Mr. Speaker, I will start by making clear that I am splitting my time with the member for Fleetwood—Port Kells.
It is a real pleasure to rise to address the budget. In budget 2007 Canada's new government has done a number of things to actually deal with issues that are important to Canadians, whether it is solving the issue of the fiscal imbalance and bringing balance to our relations with the provinces, ensuring they have the resources to provide all the services in their domain, as we were just discussing in the House, or in terms of providing tax relief for Canadians who have been hard pressed for a long time.
We believe that Canadians pay too much in tax, so we have done some things to lessen the burden, including introducing a new child tax benefit. It goes beyond that of course. We have also beefed up the spousal amount so that there is no longer discrimination against married couples in the tax system. There are a number of other tax changes I could go into but I will not as my time is very limited.
As is the custom during a budget speech, I want to acknowledge the people of my riding of Medicine Hat, who have been very generous and good to me and elected me a number of times. It is a great honour to serve the people of Medicine Hat, Brooks, Taber, Bow Island, Foremost, Bassano, all these great communities. They are good folks who do not mind extending a hand over a fence to help their neighbours. It is an honour and a privilege for me to have the chance to represent them day to day in this place, but also today as we debate this budget.
There are a few things I know I can say on behalf of the people of my riding, including that they like this budget. They are very much supportive of the measures that we brought forward. I want to talk a little about those measures right now. I am also going to talk about them from the perspective of being the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development.
I could talk about a lot of issues. We were very busy in the budget. We introduced a lot of good measures, including the new disability savings plan. My friend from the Liberals asked what was in it for the disabled. The new disability savings plans is extraordinarily important. There is another initiative in the budget that will provide for capital projects for businesses and not for profit organizations that need wheelchair ramps and that kind of thing.
There is a lot more in the budget and I cannot get into everything, so I want to talk about a few very specific issues. I want to preface that by saying we are working together with the public and the provinces on these very important issues.
For the first time in 13 years, we have a government in Ottawa that is doing what my constituents have been saying for a long time: we must work together, across the country, and recognize the ability of each of the provinces to deal with the unique challenges they face.
We are working with the provinces and with individuals to make this country better.
I will begin with an issue that is important to Canadians, which is the issue of child care. In the last little while child care has become an important issue to many Canadians. This government responded immediately upon coming to power to address this issue. We argued for choice in child care. We were elected on that platform. Upon coming to government, we brought in the universal child care benefit that now goes to 1.4 million families on behalf of 1.9 million children.
We also said that we had to do something more to create spaces. In the budget, we immediately brought in a new $250 million transfer to the provinces for the purpose of creating child care spaces, along with the new investment tax credit that will urge businesses to create spaces for child care. No sooner had we brought those measures in, than budgets came down in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Ontario. What did they announce in those budgets? The provinces announced that they would take that money and create 17,000 new child care spaces across the country. That was tremendous news. We are providing choice in child care for Canadians today.
I remind my friends across the way that when they were in power they promised a national child care plan going back to 1988 actually. John Turner promised a national child care plan if he was elected then. The truth is that a lot of the people who were children when the Liberals were making those promises now have children of their own. The Liberals never came through on their promises. They promised child care in 1993, 1997, 2000 and 2004. By the time they put some money into the program, the former deputy prime minister, the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, Sheila Copps, pointed out in an article in the Calgary Sun that the money did not create a single child care space.
The Liberals threw a tonne of money at it but it did not create a single child care space. No sooner have we put a very modest amount of money in, a targeted amount of money, we are able to lever that working with the provinces to create 17,000 child care spaces.
We have been busy on other fronts as well. We moved very aggressively on post-secondary education. We have done this with the provinces and we have done it in a way that ensures that this is not just another direct transfer to them to do with it what they will.
In fact, we received affirmation from people like Claire Morris of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and with the Canadian Alliance of Students Associations. Both of them have lauded the government for putting $800 million in the budget toward post-secondary education, a 40% increase every year for students for post-secondary education. They lauded us because they noted that it was a step toward a dedicated transfer, which means that the provinces will be more accountable for how they spend that money. That should give everyone some comfort.
The money will provide the provinces with more latitude to ensure they can fund universities and also more latitude to ensure that tuition stays down, something that is in their purview, of course, but now they have the resources to react to the public which is asking for tuition to be kept done so young people can go to university.
We have acted aggressively and we are being lauded for it by the people who are the real experts in this, not the Liberals and not the NDP, but students and universities, who know better than most people and, of course, parents themselves who know better than most people the costs associated with a university education.
We have moved in other areas as well. Something that has not been remarked upon but which is very important, and I think some members in this place will appreciate this more than others, is our announcement in the budget of a new plan to ensure that we work with the provinces on labour market agreements.
In the past, the federal government has devolved some responsibility to the provinces for what is called employment insurance, part II money, which means money that was used for training through the employment insurance program for people who had been in the workforce and would have qualified for employment insurance.
The program has been successful and agreements have been in place with the provinces in different ways over different periods of time, depending on the provinces, but it has been successful and those people are getting training they need.
However, we want it to go the rest of the way. Today we have the hottest labour markets in a generation, thanks to the leadership of our finance minister and the Prime Minister, but we wanted to ensure that people who have not been in the labour market for a long time also get training. We announced in the budget new bilateral arrangements with the provinces that will provide $500 million on a per capita basis to help people who have been out of the workforce for a long time. Sometimes it is older workers and sometimes it is off reserve aboriginals who have struggled to get the training they need.
We are getting the job done where the previous government failed and failed for 13 years in a row. It was not just one year. The Liberals failed over many years. We are getting the job done and, because of that, we really are building a stronger, safer and better Canada. I am thrilled to be part of the new government that is doing exactly that.