The member is right: it is a tremendous amount of money for the north. It is so exciting for the northern MPs. That is what I want to talk about today. I will talk about that and then go on to talk about volunteerism and, if I have time, about education and the exciting new concept of the social economy in this budget.
As for the north, this is a really exciting day for my colleagues from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. It is the north's time to come of age. Of course the first thing is related to my portfolio: the $90 million for an economic development strategy for the north. We have a lot of potential. I talk to people across the north and they are very excited about this provision in the budget.
Of course health care is important in the north, as it is everywhere else. Over and above the large increases in health care funding for the country, the north has a specific $20 million a year for the next five years, starting this year, to take into account the added costs of doing business in the north.
There is $75 million for oil and gas development. As members will know, that is a tremendous boon to the north's economy. This is on the verge of occurring and of course we need the environmental and regulatory funding to make sure it is done appropriately.
There is the extension of the 15% mineral exploration tax credit. Once again let me say that the north depends to a large extent on mining. There are some great mines right across the north, in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon, and in fact in the northern parts of the provinces. This is a great boon to the Canadian economy and our resource development.
One of the most exciting things, which people are talking about right across the country and the north, is the largest environmental program in the history of Canada from any government or party: the $3.5 billion to clean up contaminated sites. The fact that 60% of this is going to go to the north, to an area of just over 100,000 people, is so exciting for the people of the north. Already they are talking about this as not only a huge cleanup for our environment and the stewardship of the environment, but also a great economic opportunity in developing the procedures to do this, which Canada can then export to other northern nations.
Another particular item I am very excited about is the $51 million for mapping of the Arctic continental shelf. As everyone knows, for years I have been championing our sovereignty in the north. With global warming as the polar ice caps melt, this is coming into question more and more. As members will know, we have four international disputes right now in the north so this particular funding is very exciting for me.
We will be mapping the Arctic continental shelf. That will lead to a formal submission to the United Nations convention on the law of the sea. That allows Canada to extend its boundaries past the 200 mile limit in the north in the Arctic continental shelf. Our neighbours, such as Russia, for instance, have already done their mapping to protect Canadian sovereignty. This is very exciting.
Of course a couple of months ago we announced a whole new five year plan on protecting sovereignty in the north, with advanced patrols and unmanned planes and satellite control. There is a whole plan for sovereignty in the north. This is very exciting for Canada.
Of course as a former director of a municipal association, I am also very excited about the new cities agenda, particularly the 7% GST rebate, which was made retroactive to February 1. It has already gone back so the municipalities can start reaping their rewards right away. The municipalities I have talked to are very happy with this particular item in the budget.
Also, the infrastructure programs the Canadian government has established in recent years have been a tremendous boon, not only for my constituency, in which every single municipality has benefited, but for municipalities across the country. In particular in this budget, what is exciting for us is the rural infrastructure program. The $15 million that we get in our constituency, which used to be over 10 years, is now over five years. This means we can spend that money twice as quickly to bring economic advantage to the north.
Most provisions in a national budget cover the whole country, so there is a lot of things that also will help the north in that way. However, I want to talk about specific things for the north about which we are very excited.
I want to talk about the voluntary sector. I am not too sure how well this has been covered in the debate. I have a lot of history in the voluntary sector. I have friends in the United Way, in the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, which is for first nations people, in the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition and in the Yukon Learn for literacy. I want to congratulate Yukon Learn. It is having its AGM this Friday in Whitehorse. The volunteers there have done tremendous work.
There are hundreds of other volunteer agencies. Dawson City in Yukon is particularly held together with the true grit of volunteers. It is just amazing, pound for pound, what they put out. Volunteers arranged activities for every week of the year.
The budget provides great exciting support for the volunteer sector. First, the government will implement a number of the decisions from the joint regulatory table. It has set aside $12 million to fund the implementation of those decisions. It will review taxation related to charities, through the Charities Advisory Board. Also the Senate committee on banking, trade and commerce will look at charity funding.
The voluntary initiative, which the government started in 1995, has been very favourably received. The budget sets aside another $6 million to continue that voluntary sector initiative.
We also will look at the possibility of setting up a not for profit corporations act. Instead of NGOs coming under the Corporations Act, they would come under the not for profit corporations act, which would reduce some of the regulatory burden that would otherwise be unnecessary. We will also explore the possibility of having a bank, a creative idea that came up in these discussions, targeted toward the challenges of the voluntary sector.
