Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Langley, for sharing his time with me today.
Canada's new government campaigned on the items in this budget. Happily, Canadians gave us a mandate to implement our platform and we are now delivering on our commitments.
The budget provides some $11.7 billion in total direct federal support to families in 2006-07 alone. The vast majority of benefits will go to low and middle income families.
I want to emphasize that the budget addresses a broad range of issues. Our support for child care has received most of the attention, but the budget invests in Canadians of all ages and stages of life and in many different circumstances. I will talk about some of those in a few minutes.
The hallmark of the budget is the five priorities in the Speech from the Throne. One of those five is to give parents a choice in child care. Our budget provides for a new universal child care plan that provides benefits directly to families and supports the creation of new child care spaces.
The new universal child care benefit will go directly to the parents of Canada's 2.1 million preschoolers. It will provide $1,200 a year for each child under six to help parents choose the options for child care that best suit their family's unique circumstances.
We hope for swift passage of the budget and urge all parties to vote for what Canadians want and expect. Parents across the country want our universal child care benefit and are looking forward to receiving their first monthly cheque of $100 for each preschool age child this July.
The universal child care benefit is only one of two components of our universal child care plan. We know that many parents want formal day care and that the demand for these spaces exceeds the current supply. The budget sets aside $250 million per year beginning in 2007-08. We will create with that money 25,000 new spaces each year.
We want community associations, not for profit organizations, parents, and businesses both large and small to come up with ideas for child care spaces that make sense for them. In the coming months we will consult on the child care spaces initiative with the provinces and territories, employers and other stakeholders on ways to implement our spaces initiative.
In addition to helping all parents with their preschool age children, our government is following through on our commitment to help address the skills and labour shortage. To do this we have introduced several new measures.
First, we will introduce a new apprenticeship incentive grant. It will provide a cash grant of $1,000 per year to apprentices in the first two years of an apprenticeship program in one of the red seal trades. This grant will promote the entry of new labourers into the trades.
Our budget also encourages employers to hire new apprentices through an apprenticeship job creation tax credit. Eligible employers will receive a tax credit of 10% of the apprentice's wages to a maximum of $2,000 per apprentice per year for each of the apprentice's first two years.
The budget also delivers on our campaign commitment for a new tools tax deduction worth up to $500 per year that will help apprentices and trades people pay for the cost of their tools.
These are the first steps in our longer term broad based agenda to respond to the concerns of employers, unions and workers who recognize the great need for more skilled trades people right across Canada.
We will also be consulting with the provinces, territories and other stakeholders on the creation of the Canadian agency for the assessment and recognition of foreign credentials. The agency will offer preassessment of international credentials and experience. On the basis of the advice that we receive, we will move quickly so that new Canadians can quickly put their skills to work for their benefit and for ours.
Because students are our future leaders, this budget introduces several new measures to help young Canadians get the education that they need. We want to make post-secondary studies more affordable for Canadians. The budget invests up to $20 million annually to increase direct support to students and their families through the Canada student loans program. We will expand eligibility for student loans through a reduction in the expected parental contribution starting in August 2007. We have also introduced a textbook tax credit of $65 per month for full time students and $20 per month for part time students. While these tax reductions are modest, we know and understand that every little bit helps.
Our government also believes that hard work deserves to be rewarded. Our brightest young minds deserve to keep their hard-earned bursaries and scholarships. That is why our government is eliminating federal taxes on scholarship and bursary income.
While direct assistance to students is important, our government also recognizes that improving access to post-secondary education requires more than loans, grants and bursaries. The institutions themselves must have the capacity to support the growing number of students. That is why we are establishing a one time post-secondary education infrastructure trust fund. The budget provides $1 billion for the provinces and territories to support urgent investments in infrastructure and equipment such as better classrooms and libraries, laboratories and research facilities, and to purchase new technologies and training equipment.
The demand for new skills and technologies sometimes displaces older workers. We made it clear that we will stand up for older workers. We recognize the important contribution that they make to the labour market. We are committed to finding ways to help them and will evaluate several options for assistance. Personally, I look forward to working with members of the opposition in addressing the needs of older workers.
While assistance to human capital is important, our government also recognizes the need for investment in housing infrastructure. We are determined to help make quality housing more affordable and available for Canadian families, particularly aboriginal Canadians and people living in Canada's north. To this effect, our government is investing $800 million in affordable housing to help provinces and territories increase the number of safe and affordable housing units. In addition, the budget provides up to $300 million to provinces to address immediate pressures in off reserve aboriginal housing and up to $300 million to territories for affordable housing in the north.
Canada's seniors could also use their government's support. That is why our government is following through on our commitments to double the pension income credit from $1,000 to $2,000 in 2006. This will benefit nearly 2.7 million seniors with pension income and will remove approximately 85,000 pensioners from the tax roll.
Our government is also addressing the needs of some 3.6 million Canadians living with a disability. Effective this July, we will increase the maximum annual child disability benefit to $2,300, up sharply from $2,044. We are also extending eligibility for this benefit to virtually all families caring for a child who is eligible for the disability tax credit. This is good news for families struggling with the challenges of providing for the needs of their family members with disabilities.
Our government is following through on our campaign commitments. We offered Canadians a platform of hope and of change. Canadians voted for this change and we are now proud to follow through on our commitments. I urge all hon. members to support the choices of Canadians and to join me in supporting this budget.