Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for this debate. I will be supporting the 2005 budget implementation act because it implements another great and fine budget by our finance minister and this government. I am very pleased to support this bill.
First, I think we need to highlight the fact that with this budget the government has delivered seven consecutive budget surpluses. There has been much moaning and whining on the other side of the House about the fact that we are having these surpluses and they should have been predicted.
The reality is that a 1% change in revenues or a 1% change in expenditures can change the surplus situation very significantly. I would certainly rather be on a surplus side than a deficit side. This government continues to produce surpluses. In fact, budget 2005 commits the government to another three or four years of budgetary surpluses.
The economy continues to grow at around 3% a year, a solid 3% year in and year out. In 2004 the economy in this country generated 255,000 new full time jobs. Our unemployment right now is below 7%, which is almost the lowest it has been for many years. There has been some commentary that the recent job numbers are indicating more part time jobs than full time jobs, but we have to look at this over a full cycle. This government's record in terms of creating the right economic circumstances to create sound economic growth and job creation is second to none in the industrialized world.
We also have been paying down our debt. With the payments on the debt and the growth in the economy, we are now at about 38.8% debt to GDP. In other words, the size of the national debt in comparison to the size of the economy is 38.8%. In 1995-96, that figure was 68.4%. We certainly have come a long way. Our government is committed to moving that number down to 25% in a very short period of time.
What does that mean for the average Canadian? It means a number of things. It means that if we have a sound economic policy, if we have sound economic performance and we have low interest rates, which we have in this country and have had for some time, and if we have a very good monetary policy to go with our very sound fiscal policy, that means jobs are being created. It means that people are able to buy a home for the first time.
We see that all the time when we are talking to our constituents. People who were renting are now saying that interest rates are so low they should really buy a home. We are seeing a lot of new home construction. What does that mean? That means more economic activity and more strength in our economy. It just leads to a combination of factors that is beneficial to all Canadians and to the creation of jobs.
This budget will follow up on our commitment to invest in health care. In fact, the budget continues the process of our commitment to $75 billion over 10 years, but we have also said that we cannot just keep throwing money at health care.
We must have more accountability. We must have benchmarks. We need to be able to compare how the health care system is operating in the Yukon versus how it is operating in Prince Edward Island or in Ontario. Citizens have the right to know. Are their tax dollars in health care going as far as they should go? How are we doing in terms of waiting times? How are we doing in terms of maximizing the health care infrastructure?
Do we have a lot of seniors occupying acute care beds, seniors who have no place to go because there is no home care and there is no intermediate care? That does not make any sense. Unfortunately, if we go to hospitals today in Canada, and in my riding as well, we are going to find that there are a lot of seniors in acute care beds in acute care hospitals, which is costing us as taxpayers much more than it should because an acute care hospital is the most expensive form of care.
The reason they are there is that there is no home care, no intermediate care and no long term care. The provinces need to build that capacity. In terms of patient care it is a much more desirable outcome as well. Many seniors do not want to be in an acute care hospital. They want to be at home or they want to be in an intermediate care facility. That is why we are saying we have to invest in health care but we must have performance standards. We must have accountability. We must have transparency on how these funds are being expended.
This budget also has a very large component of investments in our environment. It delivers on our commitment to implement the Kyoto accord. I think the issue that arose with respect to the definition of toxic items and greenhouse gases has been cleared up and I think it is a good debate that we should have under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. This budget delivers on our Kyoto commitments and it provides the kinds of signals and tax incentives that are going to be required if we are serious about meeting these targets.
One of the big components that I am very pleased to see is a $1 billion clean air fund. This will allow the market to in some sense distill and sort out what the biggest paybacks are in terms of projects that could be launched to reduce our greenhouse gases. Those that have the highest benefit costs will be supported by this fund. There will be some competition of ideas on how we can best launch a number of initiatives.
As members of Parliament, we often have competing ideas presented to us. We should create a level playing field for transit passes as that relates to parking for employees. We were presented with another proposal about investing in our infrastructure and public transit. Which is the better investment? This clean fund will provide some competition of ideas on the soundest investments to make to meet our Kyoto commitments and accelerate that process.
There is also a retrofit incentive program of $225 million, which will allow homeowners and other stakeholders to make very important investments in housing and in buildings to get maximum energy efficiency. In my riding I have a couple of companies that make sunroofs. They have asked me what is going to be in the budget to deal with energy efficiency. They believe their product is more energy efficient than standard heating. If we can take the benefit of sunlight, convert it into energy and put it into homes that are more energy efficient, then all of us then would have an opportunity to contribute to our fight to make sure that we clean up greenhouses gases.
We can see the effect of greenhouse gases. We can see the effect of climate change. Those who still do not believe that we need to deal with this have not been paying attention, I think, because we are seeing it. We are seeing it in the north. We had a meeting the other day with our Nordic partners, the ambassadors from Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and we compared notes. We have seen the effect of climate change in the north. We have to start dealing with that.
We have seen the effect of climate change in terms of weather patterns. Is it just a coincidence that we have all these hurricanes, floods and earthquakes? I think that a lot of this is tied to the fact that we have changed our environment significantly. We need to start dealing with that.
This budget commits $5 billion over five years for children in terms of their learning and their care. This is a very important initiative and I know the minister responsible is working with the various provinces and territories to come up with a national program. A lot of women in my riding say we really need better day care in Ontario. That is one component of it. This investment of $5 billion will allow that to come to fruition.
The budget also implements the new deal for communities. In 2005-06, $600 million will be funnelled to municipalities through a portion of the gas tax so municipalities can better deal with the many challenges they are facing. That figure will rise to $2 billion annually by 2009-10.
In my province we have seen the Ontario government, under the previous regime especially, devolving a lot of responsibilities but not moving the cash. The provincial government is saying that municipalities have to take on these responsibilities, but it has not been quite so good at flowing the resources to go with that. This allows us to transfer a significant amount of funding directly to municipalities so they can deal better with crime, with public transit and with the many issues facing municipalities.
We started that process a year ago when we gave municipalities relief from the GST. That alone is saving taxpayers in the city of Toronto some $55 million each and every year as well. That will go to good use in the city of Toronto and to investments in public transit.
I have been following the debate in the newspapers about the Ontario government. Premier Dalton McGuinty and his finance minister, Greg Sorbara, are saying that Ontario has a fiscal imbalance. First of all, “fiscal imbalance” is a phrase conjured up by the separatists. It really does not mean much. I am absolutely shocked that the premier of Ontario would use that kind of language.
Notwithstanding that, I am not very happy with the process. The Ontario government historically has a reputation for having some of the elder statesmen in Canada. As for the premier of Ontario politicizing this the way he has done instead of coming to Ottawa to discuss some of the challenges Ontario has, we know what some of the challenges are in Ontario. We know that Mike Harris and Ernie Eves gutted the revenue stream of the province of Ontario. They cut taxes because it sounded good and because it made some sense, but they went way too far. The result is that the revenue base in Ontario has been significantly eroded.
We understand that this is a problem for Premier McGuinty and finance Minister Sorbara, but I would like to see the province of Ontario deal with the problems before it and have some resolve. When we came into power we inherited a $42 billion budgetary deficit. This bill will make sure that we implement all the measures that are needed to assist the provinces and territories in ways that are important.