Mr. Speaker, as this is my first occasion to address the 40th Parliament, I extend my heartfelt thanks to the voters of Northumberland—Quinte West for returning me to this august place. It is a tremendous honour and privilege to serve them. It is in that interest that I want to remind everyone that the government made commitments in the last election and that we will keep those commitments.
Some of those commitments were in the Speech from the Throne, to which I will speak. The points I will talking about this afternoon include support for transfers, support for Ontario infrastructure, small and medium-sized business and how we will cut red tape, support for industry and transitional help for workers. We need a common securities regulator and, in particular and of special interest to Northumberland—Quinte West, support for our farming community.
One of the hallmarks of our federation has been the balance we have created between the so-called have and have-not provinces. As a member of Parliament for Ontario, I am acutely aware that Ontarians have for many years been a significant contributor to attaining that balance. I have heard from the Premier of Ontario, my local member of provincial Parliament as well as constituents who want and quite frankly need to know what our government is doing in regard to Ontario.
It is about fiscal fairness after all, is it not? It should not be about paternalistic arrangements between the federal and provincial governments, but more a partnership. What our government has strove for, and I believe has achieved, is precisely just that balance. It will change from time to time, but it should always be about fairness. What is good for one partner in confederation should be good for all, and that is the standard we constantly strive to attain.
Fiscal fairness is about ensuring Ontario has the funds and support it needs to meet its responsibility under the constitution, which includes vital programs such as health care, child care, post-secondary education and social programs. We know the federal government plays an important role in supporting Ontario and delivering for Ontarians. We also know that Ontario is and will continue to be a leader among the provinces and that it must be treated equitably by the federal government. Ontario should never have to suffer second-class services because of unfair treatment from Ottawa.
We have been in office for a little over two and a half years. We are the longest continuous minority government, and what have we done?
Budget 2007 established a per capita based formula for the Canada health and social transfers. This is the money the federal government gives to support health and social services in the provinces. Per capita based funding is important to Ontario, as Ontario is Canada’s most populous province and thus changes will significantly approve the ability of Ontario to deliver for Ontarians.
On this plan, no province that receives equalization funding will have a higher fiscal capacity than the province that does not receive the funding. These changes were agreed to by all first ministers, including the Premier of Ontario, and they will come into effect when the current agreement expires in 2014-15.
The question then becomes: How can we help Ontario in the time left in the old agreement? To help transition to this new arrangement, we have implemented an automatic 6% annual escalator in health care transfer funding. The health transfer for 2007-08 to Ontario is $8.5 billion. By 2013-14, this transfer will rise to $11 billion. That is a 30% increase in health funding in just five years.
We have also increased funding for social programs in Ontario through the social transfer, which has been strengthened to $3.7 billion. This amount will grow annually by 3% per year until a new agreement comes into effect. Part of the social transfer, some $411 million, is dedicated to child care spaces and post-secondary education.
However, there is more. The Conservative government also sees that it has an important role in supporting Ontario's municipalities and supporting infrastructure renewal. That is why we have recently signed an agreement with Ontario called “Building Canada”. This is a $6.26 billion agreement to be paid out over the next several years and is dedicated to improvements to infrastructure. The federal government knows that our communities need predictable funding for infrastructure.
At this point, I would like to mention my first meeting with the Northumberland county council in 2006, shortly after that federal election.
When I met with the county councillors, the meeting primarily concerned agriculture. All of the candidates involved in that election attended the meeting. We all renewed our commitment to agriculture. However, during that meeting, several of the councillors, and indeed the warden, indicated to their newly-elected member that they needed some long-term sustainable funding, something that when they were constructing their budgets, they could count on from the federal government. While they appreciated different programs, they needed some long-term sustainable funding.
I heard what they said. Our government heard what they said. I am happy to say that as part of the building Canada agreement, we have made the gas tax refund to our communities permanent. For the county of Northumberland, that means approximately $2.5 million per year from now on, so when it is doing its budgets, it can count on that amount of money. For the municipality or the city of Quinte West, that is a little over $2.6 million. It is significant money because it is using that not only to pave streets and fix bridges, but to bring fresh potable water to communities, to renew infrastructure that had been deteriorating.
This means for our municipalities, both large and small, access to $2.9 billion a year for local roads and other projects.
They also failed to mention some other long-term funding programs that we brought in, and one in particular is the 100% GST rebate to the municipalities. To some that might not seem a lot when we talk about staplers or stationery, but when a small or medium-sized municipality needs to buy a dump trunk or a road grader, that is a significant return.
In addition, we have also agreed to support Ontario with over $3 billion for infrastructure programs, which includes funding for connectivity.
I need not tell the House or I need not tell any Canadian how important connectivity is. In the Speech from the Throne our Prime Minister indicated that connectivity was very important for this government.
I have to take my hat off to the member for Prince Edward—Hastings in his leadership in eastern Ontario in this area. We have been working with the eastern Ontario wardens caucus. We believe that with its help we will be able to continue to work together. I believe we will be able to secure funding for connectivity for eastern Ontario, let alone all of Canada, as the Prime Minister has indicated.
Therefore, we can see that the government has a proven record to address the issues of fiscal fairness. We have a long-term plan to address this, which the Premier of Ontario supports. It is principles-based and it supports important services, from health care, to social programs, to daycare spaces, to post-secondary education and to infrastructure needs.
