Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity during the budget debate to put in context the most productive year of a Prime Minister in Canadian history.
I went through this to some degree earlier when the budget first came out many weeks ago. I want to reiterate the tremendous accomplishments of this Prime Minister and this government in its first year. It is unparalleled in history. I put a challenge out previously to the national press and the opposition to come up with a comparable record.
I want to start out with the largest problem facing Canadians at the time when this Prime Minister came into government. Seldom does a Prime Minister in his first year have the confidence of Parliament and the provinces, which is always a great negotiating discussion and feat, to deal with the largest problem on the minds of people in the provinces and that was health care. The Prime Minister came up with a record $41.3 billion to deal with health care over 10 years.
This is particularly appropriate for my area and the north. The budget has a tremendous number of programs and assistance dollars for the north, particularly in relation to health care. Over and above the largest increase in health care in history, the other increase for the people of the north, understanding the special circumstances under which they work, is the additional money for aboriginal people who have their own challenges.
After this tremendous achievement, which in itself would put the Prime Minister and the government as a leading government in its first year, there was a second great accomplishment shortly thereafter related to what is the essence of Canada as a nation separate from other nations, and that is related to equalization.
Our country, being a generous federal state, helps other regions on the understanding and the compassion for regions of the country that are experiencing a time of being less fortunate. The whole equalization regime needed repair and updating. The Prime Minister convened the 13 jurisdictions in the country and, remarkably, through difficult negotiations and the balancing of funds he came up with an historic deal of $33 billion and a whole new way of looking at modernizing equalization so that it would work to preserve the intrinsic values that make us Canadian.
After the budget deliberations and in the budget implementation act are special provisions for a part of the country and that is the need to boost the revenues for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador with special extra revenues.
I think the genius of this whole approach and these successes, which prime ministers in the past could only have dreamed of, was the fact that individual provinces, as they were when they came into Confederation, were treated individually according to their needs. I believe this is the essence in the federalism of a caring state.
The present Prime Minister and our caucus also wanted to re-engage and reinforce the great Canadian vision and our place in the world. Canadians believe ourselves to be fortunate and that we can play a major role in helping those in the world who are less fortunate. We have done that in a number of ways over the year. Over Christmas, Canada was lauded around the world for the $42 million in emergency relief and in our efforts with the United Nations to eradicate polio in the world.
We have created the Canada Corps which will help extend Canada's values around the world. Canadians are very proud of the values and the visions that they have of their nation and they like to use that to help other nations. What is better than doing that with our youth and the Canada Corps?
Another urgent situation was in Darfur where many Canadians, myself included, and many Canadians in my riding, Bill Klassen being one, were very upset about the situation there. Canada has played a leading role. We started with an initial contribution of, I think, $20 million, with military advisers and support. I think just recently there was an announcement for another $90 million.
We also contributed $100 million toward purchasing the drugs necessary for the treatment of AIDS. There is an increase of $70 million to the global fund to deal with diseases in the poorest parts of the world, such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
I am sure everyone is aware of our efforts in Haiti and of the efforts of the wonderful people in our armed forces who are in Haiti; of our efforts in Afghanistan where I visited our troops who are doing a tremendous job; of our efforts in Africa; of our leading support for the tsunami victims; and of the funds we are providing to Iraq.
The Prime Minister has come up with something unique again in international world contributions and that is the whole concept of having the responsibility to protect. This idea protects nations that are unstable or not completely in control of situations and are unable or unwilling to risk their citizens' lives. It will be the responsibility of those in the world who can protect them. This is a whole new concept. For a Prime Minister in his first year to be able to get support for such a concept on the world stage is remarkable.
Of course, even before he was Prime Minister he made great progress in the essence of the G-20 and other international groups based on function, not on process. Any international group, whether it is the United Nations, NATO or the G-20, that can get a job done in today's modern, complex world, the Prime Minister has made great strides in leadership in the world on that.
Let us now look to students. Originally we will remember that the government chose not to put bricks and mortar as our millennium contribution. We decided to invest in people, particularly young people and students. We put into place the largest scholarship program in Canadian history, the Canadian millennium fund. Many students in my riding, which I am sure is the same for all members of Parliament, are very thankful for that help with their post-secondary education. Things have constantly been added to improve the financing, such as the new learning bond for low income students and ceilings have been increased for student loans.
What I found particularly gratifying, which I lobbied for but did not have to, was that the vision the Prime Minister enunciated when he first came to the leadership was carried through into the election platform, which was then carried through with credibility and integrity into the throne speech. A throne speech is nice but if it is not funded it does not go anywhere. It would take the highest integrity to carry that from the throne speech into the budget and that is exactly what has been done for all the major items that were in the election platform.
One of the huge initiatives that was talked about and has been building over recent years through the desire of Canadians is a national child care and early learning system. That was in the throne speech and the budget of $5 billion was carried through. As Parliament knows, there have been remarkable meetings with the provinces and the minister. They have come together on the quad principles that the whole system will operate under.
There are of course a number of programs and initiatives for seniors. Throughout my life I have taken a special interest in seniors because there are times in our lives, that being one, where we have less ability to help ourselves.
