Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to have the opportunity to say a few words on budget 2008. I will be splitting my time with the member for Leeds—Grenville.
Last week another balanced budget was presented by the Minister of Finance, the third in three years. Three out of three is not a bad batting average.
The budget was, again, full of tax savings for all Canadians: an initiative to pay down the debt with a $10.2 billion payment; assistance for our youth; incentive for our seniors; and a continuation of putting more hard-earned cash back into the pockets of hard-working, ordinary Canadians.
People from coast to coast have applauded our budget. I will quote the minister of finance in Newfoundland and Labrador, the hon. Tom Marshall, who said, “I am pleased to see the initiatives with respect to police officers. The fact that the gas tax is made permanent, that was good”.
That and many other comments across the country have given us hope that we are on the right track on this side of the House.
There are some positive highlights for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. As I just touched on by the minister of finance, the gas tax for municipalities was made permanent. Cities and towns can now make long term plans. Many communities in my own riding of Avalon can take advantage of this situation now.
There will be 2,500 new police officers for Canada. Again, in Newfoundland and Labrador there are $6 million earmarked for this initiative that will put more RCMP officers on the streets of our province.
Very important for Newfoundland and Labrador there will be an additional ferry for Marine Atlantic for the important connection between the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. This is the Trans-Canada that connects our two provinces. It is an area that we need to work on and we have been doing so with the help of the hon. Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the member for St. John's East.
This will also benefit people in my riding in the area of Argentia, another gateway in Newfoundland and Labrador. In the summer run between Argentia and Nova Scotia, because of problems at times on the Argentia-North Sydney run and problems between Port aux Basques and North Sydney, we end up sometimes having to take the ferry from the Argentia run. Hopefully with this new additional ferry, that will not happen.
There is a new Coast Guard ship to be stationed in Newfoundland and Labrador. In the budget there is a commitment of $720 million to build a new one for Canada's north.
There is major funding in the aquaculture industry. Our government is stepping up to the plate to review it. Some people involved in this industry have been very positive since last week's budget. In Newfoundland and Labrador, $22 million will be spent over the next two years.
We were in my province with the Minister of the ACOA , the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Veterans Affairs on the weekend to make the tremendous announcement with Cooke Aquaculture on the south coast of Newfoundland and Labrador as it continues to develop the aquaculture industry in my province.
The tax-free savings account is a very positive feature in the budget. I was home on the weekend travelling throughout my riding and many constituents mentioned the tax-free savings account, which is financial assistance for everyday living. It is tax-free, whether people withdraw it in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years or 20 years. Whatever gains they make, interest they receive in capitals gains, it is tax-free. It is in their pockets, another opportunity to build financial security for hard-working Canadians.
Reducing the tax burden of many individuals and families throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada has been a hallmark of this government.
We see new incentives for seniors. On the issue of seniors over the past couple of years, the new secretary who has been put in place is taking the concerns and working on them.
There are $350 million for the new consolidated Canada student grant program. An extra 100,000 students in Canada will be able to avail themselves of this opportunity.
Another important aspect of the budget is $122 million over the next two years to ensure the federal correctional system achieves better public safety results. Within Newfoundland and Labrador there is much discussion about a new federal-provincial prison. No federal prisoners can be housed in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are sent to the mainland. This creates some problems for family and neighbours who want to visit inmates and it is a cost prohibitive situation in my province.
Back in 1988, the creation of a prison was announced for the community of Harbour Grace in Newfoundland and Labrador. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are still looking for that to be fulfilled.
Seeing this $122 million in the budget being earmarked over the next two years gives us hope. I am sure the minister of justice for Newfoundland and Labrador and the people who are involved in the justice system are looking forward to the continuing discussions on that and to see if we can come to some conclusion on addressing that situation.
There is $10 million for small craft harbours for the divestiture of delinquent wharfs and pieces of infrastructure relating to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans throughout the province. By addressing the divestiture concerns, we are freeing up money for the construction and certainly repairs to be made to existing structures that are being used by the people involved in the fishing industry in the province. That is a good news announcement for the people of the province.
As the chair for the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the committee has been advocating for more money in the small craft harbours budget. We realize that this is a step in the right direction. We look forward to advocating again and, down the road, to having more money put into the small craft harbours budget. Addressing the divestiture concerns is something that I am sure many people within the province of Newfoundland and Labrador found as welcome news.
Also, over the past couple of years we have seen some major funds put into municipal infrastructure and the building Canada fund is addressing many of those concerns. Over the next couple of years, we look forward to being able to avail ourselves of that throughout the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and, indeed, throughout the riding of Avalon.
Throughout the riding of Avalon, which I have the privilege to represent in the House of Commons, there are 227 different communities ranging in size from thousands of people down to 100 people. Many of their concerns encompass municipal infrastructure, so we look forward to being able to avail ourselves of that fund. We have been doing so. As a matter of fact, when we were in the Avalon riding this week, we partnered with the municipality of Harbour Grace, the provincial Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as a contribution from the federal government, we announced a $1 million project for the town of Harbour Grace to address some its water and sewer concerns.
Small craft harbours is definitely a major concern within the riding of Avalon. Last year we were very successful in obtaining over $7 million to address the concerns. Just to give members an idea, in my riding of Avalon I have 68 harbour authorities, so there is a necessity and certainly a need.
I say to people that the wharfs in my riding are like Highway 401 in Ontario. It is the place where commerce happens in the communities. It is a very important piece of infrastructure that provides not only the opportunity for fishers to have safe landing facilities but, more important, for people to be able to earn a living.
We look forward to working with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and continuing to locate and certainly allocate money for this very important piece of infrastructure in the riding of Avalon.
I continually meet with harbour authorities throughout the riding and tell them that this is a priority for me as their member but also for the Government of Canada to address these concerns.
Another situation that we find many times throughout the riding of Avalon is that we depend on the ACOA funding, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. We have had tremendous support from the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency over the past couple of years. Many projects within my riding have been assisted through funding from ACOA and other agencies, and we certainly look forward to continuing with that. We had the Minister of ACOA in Newfoundland and Labrador this past weekend for some announcements. He also travelled around and looked at some projects that are in the works. We certainly look forward to availing ourselves of the money in the budget to address some of these concerns.
As always, through Services Canada we receive excellent cooperation from the minister and his staff in addressing some of the concerns in the Avalon riding.
When I look at budget 2008, I look at a very positive budget for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in many ways. I look at a budget that addresses many of the concerns that we have raised in the past year with the minister.
The minister met with the Atlantic caucus and we put forward some of the highlights and some of the concerns of Atlantic Canada that we wanted addressed. The budget certainly looked at many of those.
We are off to another good start. This is our third budget and it certainly is a very positive budget for Newfoundland and Labrador and for Canada as a whole.