Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak about the budget.
In Trinity--Spadina there are people from all economic backgrounds. As a member of Parliament for the last 10 years I have tried to add extra value, whatever I could muster, to work toward creating opportunities. It has been a balanced approach that will give the people of Trinity--Spadina the tools to allow them to achieve their dreams.
Ten years ago when I first came to the House there was a $42 billion deficit, $42 billion in interest payments year after year. That was money that could have been used to benefit the many social programs that we believe in to ensure that Canadians have the standard of living to which they aspire.
The budget is a continuation of that. It is a balanced approach. It deals with the fiscal concerns. It ensures that when Wall Street speaks about third world nations, it will only look at itself. Canada is a symbol of what Canadians have done. They have sacrificed together to achieve the goals and have worked in a way that does not leave anyone behind in our society.
In the last 10 years there have been many programs that we have worked toward to ensure that side of the equation. When we lead the OECD in economic growth, in the debt to GDP ratio, we are going in the right direction. We also want to ensure that we use Canadians' money for programs that in the future will help us go forward in this new millennium with great hope and aspirations.
In Trinity--Spadina we have many things to be thankful for and many opportunities that we have to work toward to ensure that no one is left behind. We have a vibrant cultural community in Trinity--Spadina. That can be seen today in Trinity--Spadina. Cultural institutions are being refurbished and expanded to improve tourism and to add to the kinds of things that we value, our soul. The arts community and cultural community adds that to a nation. In Trinity--Spadina expansion and growth is taking place, whether it be the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Roy Thomson Hall, the Gardiner Museum, I could go on and on. The Opera House and Harbourfront Centre add so much to our community down at the waterfront.
This has been possible because 10 years ago the government came up with a process of investing in a cooperative fashion with other levels of government in an infrastructure program. It allowed us to continue to help municipalities and communities invest their money, as they would have done anyway, and to contribute along with the provincial governments. In this way it increased the number up to $12 billion of spending that might not otherwise have taken place. That has helped provide opportunities for employment, aside from tourism and many other things that make up the fabric of our communities.
There are many other things that make us proud in Trinity--Spadina. On University Avenue there is the University of Toronto and the hospitals. There is research and development. The government saw fit in 1993 to work at becoming the fourth instead of the 13th nation in the OECD group of communities. The government has increased its spending on research and development.
There are all the various programs we have put in place, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the graduates program, the programs in terms of research and development with the NRC, medical research, the CIHR, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Bright intelligent Canadians who had gone abroad to do earth shattering research now feel comfortable about coming back to Canada.
Canadians can come back to Canada because the government has reinvested tremendous amounts of money. This has created critical mass on University Avenue. We are still trying to get the disease control centre in Toronto because of all the talent that exists on University Avenue with the university, the hospitals and the biotechnology centre.
The MaRS program at University and College will be for the commercialization of talent that brings on basic research all the way through to venture capital. This will ensure that there is commercialization with good and innovative technologies and ideas, thus allowing Canada to continue to be in the forefront of the new economy which is the economy of brains and opportunity, especially on the medical side of the equation. There is a buzz in Toronto, and in Canada as a whole, because of that.
There are many places from coast to coast to coast, whether it be Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, or Halifax, where greatness is occurring, whether it be Genome Canada or opportunities on the Internet. The University of Toronto is working with England, Australia, and throughout Canada, to piece out research money that it has received from the government so it can look for opportunities to break through some of the challenges in medical science. The university is working in a cooperative manner. Many talented individuals are working together to achieve greatness.
That greatness will benefit all Canadians. They will benefit from the breakthroughs in medical opportunities so people will live longer and healthier lives. Business opportunities will be available. Canadian businesses will be able to expand, and export their goods and services. I am very proud of the work we have done in terms of research and development.
Without a post-secondary education, people will not have the opportunity to participate in the standard of living that we are talking about. Most jobs require a post-secondary education, whether they are jobs on cranes where everything is computerized or whether they are jobs in the high tech field. Everything in between requires added intelligence that comes through post-secondary education, aside from those who continue to learn through their daily experiences and do not have the opportunity to attend post-secondary institutions.
We have done a lot to ensure that low income Canadians have the opportunity to continue their learning so that economics will not constrain them to the point of not allowing them to continue to aspire to greatness.