I was delighted to see that the government brought back the new horizons program funding. It was very popular in my area. It has been increased in this budget for coming years.
Increasing the old age income supplement is a very important concept in our nation. It speaks to what we are as a nation: one that is defined not by the tax treatment we give to those of us who can afford it and the things we give to those who can care for themselves, but to those of us who are most in need. Those seniors who are most in need are the ones who require the old age income supplement. I am delighted they are the first people we have helped and the first we have paid attention to. I hope we will continue to do that in the future.
We are talking about huge areas in the first year of the mandate, huge accomplishments in the whole spectrum of areas that are of concern to Canadians, one being the environment. One of the big items in the throne speech and carried on into the budget was the quadrupling of our efforts toward wind energy per riding, which is renewable energy that will reduce the greenhouse gases in Canada that have had such a dramatic effect on my riding of Yukon. We are always seeing dramatic effects on the economy when the roads, which people need to get places, become icy and then melt. There is also a tremendous negative impact on biology and on various species.
That is not the only environmental money that is being put in. We continue to support ethanol. We continue to support natural gas over other hydrocarbons that would produce higher levels of greenhouse gases. We continue our support for the modernization of solar energy and for increasing the technology so it will become competitive. We are continuing our long history in supporting atomic energy and the huge reductions in greenhouse gases that it provides, especially in China, where we have a CANDU reactor, which is using coal that is producing many greenhouse gases that affects us so much in North America.
Another list is the many major accomplishments in the first year that were achieved by the fiscal constraints put in place by the Prime Minister when he was finance minister to get rid of the deficit so we could invest in all these areas: health care, seniors, renewable energy and the environment.
The next area of great accomplishment, and an area in which people wanted to invest but could not until the dividends of this careful, fiscal management came through, was to increase the funds for the military. The House will remember that the previous budget increased funds for equipment and a number of new equipment purchases are under way. Under this budget, National Defence will see an increase of 5,000 more troops and 3,000 more reserves.
It is hard to imagine all these things and it is still the first year of a new Prime Minister and a new government mandate, but it redefines the whole relationship in a nation between orders of government. As people know, there are four orders of government in Canada. To redefine the relationship between the federal government and two of those other four orders is a tremendous accomplishment in the operations of this country.
The two orders of government are the first nations, the aboriginal peoples, and the municipalities.
The first one I will talk about are the municipalities. This is a whole new relationship in an evolving country where people are migrating in large numbers to the urban areas. Municipal governments have been maturing in their capabilities and in their needs in Confederation. Since 1994 the federal government has put the amazing amount of $12 billion into infrastructure.
In my area that money has gone into every single community. It has also gone to the smallest areas and right across the nation, and has had a major effect on the quality of life in Canada.
There was the $7 billion in GST rebates to municipalities. I am sure all members of Parliament have received the thanks for that rebate to the communities in their ridings.
Over and above all the old infrastructure funds that were so successful, the new rural municipal infrastructure fund was exceedingly exciting for me because all my communities are rural. In this particular budget not only was the new rural fund there but the paying out of the money was accelerated. It was original announced over a 10 year period and now we have accelerated it over five years, so that our communities can spend that money twice as quickly for sustainable projects, clean water, clean sewage, reducing greenhouse gases, and the infrastructure that is needed for the high quality of life.
The huge announcement in the budget was the gas tax rebate to the municipal governments for renewable projects to improve the quality of life in cities, towns, villages and aboriginal communities.
Over and above these huge amounts of funds to build the quality of life, which was provided because of the earlier fiscal restraints and getting the finances of the nation in order, is the new relationship with that order of government. When we have orders of government working together, it is the type of recipe we need to make the nation work as the best nation in the world to live in.
I have already talked about the major investment in the environment. It came after the previous budget that had the largest environmental program in the history of any government in Canada of $3.5 billion for the cleanup of federal environmental sites. The good thing for me was that 60% of those funds would go to the north.
Over and above that the 2005 budget had a number of items for reducing greenhouse gases and climate change which is so front and centre on the minds of Canadians, especially in the north where it is already having such dramatic changes that we have to adapt to. There has been $3.7 billion since 1997. There is $100 million to increase emission efficiencies in the auto industry. As the House knows there has recently been a history making voluntary agreement with the auto companies to reduce emissions and there is $1 billion for new technologies to reduce greenhouse gases. There is a renewable energy program to support other types of renewable energy.
I am obviously not going to get through everything that I wanted to say, so I will briefly list the points I would have talked about if I had time: the relationship with aboriginal people, the new land claim self-government agreements, the national historic aboriginal round table, and over $1 billion for agriculture, including what we have just announced.
The whole democratic reform, with this side of the House having more free votes than ever in history, has transformed the House. There is the whole northern strategy and northern sovereignty for my area. There are the largest tax cuts in history of $100 billion. There is $10 billion a year for children in poverty.
There are a number of initiatives I would have talked about that we have put forward for people with disabilities. This economy of hope and these unparalleled accomplishments of the Prime Minister are some of the things of which I am very proud. They affect all aspects of Canadian life: health care, the economy, social programs to help the disabled, the poor and those most in need. For that I am very proud, and I will be happy to stand and fight for that any day.