Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand and talk on the budget today. I will focus my comments on the budget, specifically with reference to British Columbia and, obviously, how it affects my Department of Natural Resources.
I want to begin by saying at the outset that this is one of the best budgets that we have seen in this place for a long time. The budget is balanced, it cuts taxes for working families and it protects priorities like health care and the environment. We have seen long term committed investment in infrastructure. It restores the fiscal balance to provinces and gives them the resources they need to deliver frontline services to Canadians right across the country.
In my home province, the economy is very strong. Last month, British Columbia led the nation in job creation with over 32,000 jobs. We are seeing the lowest unemployment in British Columbia that we have had in 30 years. We have an unprecedented level of construction, over $110 billion of activity planned between now and 2015. The Port of Vancouver alone saw a 56% growth in traffic with China last year and British Columbia is the gateway between our two continents. With one of the strongest economies that we have seen in a long time, our budget will continue to build on this to ensure we have continued strong economic growth.
One of the greatest strengths in the budget is that this government is one of the first governments to ever deal with equalization. The days of political gerrymandering of equalization formulas days before a budget to ensure one province gets more than another are gone. Again, this is something that was long overdue.
British Columbia is not one that is used to being a recipient of equalization. The equalization program started 50 years ago, the year I was born, and it was only once in 50 years that British Columbia has ever had to rely on equalization. I cannot help but note that it was only after 10 years of disastrous mismanagement under the provincial NDP government. British Columbians commonly refer to that time as “B.C.'s dismal decade”. It is something British Columbians never want to go back to.
The budget contains a number of very positive initiatives. One of the greatest strengths in the budget is the long term commitment to infrastructure. More than $33 billion has been committed to infrastructure in the next seven years and, of that, $4.8 billion will flow to B.C. The money will go directly to things like roads, highways and bridges to ensure our province's economic growth.
The budget contains an extra $1 billion specifically committed to the Asia-Pacific Gateway where that money is already flowing. We have made a strong commitment to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Our government will accelerate the investments in own the podium program to support athletes who will compete against the world in Vancouver-Whistler. This is over and above the $55 million that our government committed this year to cover cost overruns, adding to the almost $400 million we have committed.
Some other very important criteria in the budget is the 50% straight line write-off provisions for manufacturing equipment. This will result in $57 million in income tax relief for B.C. manufacturers. Again, this will be a welcome addition to the forest industry where it will be able to invest at a greater rate in modernizing some of the mills in British Columbia, which I think would be a very positive step forward.
Obviously, one of the cornerstones is families. British Columbia families alone will receive over $300 million through the new $2,000 child tax credit, the working income tax benefit and increases in the basic spousal support.
Another strong focus by our government is on the environment. The budget contains a number of initiatives. The Prime Minister announced in a number of provinces the $1.5 billion ecotrust part of this budget. Coming back to British Columbia, $200 million will allow British Columbia to pursue its priorities where it believes it can make the greatest reductions in greenhouse gases and other emissions.
We have invested $30 million in the Great Bear Rainforest. In R and D, we are committing $15 million to the Brain Research Centre at the University of British Columbia. We have another $30 million in the budget for the Rick Hansen Foundation. We all know the great work that Rick Hansen is doing with people with spinal cord injuries and the practical applications that will help to improve their quality of life. The budget also contains $40 million to implement the immunization program to combat cervical cancer.
All of those are very real, practical applications that will help every Canadian in every corner of the country.
I will now come back to the environment. The budget contains an incentive to buy fuel efficient cars and it imposes a levy on those that are inefficient. Those are very strong commitments to take real action. I know that my department has invested $2 billion in our ecoenergy initiatives. Again, all of those are initiatives that will have a significant benefit to the environment.
I will quickly touch upon those initiatives. First, we looked at where we could make the greatest gains on reducing greenhouse gases and emissions and we decided to really focus our priorities. We have invested $230 million in targeted research on things like clean coal technology and CO2 capture and storage where we can remove almost all the emissions out of coal-fired generation plants. That is where this technology is going. We want to put 4,000 megawatts of renewable energy on the grid; absolutely clean energy that is emission free, things like wind, solar, biomass and small scale hydro. Those are important initiatives to which our government is committed.
We also want consumers to do their share. We announced our ecoenergy efficiency initiative where consumers will be able to have an audit done and get a grant of up to $5,000 to make their homes more energy efficient.
All of those initiatives are real, practical applications on which we will see real results.
On a larger scale, we have launched our CO2 capture storage task force where we are working with the Alberta government to find out what we need to do to start sequestering CO2 gases, capturing them, putting them into a pipeline and putting them back down into the ground in the geological formations where they are best stored.
Those initiatives show great growth and great promise. The technology is there but it has never been done on a commercial scale of this magnitude. This is a priority for our government. We think there is an enormous promise and opportunity there, as well.
I want to mention some other really specific areas to natural resources. The one that is long overdue is our $60 million commitment to streamline the regulatory approval process. In the budget, our government has committed $60 million in resources over the next two years and $150 million over the next five years to create a major projects approval office for all Natural Resources' major projects. Under previous governments, it was quite a painful process. The applicants quite often would need to go through a number of federal agencies. We want to streamline that process so they come through a single window approach, which would provide certainty. We will also get a much stronger result for the environmental process as it will be focused again.
Those are a number of initiatives that our government has undertaken. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the budget will continue to ensure strong economic growth, that we will see great initiatives to protect the environment and that there will be even more coming forward. Those are the types of things that Canadians, in every corner of the country, have been asking for.
We are very proud to deliver this budget on behalf of all Canadians. I look forward to receiving support from all corners of the House as this budget will have a very strong impact on the lives of everyday Canadians.