Mr. Speaker, today we continue our debate on the budget introduced by my colleague, the Minister of Finance. As members review the contents of the budget, it is tempting to deal only in numbers. However, it is important for all to remember that budgets are much more than just numbers. They are about people. They are about a vision for our country and what we envision our future to be.
In this budget we find a clear and tangible commitment in all of these areas and more. If we were to ask Canadians to choose one thing they value most about their country in terms of public policy, I believe the vast majority would identify health care as one of the major priorities. Liberal government after Liberal government has demonstrated their commitment to a national health care system that cares more about the patient than it does about their wallets.
This government has presented a budget that reflects the very core of our nation's values. This budget speaks to the needs of Canadians and to their deeply held beliefs about their country. This government shares the priorities of Canadians, such as secure social foundations, environmental protection and promotion, health care, sustainable communities, and fiscal responsibility.
To this end, in September 2004 the Prime Minister concluded negotiations with the premiers of this country on a national health care accord. This government committed $41.3 billion over 10 years to improve our health care system. In budget 2005 we see a commitment that builds on this agreement with $805 million in new direct federal health care investments. These funds will be directed toward human resources, healthy living and chronic disease treatment, and drug safety, to name but a few.
Once again it is a Liberal government that has demonstrated continued leadership in the area of health care. This is a government that sees more value in action with regard to our health care system than it does in rhetoric.
I would also like to point out that as a government we are profoundly committed to protecting our environment and honouring the terms of the Kyoto accord to which this country is a signatory.
We have a profound and abiding obligation to ensure that we hand down to our children and to generations to come the kind of country they deserve. It is our covenant with young Canadians and indeed for those yet to be born. To this end, the Liberal budget is committing $5 billion over five years to support a sustainable environment, and an additional $5 billion for cities and communities to enhance green initiatives.
Once again, our government followed its commitments with action. My colleague, the Minister of the Environment, recently announced “Project Green”, which clearly demonstrates the government's plans to implement the provisions of the Kyoto accord. The plan follows measures announced in budget 2005, including the climate fund and the partnership fund, and ensures that emissions targets will be met.
The announcement of “Project Green: Moving Forward on Climate Change” is a fair and balanced plan to help honour our Kyoto commitment. It is the right plan for our economy and environment. Our climate change plan is a key component of the government's broader environmental vision aimed at supporting a sustainable environment and a more competitive economy. It will deliver cleaner air, cleaner water and a healthier environment for all Canadians for generations to come. It will also help position Canada at the forefront of global environmental technologies with a significant investment in research and development.
Among other measures “Project Green” includes: investments in the order of $10 billion between now and 2012; significant greenhouse gas reductions; and annual assessments of climate change programs to ensure results and that Canadians receive value for money. This will ensure fairness and accountability.
This government is committed to engaging the provinces and territories, industry, environmental groups and other stakeholders to work out the details of implementation and ensure its success.
Canadians want a more energy efficient and sustainable economy that will afford a better quality of life. They also want assurances that our programs and issues are delivering measurable and accountable results. Our climate change plan does this.
Climate change is real. Levels of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, are now rising faster than ever. This has led to a record increase in temperatures over the 20th century.
The 1990s was the warmest decade since records have been kept. Some people say we should renege on our international commitments, but the Government of Canada and Canadians agree that we have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren, and the time to act is now.
Canadians also believe that we should not shirk on our commitments to the international community, particularly those commitments we help to forge on the world stage. The Kyoto protocol is not simply one way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada; it is the only internationally binding agreement that exists on climate change. Canada proudly ratified Kyoto and this plan will help see to its global objectives.
Canadians are already feeling the effects related to climate change: drought conditions in the continent's heartland and extreme weather conditions on both coasts. We also know climate change is already having dramatic effects in Canada's north. Climate change is inevitable, but the worst effects can be avoided if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized. That is the goal of the Kyoto protocol.
As of February 2005 Kyoto is now international law. It has been ratified by 140 countries representing 62% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Canada's competitiveness and quality of life in the 21st century must be built on a healthy and sustainable environment. These are initiatives that demonstrate that this is a government of action and conviction dedicated to protecting our environment and in so doing ensuring that generations to come will inherit a nation that is livable, healthy and beautiful.
The one way we can measure the greatness of the nation is the manner in which it cares for its children. We are charged with their care, with ensuring that they have the kinds of skills and tools they need to grow into healthy and productive citizens. This begins at a very young age.
In budget 2005 the government has committed $5 billion over five years to help build an early learning and child care initiative. Indeed our government has begun to announce agreements with various provincial governments to implement this commitment.
In the first week of May, the Prime Minister visited the great city of Hamilton, Ontario to sign a $1.8 billion five year agreement to help my home province create thousands more child care spaces. This will mean $271.9 million in this year alone for child care in Ontario. These funds will go a long way toward helping to alleviate the pressure parents experience in terms of securing safe and affordable child care. We owe this to families in this country and we owe it to our children.
