Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Minister of Public Safety.
I am proud to stand here and speak to our government's 2007 budget, “Aspire”. The contents of this balanced budget will undoubtedly allow Canadians to aspire to great things as it will cut taxes for hard-working Canadian families. The budget will invest in priorities like health care, the environment and infrastructure, including roads, bridges and public transit. It will restore fiscal balance by giving the provinces the resources they need to deliver the front line services that matter to Canadians.
It is amazing that Canada has a $1.5 trillion economy. This means a responsible government must make choices that strike the right balance.
As we promised in “Advantage Canada”, our government's long term economic plan for Canada, we will take historic action by moving to restore fiscal balance through long term, predictable funding. We have done just that.
I know the citizens in my riding of Simcoe—Grey will appreciate the fact that we are reducing the tax burden and making life a little easier for hard-working Canadian families. With initiatives like the tax back guarantee and our working families tax plan, there will be a little more money in the pockets of every Canadian. I am very proud of our government and our Prime Minister.
After 13 years of the Liberal Party's look the other way policies, we are cracking down on corporate tax avoiders to restore some semblance of fairness to Canada's tax system. As the Prime Minister said last weekend, “We will let the Liberals defend the vested interest and the loopholes of those associated with the previous government”.
This budget is all about making our strong economy even stronger and providing the necessary tools so Canadians from all walks of life can reach their full potential.
Canada's new government knows that by creating a climate of hope and opportunity, Canada can be an example to the rest of the world of what a truly great, prosperous and compassionate nation can be. It is in this vein that I am particularly proud.
As the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Sport, I am proud to be part of a government and a ministry that are once again making Canada a respected name on the international stage.
Whether it is in sport or international affairs, as Canadians we take great pride in our historical reputation on the international stage whether it be as world medallists, diplomats, peacekeepers, or soldiers on the battlefield.
In sport, I am proud that we will accelerate our contributions to the own the podium program. This exciting initiative will ensure Canadian athletes can achieve success in international competition, especially at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.
We are proud to make a significant investment in Canadian heritage sports, such as lacrosse and three down football. This money will ensure Canadian-specific sports will continue to thrive in Canadian society.
On the international stage, Canada is once again respected, whether it is our ardent defence of human rights in consular cases, such as the defence of Mr. Celil in China, or our commitment to the people of Afghanistan, our commitment to the many peacekeeping missions in which we are currently engaged, or our commitment to reducing global poverty and aiding international peace and security.
In last year's budget we committed to doubling our international assistance by 2010-11 from what it was in 2001-02. I am proud to say that budget 2007 will increase the resources devoted to poverty reduction and international peace and security by establishing a three point program to enhance the focus, efficiency and accountability of Canada's international assistance efforts. We will provide $200 million in extra support for reconstruction and development in Afghanistan, with a focus on new opportunities for women, governance, enhanced security and combating illegal drugs. We will also invest $115 million in the innovative advance market commitment led by Canada, Italy and the United Kingdom to create a vaccine for pneumonia, expected to save more than five million lives by 2030.
Our government is committed to helping Canadian companies succeed in global markets. The global commerce strategy offers real solutions to challenges arising from the global economy.
Budget 2007 provides $60 million over two years to advance three core objectives: negotiate bilateral agreements with our trade partners to improve market access for our exports; protect and promote investment; and facilitate science and technology cooperation.
It will also reinforce our presence in the U.S. market by directly engaging the private sector and networking with governments. We will enhance commercial services in new markets by opening offices in Asia.
Moreover, the government will introduce new measures to enhance Export Development Canada's ability to make strategic equity investments in order to encourage greater participation by small and medium sized Canadian businesses in emerging market opportunities.
With respect to mission security, our government takes the responsibility to ensure the safety and security of our diplomats seriously. The realities of today's world mean we need to strengthen the security of our missions to advance Canada's interests in a more complex world.
To this end, budget 2007 will invest an additional $11 million over the next two years to enhance the critical infrastructure of foreign missions. Enhancements will include improvements to closed-circuit televisions, exterior lighting, enhanced visitor screening, vehicle barriers and more rigorous surveillance.
Canada, to put it plain and simple, is making the world a better and safer place for all citizens of this planet. Canada's contributions in particular to Afghanistan are helping to rebuild a nation that has for decades been a country torn apart by war and the tyranny of the Taliban. But things are changing in Afghanistan.
Unlike the decade of darkness under the Liberals, Canada's Conservative government is once again ensuring we live up to our UN and international obligations. Budget 2007 will help Canada to aspire to great things and we will continue to work with our partners in the international community to help rebuild Afghanistan.
While the opposition plays politics with our troops, our aid workers and diplomats on the ground, this government is getting the job done by committing real support to our men and women on the ground whether they are soldiers, diplomats or aid workers. Unlike the Liberals who just talked the talk and did not back any of their words up with money or support, this government is walking the walk and we are putting our money where our mouth is and we are getting the job done.
Let me remind the opposition of Canada's successes in Afghanistan which can only remain successes if we remain committed to the mission. Five million children, one-third girls, now go to school. This is a 700% increase since 2001. We have 363,000 teachers and now they have teaching materials. Over seven million Afghan children have been immunized. We also have microfinance programs for over 300,000 Afghans. It is important to note that 72% of these microfinance programs are for women who have started their own businesses.
We have four large water reservoirs and 55 pipe schemes that have been built to provide 1.3 million Afghans with water. We have 100 kilometres of irrigation canals that have been rehabilitated, 150 kilometres of new roads and bridges, 50 kilometres of electricity lines, and 10 transformers and 42 generators.
Canada's new government is getting results in Afghanistan where the former Liberal government simply did not. This is real progress and it was the vision of the Afghanistan compact which was for a secure, self-sufficient and democratic Afghanistan to realize the aspirations of its people.
Budget 2007 also demonstrates our commitment to strengthen Canada's aid program. We will strengthen this program both in terms of financing and improvements to ensure that our aid dollars are actually reaching those who need it most. Last year we committed to doubling our aid budget by 2010 from the 2001 levels, but with our budgets 2006 and 2007 combined. We have gone beyond this doubling commitment by providing $635 million in additional aid resources.
While adding more aid money is indeed helpful, what is also important is ensuring that these aid dollars and aid resources work more effectively. Aspire 2007 lays out a clear and impressive agenda to do this by strengthening the focus and improving the efficiency and accountability of our foreign aid.
I am conscious of my time, but let me reiterate just how proud I am of this government as we aspire to do great things for and on behalf of Canadians. Once again the pride of Canadians is on the rise. No longer are they governed by a government embroiled in scandal that distracted the nation from doing everyday business.
Canada's new government is creating a climate of hope and opportunity. We can be an example to the rest of the world of what a truly great, prosperous and compassionate nation we can be.