The government has provided a learning bond in the budget for low income families. Some people will say that it is not available today, but tomorrow has to start today. The learning bond will help low income families and their children born after 2003. The government has also increased Canada student loans by providing $3,000 to low income Canadians.
There are many other things in the budget to ensure that low income Canadians will have the opportunity to get a post-secondary education, whether they have disabilities, or whether they come from a family that is not in a great position economically.
Let me speak now about communities. The Prime Minister and many of my colleagues in the provincial and municipal government, in a cooperative fashion, announced on Tuesday $1 billion for public transit. That is what the government is all about. We work in a cooperative fashion with other levels of government to ensure that $1 works 10 times over. Creativity is something we have to work toward. Entrepreneurship thinks about solving problems with the least amount of money and the least amount of work, and will in the end give Canadians the best they can possibly have.
We see a new spirit of cooperation in Ontario and throughout Canada. The government has put forward many things. The GST rebate for municipalities will allow them to use this money for other important aspects in their city living. Infrastructure projects will speed up as the money becomes available from four years to three years.
We at the federal level continue to work in our communities, in places that people often do not see, to ensure that the fabric of our society continues to work together in a way that the web is not seen.
Community centres, often with federal support, have access programs that allow those who are not able to have computers or Internet in their homes to go to local community organizations, whether they be the libraries, schools or community centres, and access whatever it is that they require or need.
We are working toward summer career placements in a way that allows those community centres to hire students in the summer in order to offer summer programs.
I could go on and on in terms of how the budget has helped sustain some of this because we continue getting calls, whether it be from St. Christopher house, University Settlement Recreation Centre, or St. Stephen's. Basically, it is about the federal government and crime prevention programs or seniors with the new horizons program. That has been put forward so that in effect communities can access some money to ensure that there is active living with seniors.
That brings me to the pleasure and privilege that I have to work for the Prime Minister on a task force for seniors to ensure we come out with a report that will ensure that low income seniors have more tools available for them so that they can live with dignity taking into account all the work that they have done to make this country as great as it is today.
There are many more things I can speak about in terms of what the government has done with this and previous budgets. Years ago I was fortunate enough to be on the mayor's task force on homelessness and we pushed, as a caucus and as a government, to find a way to create an opportunity so that the federal government would help communities, from the bottom up, find ways of alleviating homelessness.
We have a responsibility to work with other levels of government to help people who cannot help themselves, for whatever reason. Anyone of us here today can be in that situation of becoming homeless with a bit of bad luck.
We have to continue giving dignity to the people who are on our streets and who may not have the opportunities that we have here today. With the $753 million we have created many opportunities in my riding of Trinity—Spadina whether it is Eva's Phoenix or 25 Leonard. It is housing people who are homeless in terms of transitional housing and allows them to have a home and dignity, and the opportunity to work.
The other day I went to the Parkdale area. We were doing an announcement on crime prevention. The person serving at that establishment, which was a not for profit organization, said he lived in my riding at 25 Leonard.
I said, “Great. How long have you been there, is it working, how are you feeling?” He thanked me for all the work the federal government had done in helping create the SCPI program so in effect we were building many fabrics of our society within that community.
That gives me a great deal of pride, to know that in effect we are using our dollars to help real people so that they can have the kind of life that we all want for our own families.
There is lots more to be done and it is not going to be possible all in one budget. It is important that we lay foundations and that we put down payments in the direction we want to go because spending $42 billion today might cost us billions in interest payments alone and that is a shame.
We must continue working those interest payments down, so that every time we get $5 billion or $6 billion more we can put it into programs that count. That is the reason we stand here in the House of Commons and in front of Canadians, to make a difference in their lives. Without us actually trying to do that and working on their behalf, this place will not work.
I know that, regardless of which party, people come here to do their best, to give of themselves, of their families, so that we can make a little bit of a difference. We all have different approaches to this. Some of us want things faster and some of us want things slower.
In the end, we are trying our best to ensure that we take a balanced approach. We want to go toward what we are trying to achieve in the end, which is to help Canadians so that they can help themselves. The budget is continuing on that foundation and with the change of course that we have brought to this Parliament and to this country in the past 10 years.
If Canadians in the end believe that we are going in the right direction, even though there are errors along the way, I think we will come back and continue working on their behalf.