I have long held that housing is a right for all Canadians. The basic need of shelter is not something that should ever be beyond the affordable for people living in this country. It is imperative that as a matter of public policy governments recognize the pressing need for affordable housing right across the country.
I am proud that the Liberal government has demonstrated leadership in this regard. At the end of last month, for example, the Liberal government announced in conjunction with the Government of Ontario that it would be committing $301 million to implement an affordable housing strategy. These funds will be matched equally by the province and the municipalities for a total commitment of $734 million in Ontario.
By committing these funds the federal government is undertaking the most significant investment in affordable housing in generations. In Ontario alone we will see the creation of more than 15,000 units of affordable housing, which means 15,000 families with a place to live that is affordable. If this is not a role for government to pursue, then I cannot imagine what is.
Also, at the beginning of May I was pleased to join with my colleagues, the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers and the Minister of Labour and Housing to announce that changes to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's programs would be made to make it easier for seniors to remain in their homes and closer to their families and communities. These changes will also make access to mortgage loan insurance easier for new homeowners who purchase a home with a rental unit.
These are tangible benefits that will make a significant difference in the lives of Canadians. It is about recognizing the challenges Canadians face every day and about using public policy to assist them to better their lives.
Seniors can be sure that the Liberal government is looking out for them and delivering on a promise to them. In budget 2005 we will see a $2.7 billion increase over five years in the guaranteed income supplement. Similarly, the amount that Canadians can earn before paying taxes will increase to $10,000. This will remove 240,000 seniors from the tax rolls, for a total of 860,000 Canadians being exempt from paying federal taxes.
In implementing these measures, this government is ensuring that the lives of Canadians on fixed incomes are made easier. It is about fairness and equity. It is about ensuring that those who are less advantaged are given a hand up and surely there is no one who would disagree with this kind of help.
This budget is good news for all Canadians and for my home province of Ontario about which I would like to speak for a moment. Ontario will receive $1.9 billion over the next five years as a result of this government's decision to transfer a portion of the gas tax to municipalities. As we all know, just this past weekend the Prime Minister and the Ontario premier agreed to a $5.75 billion financial commitment from the federal government. These funds will, along with other things, go to assist Ontario with newcomer settlement costs, a new labour market agreement and an increase in post-secondary funding for students and institutions.
This government cares about the pressures facing provincial governments and I am confident that the people of Ontario will recognize this is a major step forward in financial support for this province from the government in Ottawa, a step forward delivered by a Liberal government.
I am also pleased to report that the budget is good news for the people of Toronto. As well as the gas tax revenues noted above that will help build better roads, improve transit systems and provide more sustainable infrastructure, there are other measures to assist Toronto and all cities and communities across the country.
Indeed, the mayor of the great city of Toronto, David Miller, described the budget as the “greatest news for the people of Toronto”. Furthermore, it was Mayor Miller and his counterpart from the city of Vancouver who recently announced to my colleagues across the floor to vote in favour of this budget.
As well as being citizens of Canada, we are also citizens of the world and we have an obligation there too.
Budget 2005 recognizes this with measures including debt relief for the world's poorest countries. The budget also includes a $3.4 billion boost to Canada's international assistance programs. Canada is respected around the world for its compassion and dedication to those nations that face the greatest challenges in terms of development and with regard to caring for their disadvantaged citizens.
We as a government remain committed to being a world leader in supporting those most in need and budget 2005 lives up to that legacy which we inherited from generations of Canadians who came before us.
That is why the Prime Minister has announced Canada is significantly increasing its contribution in Darfur to support international efforts toward peace and stability in Sudan. The government is pledging $198 million in new humanitarian aid and support for the African Union mission in Sudan. Of this, nearly $170 million in military and technical assistance to the African Union and another $28 million of the $90 million announced at the April 2005 Oslo Donors' Conference will go to support internally displaced persons and refugees in Darfur and Chad. The government is also enhancing diplomatic support for the African Union-led mediation to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict in Darfur.
Canada will continue to make a significant contribution to stabilization efforts in Darfur by increasing our helicopter support for AMIS and providing fixed wing airlift, as well as much needed equipment and materiel.
Canada will also continue to support African Union's leadership as the best way to resolve this crisis.
There is also funding for the arts and, as noted by Karen Kain of the Canada Council:
This is wonderful news, not only for the Canada Council, but also for the thousands of artists and arts organizations who receive Council funding
Clearly, the budget as I have noted here demonstrates this government's commitment to the very core of Canadian values: families, seniors, child care, health care and the list goes on.
We recognize that this is a progressive budget that delivers for Canadians and moves our country forward in a direction that Canadians want us to go. I cannot imagine anyone finding any reason to oppose this budget and I invite all my colleagues to join me in supporting this great agenda for progress in Canada.
Budgets are more than about people. Budgets are about delivering for Canada.
Finally, we need to have this budget approved for the sake of our cities, our provinces and our country. We need to approve this budget for our health care system, for the environment, for the arts and for our world commitment and the people of Darfur.