Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time with the member for Macleod, which was once my home.
I am proud to stand here today to talk about one of the five priorities that our government set out in last week's Speech from the Throne.
As was laid out in the speech, this is a time of economic uncertainty and volatility in the wider world, and while the economic fundamentals of Canada continue to be strong, our country is not immune from this turbulence. The key to getting through this kind of turbulence is coming out in a strong and prosperous way and making sure that we get the economic picture right. This is critical.
We are certainly living in dynamic economic times. Technology is changing faster than ever and there is no slowdown in sight. The power of computers doubles every 18 months and bandwidth is expanding even faster.
Just when we have finally figured out our BlackBerries, we are being offered the next generation of wireless devices we can use to access more information faster than we could ever have imagined. All of this is already here, literally at our fingertips.
Amid this fast-paced change, intense global pressure is now redefining how businesses must compete. As a result, economic success is judged by different standards than it was even 10 years ago because with the click of a mouse, billions of dollars can move around the globe.
As it stands, Canada is well positioned to be successful. Our economy is strong, growth continues to rise, unemployment is low, and taxes are declining.
Many of our industries are in excellent shape. Our aerospace industry is the fifth largest in the world. Our biotechnology sector ranks third in terms of the number of firms. Our automotive industry stands among the best in the world and our performance in oil and gas extraction is unequalled the world over.
Despite all this, there is no doubt that Canada is still facing economic challenges and that we must be vigilant if we are to be able to stand up to global economic pressures. As I said, part of the solution lies in having a clear understanding of the overall situation. It is the government’s responsibility to do that.
Since coming to office, our government has taken that responsibility seriously. We have worked hard at creating the right economic climate, cutting taxes, reducing the federal debt, investing in education, improving the regulatory environment. In other words, we have ensured that the best conditions for the private sector exist so that the private sector may flourish, so that it may do what it does best, which is to create jobs for Canadians and prosperity.
This fall, the Minister of Finance will present an economic and financial update that will provide information on the next steps in the Advantage Canada process, along with the five priorities in the Speech from the Throne.
Advantage Canada, the government’s long term economic plan, is based on sound fiscal management and is intended to create five advantages for Canada that will help individuals to improve their quality of life and help businesses to succeed on the global scene.
First is a tax advantage establishing the lowest tax rate on new business investment anywhere in the G-7. Second is a fiscal advantage eliminating Canada's total government net debt within a generation. Third is an entrepreneurial advantage reducing unnecessary regulation and red tape. Fourth is a knowledge advantage developing the best educated, most skilled and flexible workforce in the world.
And the fifth advantage, an infrastructure advantage, will create modern, world-class roads, bridges and ports to ensure the seamless flow of people, goods and services.
In providing effective economic leadership, the government has made great strides, but we realize that more needs to be done. The Speech from the Throne gives us a clear path to follow in moving toward Canada's goals and economic objectives.
We believe that the taxes Canadians pay are still too high. Since we came to power, we have implemented or announced income tax and other tax reductions of over $37 billion for individuals and families, and reductions of more than $3.5 billion for businesses. But we have to cut taxes even farther.
That is why we will be presenting a long term plan for broad based tax relief for individuals, businesses and families, one that will include keeping our promise to cut the GST again.
We know it is the government's role to set the right conditions for entrepreneurs to succeed and to help create the ideal climate in Canada. In this sense, the Prime Minister released the national strategy on science and technology in May and invested $1.9 billion in budget 2007 to support new science and technology policies, programs and priorities.
Canadians expect all levels of government to cooperate in creating a more vigorous economy. The government of Canada is firmly resolved to work together with the provinces and territories to eliminate barriers to domestic trade. We will be considering ways of using the federal power to regulate trade and commerce to improve the way our economic union works, for the benefit of all Canadians.
Our government is aware also of the need for copyright reform and that this is essential to ensuring Canada remains competitive. We will introduce legislation in the next few months that will provide legal measures for rights holders, clarify the rules relating to copyright as they apply to Internet service providers, address the educational and research use of copyrighted materials, and address consumer interests.
We will launch our building Canada plan, the largest investment in Canadian infrastructure in half a century. The result will be safer roads and bridges, more competitive businesses and, indeed, a better quality of life for all Canadians.
Our success as a trading nation relies in part on modern and efficient transportation systems. This is indeed a primary responsibility of government. Through the building Canada plan, we are investing in our transportation and trade hubs, including the Windsor-Detroit corridor and the Atlantic and Pacific gateways.
It is clear that what the government has put forward in the throne speech has received wide acclaim from Canadian business leaders. Today in the National Post Carrie Tait noted that Canadian business leaders praised this particular throne speech, with 71% of business leaders from small and medium-sized businesses considering this a great road forward for the country. Of the people surveyed, 90% support the Prime Minister's plan to cut taxes for individuals and families. Only 5% found these measures to be undesirable.
That is an incredible vote of confidence. Of the people surveyed, 88% are in strong support of reducing interprovincial trade barriers. As well, a majority of those polled are strongly in favour of the proposed plan to reduce the GST to 5% from 6%.
And by providing economic leadership, our government will also be standing up for Canada’s traditional industries. Key sectors such as forestry, manufacturing and tourism all have challenges that must be met. The fluctuation in the Canadian dollar in recent years is one of the factors causing problems for Canada’s traditional industries. While our government has already taken steps to assist Canada’s traditional industries, we will be doing more. Our long term plan of broad based tax relief for individuals, businesses and families will provide significant and timely assistance for those industries.
The agricultural sector will benefit from our government's promotion of biofuels and the new growing forward agricultural framework.
In sum, this is an excellent throne speech. Canadians can trust that the government will provide them with continued leadership to ensure continued prosperity and a quality of life unequalled anywhere in the world.