While we are talking about infrastructure, I was approached shortly after my election by numerous municipal mayors and councillors. They spoke to me in particular about the former Canada-Ontario infrastructure program and the fact that when this program was brought in, there were significant cost overruns because everybody was doing the same thing at the same time.
There were increases in construction costs. In addition, there were some regulatory changes to freshwater in Ontario. That drove up the cost of these projects and there were overruns. This was a one-third shared costing. The municipalities and the provinces agreed to share in the cost overruns, but the previous government did not.
When the Conservatives took office, the mayors reiterated their desire that the federal government come forward with its one-third of the cost overruns. I am happy to say that this government was able to provide $50 million of that for the province of Ontario. In Northumberland—Quinte West announcements have been made, totalling some $3 million to help with those cost overruns.
Also while we are talking about infrastructure, it is important that I remind the residents of Northumberland—Quinte West as well as the greater Quinte area of the tremendous investments that we have been making in the infrastructure at CFB Trenton. We will recall our commitment in 2005-06 to refurbish and rebuild the Canadian Armed Forces which for many years had been neglected.
Part of that refurbishment was the purchase of strategic and tactical lift aircraft. What does that mean for CFB Trenton, which is Canada's air force hub? It meant the necessity of completely renovating and creating new places to store the new aircraft. If anyone drives by CFB Trenton 8 Wing, it is a hub of activity. Hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years will be invested in CFB Trenton. That whole base will be transformed, thus creating hundreds of good paying jobs right across Northumberland—Quinte West and the greater Quinte region.
In addition, the government promised and made an announcement that JTF2 would be relocated to CFB Trenton. This will require significant infrastructure changes also. Again, hundreds of new jobs will be coming into the community.
What does that mean? The spinoffs are tremendous. It means we have to create housing for these hundreds of new families. They are going to purchase new cars and the spinoffs are numerous.
We also promised in the Speech from the Throne to cut red tape for small and medium-sized businesses. Our government will cut the red tape faced by private and not-for-profit sectors when doing business with the government. Our government is committed to reforming and streamlining the way it does business and we will pursue innovative reforms to the administration of programs and services. Reducing the administrative and paper burden on Canadian businesses improves Canada's competitiveness and supports small business.
Our government has committed to reduce the paper burden on companies by 20% so all parties can spend less time and money on paperwork. Our government also will deliver on its promise for formalize a process for measuring, reporting on and decreasing the paper burden over the long term.
In May of 2008 our government announced it was on track to meet this commitment through streamlined regulations, the elimination of duplicate or overlapping obligations and fewer filing requirements. For example, we have already eased the tax compliance burden on businesses by reducing record keeping requirements for automobile expense deductions and taxable benefits. With the resumption of Parliament, we will continue to act.
In June 2008 the government introduced the Canada not-for-profit corporations act, which promises to significantly modernize Canada's not-for-profit legislation for the first time since 1917. It would promote accountability, transparency and good corporate governance for the non-profit sector.
I will now talk about helping workers to re-enter the labour force. The government has committed to funding various measures to help displaced workers in Ontario to re-enter the labour force. One of them includes the labour market development agreement under EI, which is part II of the Employment Insurance Act. It would allow Ontario to assume an expanded role in the design and delivery of labour market development programs.
The labour market agreement provides $1.2 billion over the next several years to Ontario. The agreement stipulates that Ontario will provide programs to labour market participation by assisting individuals to prepare for entry to or return to employment or to otherwise obtain or keep employment or maintain skills for employment. This means more resources for unemployed individuals not eligible for certain employment insurance programs, especially those with lower level skills or who are working in low skill jobs.
With respect to the community development trust, the Province of Ontario will receive just under $360 million to improve productivity and competitiveness, support technology development and assist communities and workers affected by changes in agriculture, forestry and manufacturing.
The $9.2 billion Building Canada announcement made recently will result in the creation of a significant number of infrastructure related jobs.
To further reduce the cost pressures on Canadian business, our government will take measures to encourage companies to invest in new machinery and equipment. The Canadian manufacturing sector, particularly the automotive and aerospace industries, has been under increasing strain as we know. Our government will provide further support for these industries. One example is the accelerated capital cost allowance which permits companies to write down very quickly investments in equipment, buildings, computers, to increase productivity and make them and our country more competitive worldwide.
Through Advantage Canada, our economic plan and recent budgets, we have made significant progress toward creating a business environment aimed at promoting long-term investment, innovation and job creation across all sectors of the Canadian economy.
We recognize the strategic importance of the Canadian manufacturing sector and the challenging financial conditions and global competitiveness it faces.
Our government has already cut taxes to lower costs for business to help them compete and create jobs. By 2012-13, the Government of Canada will have provided more than $9 billion in tax relief to the manufacturing sector.
We are committed to further strengthening financial oversight in Canada. Our government will work with the provinces for a common securities regulator.
Our government's new integrated approach toward farm support provides producers with comprehensive income protection against various hazards ranging from income variability under AgriStability and AgriInvest, to natural hazards under AgriInsurance and disasters under AgriRecovery, as well as easier access to credit through cash advances under the advance payments program.
This government is committed to agriculture. We have a suite of programs. This commitment is significant. Since our government took office some few short years ago, over $4.5 billion has been invested in our agricultural community and we intend to maintain that support to our agricultural community.