Canadians is fiscally sound, yet rooted in opportunities.