Finally, I would just point out the new exciting concept of the social economy provided for in the budget. One of the three pillars of our government is to rebuild the social foundations of the nation. In that is the exciting social economy concept. The budget allocates $162 million toward this initiative. If I have time at the end of my speech, I will describe that in a bit more detail.
Students across Canada and in my riding are in great need. I was very excited to see many initiatives for post-secondary education. This includes the introduction of a new Canada learning bond, which will provide up to $2,000 for children in low income families born after 2003 for post-secondary education. It includes enhancement of the Canadian education savings grant, matching rates for low and middle income families. It includes the introduction of a new grant for up to $3,000 for first year post-secondary dependant students from low income families. I am happy to see these initiatives for students from low income families.
The budget introduces of an upfront annual grant of up to $2,000 for post-secondary students with disabilities. Although I do not have time to talk about them today, I am happy to see other initiatives in the budget for people with disabilities.
The budget also includes: an increase in the ceiling for the Canada student loans to $220 a week from $165; an increase in the income threshold to determine the eligibility for student loan interest relief; an increase in the maximum amount of debt reduction for students facing financial difficulty up to $26,000 from $20,000; the extension of the education tax credit to employees who pursue career related studies at their own expense; an investment of $125 million over five years for the aboriginal human resources development strategy; and doubling the $50 million support for the urban aboriginal strategy.
I now want to talk a bit about the new social economy concept. As I said, there are three pillars to our exciting government platform that was first outlined in the throne speech and now funded through the budget.
The third pillar is Canada's place in the world. The budget provides funds to increase foreign aid. There are new initiatives in defence and new initiatives for interacting and performing our role internationally. We have already seen some come into play with our missions to Afghanistan and Haiti and with the Prime Minister's visit to the United States.
The second pillar is preparing Canada for the new knowledge based modern economy, the economy of this century. There are a number of initiatives in the budget that address this. Obviously, I do not have time to go into them right now.
Over and above all, there is the assistance to students. Money has been allocated for research and for companies in the new technology.
The first pillar is the social economy. In that pillar, over and above a number of social initiatives related to first nations and to other people, is the special concept of funding businesses or organizations that deliver social services. The social economy enterprises are organizations that run like businesses. producing goods and services for the market economy, but which manage their operations on a not for profit basis. Instead, they direct any surpluses to the pursuit of social and community goals. Social economy enterprises are located across the country and contribute significantly to Canada's communities. This government will ensure that over time a wide range of our programs for small businesses are accessible to social economy enterprises.
We are taking immediate action in this area. This budget sets aside $162 million over five years; $100 million in the next five years to support financing initiatives that will increase lending to the social economy enterprises and help establish four special capital funds in support of social economy enterprises; $47 million for pilot programs in support of strategic planning and capacity building of community economic development organizations; and $15 million, starting in 2005-06, to the community university research alliance program run by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The council will seek out parties to do community based research on the social economy.
The government is committed to enhancing the social and environmental conditions of our communities across Canada. This is exciting new work in an effort to keep our social programs in touch with the modern world.
As people can seen throughout this debate and through the throne speech, there are a number of exciting new initiatives for Canadians. It will be great to see how members across vote on these initiatives. There are a number of seats that are not held by Liberals. Our members will be watching how members opposite vote, when the vote comes up presumably this week. Our research bureau, our candidates running in the ridings of the opposition members and Canadians who live in those ridings will be very interested to see how they vote on these initiatives that will help Canadians.
It will be great to see if any Conservatives vote against reducing waiting lists in hospitals, the $36.8 billion in health care, or the GST rebate, the $7 billion for cities, the seventh consecutive balanced budget or our effort to pay off the national debt. It will be great to see if Conservatives vote against our expenditure review to cut $3 billion in low priority government programming. It will be great to see if the Conservatives vote against the greatest cut in history.
It will be great for our candidates in Quebec to see if the Bloc votes against huge transfers in health care and education money, and the programs I just outlined.
It will be great for our candidates to see if any of the NDP members vote against $3.5 billion, the biggest environmental program in Canadian history, or against $2,000 for a number of low income students or the grant of $3,000 for low income students. We will see if any members of the NDP vote against $18 million for the voluntary sector, or $2 billion in housing since 2002, or $162 million for the social economy or $36.8 billion in health care. We will see if any of the NDP vote against the $248 million increase in foreign aid, or money for the urban aboriginal strategy or for aboriginal human resources development or for aboriginal children.
On voting day we will be watching very carefully to see which, if any, members of the opposition vote against these initiatives to help Canadians, for health care, for social programs, for aboriginal people, for the economy and for people with disabilities.