Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Edmonton Centre.
It is an honour and a privilege to rise today on behalf of the people of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke to participate in the first Conservative federal budget in 13 years to address the concerns of Canadians. The budget plan of the new Conservative government is called “Focusing on Priorities”. The priority this government is focusing on is people: Canadians and their families.
That represents a fundamental change in attitude on behalf of the Government of Canada. For the first time in over a decade, Canadians from all walks of life will start to see the change in attitude that has only become possible with a generational shift in leadership in this country. That comes from electing a Prime Minister who is a member of this generation, the one that the demographers call the baby boomers.
Who better understands the needs of a majority of Canadians who are raising a family day to day than someone who is experiencing the day to day responsibilities of raising a family? Who else but a parent whose children are involved in organized physical activity could see the great benefit of government encouraging that activity?
These are the types of policies that represent a generational shift in thinking, from the old to the new. There is no doubt that the membership of the official opposition has been reduced to a club of grumpy old men. The mindset of the old party establishment, with its cult of leadership, was symbolized by a ruling clique. This was pathetically demonstrated by the claims of entitlement that Canadians heard from members of the old boys club when they were caught with their fingers in the taxpayer-funded expense claims cookie jar.
The debate over the GST is a prime example of how the budget of the new Conservative government represents fresh, innovative thinking on the part of the Prime Minister. There is no question that the tough decisions that allowed for balanced budgets were made by the former Conservative government in the 1980s.
The fact that the past administration shamelessly tries to take credit for past Conservative leadership has to be the most comical position the Liberal Party has ever taken, in that it has claimed ownership of the GST. The GST has become Liberal tax policy. The member for Markham fiercely defends the Liberal GST against all attacks. The party that campaigned on eliminating the GST has become the party of the GST. How appropriate.
Let us talk about the GST. If there is one tax that affects all Canadians, it is the GST. If there is one tax reduction that will benefit all Canadians, it is a reduction in the GST. It is as simple as that. The money that is saved by Canadians through reducing the GST returns directly into the economy, where it does the greatest benefit.
When a farmer in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke purchases a new piece of equipment, he will see the benefit immediately. The GST is being lowered effective July 1 of this year, not three, four or five years from now. The previous regime would announce and re-announce tax changes that never seemed to happen or were so complicated that ordinary Canadians could never tell if the changes were really made. That farmer, in addition to joining all Canadians with a cut in the GST, will also see $1 billion in new funding for farmers added to the GST tax cut, which is a measure that will benefit all Canadians.
When loggers in places like Madawaska, Palmer Rapids and Deux-Rivières replace a piece of equipment, they will have the benefit of a reduced GST. They will have the benefit of the new federal government that negotiated an agreement to end the softwood lumber dispute. This dispute created much hardship for the loggers and their families who work in the forest industry. It was time for leadership and our Prime Minister delivered.
On July 1, working Canadians, like the farmers and foresters in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, will pay less tax thanks to a brand new $1,000 Canada employment credit. The new $1,000 credit, in addition to the $500 deduction for the cost of tools tradespeople are required to purchase to work their trades, will benefit all working Canadians.
I know the mechanics I rely on at Butler Chev-Olds as well as those at Rick Voskamp's local Suzuki dealership will appreciate that tax credit, as will all tradespeople in my riding who are required to purchase tools as a condition of employment. The families of those same tradespeople will appreciate the recognition our new government places on the work they do. If their children decide to follow their parents' footsteps into the trades, our new Conservative government is there to assist with help for apprentices themselves as well as the people providing the apprenticeships.
Our help for families with children is not limited to the trades.
Not only is our Conservative government eliminating federal income tax on all income from scholarships, bursaries and fellowships, a new textbook tax credit will assist students in purchasing the textbooks they need to study. This is being done at the same time we are expanding eligibility for the Canada student loan program.
While these measures assist families with children as they prepare to leave the nest, our new Conservative government has focused on the priority of assisting Canadians with young children with a plan that respects parents and the fact that like every child, every household is unique.
On July 1 of this year, not three or four years from now or never as the case used to be under the old government, the new Conservative universal child care benefit will provide all families with $1,200 per year for each child under six. In addition to trusting parents to make their own choices, when it comes to child care, the new Conservative government will allocate $250 million to create real child care spaces and develop a plan that actually provides the spaces. This second point is very important when one looks at what has happened in the province of Ontario.
In my riding of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke, in the case of child care, this program has been downloaded to the County of Renfrew by the Ontario government. In order to access the dollars that are offered by the province, the County of Renfrew is being asked to cost-share on an 80:20 split for child care funding. The federal government allocates 100% to the Province of Ontario, which in turn directs it to the municipalities that are expected to deliver the program.
As the Consolidated Municipal Service Manager, CMSM, for child care services, the County of Renfrew is expected to make up any funding shortfall through its already overburdened and overtaxed municipal property tax base. This is not feasible. With some of the highest property tax rates in the Province of Ontario, the County of Renfrew chose to opt out of those child care programs because it recognized that its taxpayers could not afford to subsidize through their property taxes. The 20% cut that the province was taking was going to have to be made up by the everyday taxpayers of Renfrew county.
By targeting child care spaces in businesses and community organizations that require assistance, spaces will actually be created by our new Conservative government. This directs the child care where it is needed, without creating financial hardship on individuals on fixed incomes who are struggling to pay high property taxes. The additional burden on the CMSMs in Ontario results in the conflict of social services versus cuts to basic services like fixing potholes in roads. Shuffling funds between levels of government does not create child care spaces.
I briefly wish to touch upon the plight of older workers and the need to respond to those situations where older workers, through no fault of their own, find themselves facing unemployment.
Recently it was announced by Smurfit-MBI that its Pembroke plant would be closing, throwing 139 employees out of work. I want to assure the employees at Smurfit-MBI that it is a priority of myself and the new Conservative government, as identified in the budget, to assist them so they are able to continue to contribute their talents and experience in gainful employment.