Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about some of the measures contained in budget 2005.
As the Minister of Finance pointed out in his speech introducing the budget, Canada will record its eighth consecutive surplus in 2004-05, a record unmatched since Confederation. Indeed, Canada will be the only G-7 country to post a total government surplus in that year. Canada's much improved fiscal situation has allowed the government to make significant investments in our country's future.
In this year's budget, we committed substantial new funding for health care, seniors, child care, our cities and communities, the environment, while at the same time providing tax reductions and laying the groundwork for future progress.
I will focus my remarks today on the initiatives in the budget that build on our social foundations, especially the importance of the arts and culture in our society, because this sector is one which allows our country to define us as Canadians.
It should also be noted that the arts and culture form part of the government cities and communities agenda. In fact, the arts and culture are the essence of our cities and communities and they are integral to the safety, vitality and economic prosperity of our cities and communities.
I represent the riding of Parkdale—High Park in Toronto which is home to many of Canada's artists and creators. Indeed, the city of Toronto bears testament for my thesis of the role played by the arts in our cities.
In February of this year, thanks to the advocacy of the greater Toronto area Liberal caucus in supporting the city of Toronto's application, Toronto was named one of the culture capitals of Canada. The culture capital announcement specifically recognized Toronto's ongoing and long term commitment to the arts and cultural sector.
Toronto is a cultural city that truly reflects culture and creativity and showcases the work of professional and local artists of all ages from diverse backgrounds and cultures to successfully blend traditional art forms with the newest technologies.
The influence of the arts is integral to the health and vitality of our cities. Let us not forget that when the Prime Minister became leader the first thing he announced was that the cities agenda would be the government's top priority. He reconfirmed this in the Speech from the Throne where we provided for a GST rebate to municipalities. He went further than that and kept another of his promises to ensure that cities and communities would start sharing part of the gas tax.
Budget 2005 also confirmed the government's commitment for art and culture by stabilizing funding for arts and cultural programs in the amount of $860 million over the next five years. It is the single most important investment by the Government of Canada in arts and culture ever. This investment will ensure that more Canadian artists and creators are able to display their work to audiences at home and abroad.
Specifically, for those people who may have forgotten what is in the budget, budget 2005 committed the following: $5 million per year over five years to enhance the multiculturalism program; $10 million per year over five years to the celebrate the Canada program for community based events and activities that offer Canadians the opportunity to share their pride in our country; $56 million over the next five years for the implementation of a Canada for all Canadians action plan against racism; $25 million over the next three years for commemorative and educational initiatives to highlight the contribution that ethnocultural groups have made to Canadian society and to help build a better understanding among all Canadians; and one of my favourites, $60 million to CBC Radio-Canada in 2005-06 to help ensure high quality programming; $5 million for the aboriginal languages initiative; and $45 million in 2005-06 for the centre for research and information on Canada.
I want to underline that the CBC will receive $60 million for 2005-06 for Canadian programming. I can assure members that we will continue to press for additional funding for the nation's public broadcaster so that it can continue to provide quality programs in all parts of the country.
I am also delighted to announce that the CBC's budget will not be reduced as a result of the government-wide expenditure review allocation exercise.
At this time I would like to remind Canadians that when we started this Parliament the Prime Minister announced that he wanted all departments to look for ways to become more effective and to look at what we could do to reduce expenditures.
Well, we looked and we found a $12 billion saving, which was headed by the Minister of Revenue, to ensure we were more efficient and more accountable to Canadians. I am also pleased to say that in light of this government's commitment to the arts and culture and how integral it is to our communities, not one heritage portfolio was subject to expenditure review. That is a testament to this government's commitment to the arts and culture and to our communities.
One of the biggest programs, as I said, is the renewal of Tomorrow Starts Today, a renewal advocated by arts organizations across Canada and with a new ally I might add, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, because it, too, understands the important role that the arts and culture play in our communities and cities.
Let me just go through what those initiatives under Tomorrow Starts Today are and what would be lost if this budget does not pass.
First, we have the cultural capitals of Canada program that recognizes the excellence of municipal work in supporting special activities that celebrate arts and culture and their integration into community planning.
We also have the cultural spaces Canada program. I will bet there is not one member in this House whose community has not benefited from this. This is a program that helps to improve the physical conditions that enable artistic creativity and innovation and helps ensure greater access to the arts and heritage by all Canadians.
The arts presentation Canada program is comprised of five components that aim to strengthen organizational effectiveness and to build capacity in arts and heritage organizations so that funding our arts is no longer seen as a black hole. We are ensuring their sustainability because they are important to our society and our economy.
The Canadian arts and heritage sustainability program is comprised of five components that aim to strengthen organizational effectiveness and to build capacity in arts and heritage organizations.
The national arts training contribution program supports Canadian organizations specializing in professional artistic training, such as the National Theatre School in Montreal and, one of my favourites, the National Ballet School of Canada in Toronto.
An increase in parliamentary appropriations has allowed the Canada Council for the Arts to support new areas, to enhance grants and improve the international presence and national profile of Canadian artists. In 2007, the Canada Council for the Arts will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.
A new initiative and a very innovative one called the Canadian cultural online initiative provides funding for programs that focus on making Canadian content, in both official languages, readily available on the Internet, contributing to a better understanding of Canada and its rich diversity. It has five sub-initiatives, which include the virtual Museum of Canada, the Canadian Cultural Observatory and the Aboriginal Canada Portal.
I would like to share with members that last Thursday night when I went back to my riding I attended the 10th anniversary of the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art which received funding under this program. The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art, through its Canadian art database, offers the opportunity to view the works of close to 500 Canadian artists. It is a great program and it is a great success.
Another initiative concerns the music industry which I think is very important because it is one of our greatest successes. We define ourselves through our artists.
We also have the renewal of the Canadian music fund, which FACTOR is part of. FACTOR is the Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records, which is a private non-profit organization dedicated to providing assistance to the growth and development of Canadian independent recording industries.
When this funding was threatened, FACTOR initiated the save Canadian music lobby. It was successful in the fact that it was renewed in the budget. At the Junos, Heather Ostertag, the president of FACTOR, stood and thanked the minister and the government for their acknowledgement of the importance that our Canadian musicians and songwriters play. I hope Heather's thanks were not in vain.
In an increasingly integrated North American and a global environment, artists, creators and cultural industries help Canadians make their voices heard and assert their perspectives on the world in which we live. I am glad to have been part of this government that will continue to ensure that our artists and creators are heard, not only in Canada but around the world.