Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address elements related to the budget today. I am thankful that our Minister of Finance understands budgetary issues, what goes into the thinking behind putting a budget together and how that can best affect Canadians and our country.
I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain.
I would like to philosophically for a couple of minutes look at the tone of this budget. I grant that there are areas that need to be addressed and which any party would address. These are areas related to the environment that we are actually addressing with $2 billion over the next couple of years and areas related to the needs of aboriginals and our first nations community. Many of those areas are being addressed in a very vigorous way on the monetary side. There are those broad social areas which I think would be addressed perhaps in different flavours and with different emphasis by all parties.
What makes a Conservative budget distinctive is a recognition of the importance of individuals, the respect for individual rights and freedoms which carries and runs deeply in the Conservative mindset and also reflects into individual responsibilities.
We will find that these are not perfect philosophical lines. The lines blur between political parties. What we find in general, if it is a truly Conservative budget is, first, that the social needs are being met and attended to. What gives it a distinctive flavour is a trust in the individual, in individual people, families and communities, that lead to a certain emphasis on, for instance, approaching problems and pressures with tax credits.
Philosophically, the difference between the governing party now and the previous government and the NDP is very clear. We trust families to be able to make decisions about where the money would be best used for their child care, for instance. Whereas a Liberal government, or a socialist party such as the NDP, would tend to not have the same level of trust in individual wisdom so they move to a more collectivist mode. We see, therefore, that when it comes to child care they want a program that is government run, government institutionalized and focuses solely on government institutions.
This government trust families to know what their individual needs are and how best they can spend the money. We allow the money go to individual families in terms of this child care credit. Throughout this budget we see credits for people recognizing individual initiative and individual capability.
A Conservative budget will tend to be less invasive in terms of massive government programs dictating to individuals and even to businesses that they should go this way or not go anywhere at all.
We see that reflected in the credits for small business. Rather than coming up with a program of trying to pick winners and losers, and governments historically, we can say, have the amazing capability to often pick the losers instead of the winners, rather than helping small business with a massive program of subsidies, we approach by raising the limit that a small business can earn before it even has to pay taxes.
We take that approach in the general corporate rate, lowering that, and we take that approach with hard-working citizens across the country, raising the limit before they even start to be taxed. Instead of picking and choosing certain seniors' programs that are needed, we take the approach of raising the amount of money that seniors can bring in before they start being punished by the government for being hard-working and entrepreneurial. The distinctive flavour in a Conservative budget is more trust in individual citizens and less invasiveness into the lives of our citizens.
I and many others in the House have said many times that the first responsibility of any government is the safety and security of its citizens. I am pleased that the Minister of Finance and our Prime Minister have seen the area of safety and security as one of the five key areas that needed to be addressed.
We recognized that more RCMP officers were needed on our streets so I endorsed $161 million in funding over the next two years in the budget for the training of 1,000 more RCMP officers. We also recognized that with that comes the capability at the depot in Regina to train those people so we added another $37 million for that particular purpose.
I am pleased to see that we responded to the concerns of our border officers from coast to coast who wanted to be equipped and protected at dangerous moments in their jobs. Their jobs can be very dangerous when armed people approach the border. We were committed to ensuring our border officers were well trained in the areas of arrest and seizure and equipped with sidearms so the budget contains the first down payment on that.
Along with that, we committed $303 million to ensure low risk travel so individuals and businesses could access the border through technological means. We wanted to ensure that prosperity happens through and across our borders just as much as security does.
Those were the elements the finance minister and our Prime Minister saw as being needful in our communities.
The fact that we would come out with a policy position, and not just state the policy but actually back it with the funding, recognizes what we will be doing through the Minister of Justice in terms of certain convictions that will carry mandatory sentences.
We have seen the tragedy of handgun crime in this country. Another police officer was tragically slain last week. We are getting serious about serious crime because that is what our citizens want us to do. However we will need some increased capacity to deal with those who will be in jail longer. Because they will be in jail longer we will make programs available to them that were not available to them when they received shorter or conditional sentences.
We are not just dealing with the criminal aspect in terms of incarceration as part of the budget and we are not just increasing capacity, we are making an extra $20 million available for programs for youth at risk.
Those are the types of initiatives we are taking in a balanced way. Those are the types of things that I believe, partisanship aside, most Canadians will continue to support.
I would now like to talk about how the budget has been resonating in my own constituency. For the most part, there are no perfect budgets but this budget by the finance minister is close to perfection. I have been door-knocking in my constituency on a regular basis and most people, by and large, like the balance of what they are seeing in the budget. It is interesting to see that reflected in polls across the country but I sense it at the doors in my constituency.
There are areas that they are hoping to see as the budgetary process continues. In some of the meetings I attended this past weekend in my constituency, people in the agriculture community were acknowledging the significant increase of $1.5 billion to the agricultural community. How is that playing out on the ground, in the fields and in the orchards?
I had a meeting with Joe Sardinha, the head of the British Columbia Fruit Growers Association, who plays a significant role in agriculture. He made some important observations about how the CAIS program was really not equipped to deliver to the fruit growers in their time of need. He pointed out that the inventory evaluation program really did not serve the fruit growers as it might serve somebody in the grain and oilseeds business. I have brought forward those suggestions.
The finance minister asked us to give him feedback on what we were hearing about the budget so we could improve it, if need be, as we move along.
I have had meetings with mayors and councils right across my constituency and they are glad to see what is in the budget for the infrastructure fund and specific projects still come to mind. We need a passport office in my constituency. These are the things people are telling me as I go door to door, people who are dealing with everyday realities.
From the infrastructure fund, as we move toward the Olympics, yes, there are certain projects. The South Okanagan Event Centre is a project that would encompass many other constituencies in the entire South Okanagan. These are issues that people will continue to be looking forward to and for which we will continue to make the case.
At a meeting just this weekend, the mayor and councillor were pleased to see us going ahead with the infrastructure fund and that we have growth in our area because the Okanagan is the most beautiful place in the world to live. We will address those areas of growth.
I am glad that the budget addresses many of these areas. We will continue to bring our concerns forward. We are glad to see that not just the fiscal needs but the social needs of Canadians are being met by this budget.