Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in relation to this prebudget consultation debate. It is unfortunate, though, that I have to follow the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, because she has so completely captured our government's position that it is difficult to add to what she said. If I were a lawyer, I would say the case is closed, but thankfully I am not a lawyer.
However, I will try to expand a bit on what she has said and focus some of my statements on the tax cuts of which she spoke. Now more than ever, I think, we are realizing that with the softness in markets south of the border and abroad, it is essential that we as a government prepare our country to be able to withstand any changes south of the border, to continue the substantive economic growth we have seen, and to maintain the incredible growth in jobs over the last number of years.
Thankfully, we have a Prime Minister and a Minister of Finance who have been able to see this for some time and who have had the vision to bring in some of the most historic tax cuts in our nation's history. There have been some 60 tax cuts since our government took office 21 months ago. As I think back to January 23, 2006, it has been only two years, but the amount that has been accomplished is really quite incredible, especially in relation to the previous government.
It is as if we came to office understanding the situation the country was in and realizing that it was time to give back to all the hard-working, taxpaying Canadians and the businesses that have built our country and maintained such an incredible economy. That is exactly what we have done. We have given tax relief in the realm of $190 billion, not only this year but over the next five years. As well, in the previous economic statement in October, we added an additional $60 billion in broad tax cuts, including a further reduction in the GST.
We often hear the opposition complain about the GST cut. In the past, we have heard that complaint many times from the Liberals. In fact, in 1993 the Liberals won an election based on the promise of getting rid of the GST, but of course that got tossed the day after the election. They actually utilized the revenue from the GST for a number of years. There is no question about it: they had no intention of ever keeping that promise.
As a government, we felt it was the right time to bring that tax down. We committed in the last election campaign to reduce it from 7% to 6% to 5%. We promised to do that in five years, but as everyone knows, as Conservatives we like to take the initiative and get the job done, so we actually achieved that promise in less than five years.
In fact, it took us under two years in office to accomplish that reduction. The opposition parties, and specifically the Liberals, have complained quite loudly about this reduction, but when we think about the GST reduction and the timing that is now in effect, we are seeing it come in at a moment in Canada when it is actually needed quite considerably with our dollar where it is.
Our dollar, being affected by international markets and the strength of the Canadian economy, has risen quite dramatically, to the point where it actually broke the $1 mark in U.S. dollars. That was somewhat unexpected and has really put some pressure on Canadian consumer prices. There has been a lot of interest by consumers in reductions in the prices that they see relative to other markets.
Therefore, bringing in the GST cuts is one thing the government can do to assist our business community and our retailers in dealing with what many see as a challenging situation with our dollar. Thankfully, the dollar has moved back from its high mark of $1.10, and we hope we will be able to continue to work our way through this time of parity.
The GST cut has definitely helped the auto sector, which has had considerable pressure placed upon it over a number of years, in that it has seen both growth and decline. A GST reduction such as the one we have put into place has really aided the auto sector in being able to offer prices at a much reduced rate. I know that members opposite complain about and scoff at a $600 saving on a vehicle, but $600 is a lot of money where I come from. Maybe at their country clubs they can light their cigars with those six $100 bills, but back where I am from, that is a lot of money.
Of course, the purchasing power of consumers is going up. That is an important thing to remember, because Canadians want to take more of that pay home and they deserve to take more of that pay home. I am someone who believes in having more money in the taxpayer's pocket and not in funding every government program that the Liberals, NDP and Bloc want brought in.
There is a time for government intervention and there is a time when government needs to back down. When the fiscal capacity of government is removed by returning it to the people, where it actually rightfully belongs, it becomes a more conservative environment so that government is able to look at all of its spending programs under a conservative lens.
Thankfully, that is what this Prime Minister has been able to accomplish with the changes he has brought in, and we actually are seeing considerable benefit in our economy. Out in Manitoba, where I am from, we are seeing a fantastic situation because of the fact that we have seen a real retooling of the fiscal imbalance in our country. It was something that our party campaigned on. We campaigned on changing our equalization program to better suit Canada and, in reality, to bring it back to its original form.
Unfortunately, the previous Liberal government dealt with it in a way that became very political. It was utilizing federal fiscal capacity to begin intervening in the territory and the jurisdiction of the provinces. Perhaps the Liberals felt that it was a successful political methodology to utilize, and maybe they were right in some situations, but in terms of actually keeping the federal government in the jurisdiction in which it belongs, it was the wrong choice.
Now we can look at provinces such as Manitoba, which under this new formula is receiving $1 billion more than it did. That is allowing the province to actually start working in the areas that are in its jurisdiction, such as post-secondary education, health and child care. These are the areas that Manitoba can now focus on, instead of having the federal government trying to come up with some half-baked scheme, such as we saw under the former administration, with plans that could not possibly work and could not possibly be funded but were built only as an electoral scheme to draw votes.
Of course, we are seeing this country emerge as an energy superpower that is second only to Saudi Arabia. Canada has been able to utilize its natural resources, including its petroleum supplies, thus allowing our country to continue our stellar economic growth pattern.
This does not mean that we cannot continue with our other economic and energy strategies. Too often, we forget that Manitoba is one of the largest exporters of green energy. Manitoba's hydroelectric capacity is practically the largest in North America. It is something that is under-reported, so I have to incorporate it into my speech now, if members will indulge me.
I have spoken about the debt reduction, which is at about $10 billion over this year alone and at $27 billion since we came into office. That is the equivalent of $1,570 for each man, woman and child.
This is going to be a legacy for our children and for the individuals who will come after us so that they will have the capacity to be able to continue building this country in the future and to continue to make it the greatest place on earth to live. I know that as I look back on the time that I have spent in the House of Commons I will realize that with the leadership that we have had from the Prime Minister we have done exactly that. We have left an excellent legacy for our constituents.