Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the budget today on behalf of my constituents of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission.
A famous politician in his day said that the budget should be balanced; public debt should be reduced. It is hard to disagree with that. In fact, the individual who made this statement lived about 2,000 years ago. His name was Marcus Tullius Cicero who died in 43 B.C. Of course, we agree with these things, the budget should be balanced and public debt should be reduced.
At the outset let me say that this is a good budget. A good budget must be more than balanced. Frankly, anyone can balance a budget if one has complete control over the revenue side of the equation.
A government budget is different in this way than a household budget where the income side is relatively fixed. One could go and get a different job, send one's kids out to work and that kind of thing, but it is relatively fixed or even in a non-profit agency. Many of us have worked in those and struggled with trying to balance those budgets when the income side is more fixed or even in a corporation.
That is why I am always somewhat amused by the NDP members protestations that they are all for balanced budgets. In fact, I think that is what should scare us as Canadians because anyone can balance a budget if one can control the income side by taxation.
To be a good budget I think it needs to be different in other ways. For example, we must understand the external realities. We need to know what the pressures are and the changes that are coming. I think the government has done a very good job of anticipating those.
We need to be able to assess the social realities as well and we have done that. To be a good budget it needs to accurately and fairly calculate the available resources. A good budget must prudently invest or allocate those resources in a principled way and it needs to have an overall plan.
In fact, on the economic side our government is following our plan which we announced a while ago in “Advantage Canada” and we are following that. Those are the principles that we follow in this budget. Finally, those investments need to be based on priorities and that is what we have done here.
I know that goodness, when it comes to a budget, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the question that is always before me is: is this good for my constituents? Is budget 2008 good for my constituents of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission. I contend of course that it is. That is why I am supporting it.
It does a number of things that I think that my constituents want. For one thing it pays down the debt. On Fridays I have office hours in Mission. I am not always there because I am often here, but when I am in the riding I am there and I was there this past week.
I recall a constituent, an older gentleman, coming in during my office hours. He wanted to talk to me about finances. I asked, “Do you mean your own finances or government finances?” “No, the government finances”, he said.
He talked to me about this very issue of paying down the debt. He did not have the numbers exactly right but he had the principle right, that if we are not paying down the debt and we are investing a large amount of money, over $30 billion a year as it turns out in interest payments on that debt that we hold as Canadians and as the Canadian government, then what could we do with that money? In fact, this government believes in that. We support paying down the debt. That is why we have invested $37 billion in paying down our national mortgage.
I know some of the parties in the House, primarily the NDP, do not think we should be paying down the debt, but this government does. That saving of about $2 billion a year, as we pay down on the national mortgage, is passed on to Canadians through the tax back guarantee. In fact, my constituent was very pleased to hear about that.
We believe in reducing taxes. My constituents support that. The budget builds on our proactive fall economic update to lower taxes for people and business. It provides for this year alone $21 billion of economic stimulus for the Canadian economy and that is a good thing.
In fact, what we have done in reducing taxes is significantly greater than the stimulus package offered by the Americans. Theirs came later. As a share of the economy, ours is larger and it came sooner, and that is a good thing. We are pleased about reducing taxes and my constituents are happy with that as well.
They are also happy about the tax-free savings account. I had a couple of dinners, one on Friday night and one on Saturday. At both events, people came to me and said that they wanted to thank me the tax-free savings account. They had just heard about it during the week and they were pleased about it. It is important to them. In fact, it is important for Canada. It is the most important personal finance initiative for decades in Canada.
It will provide Canadians with an initiative to save up to $5,000 each year for Canadians over 18, and in my opinion that is always a good thing. I know I heard an NDP member ask, “Who has $5,000?” If a person has $50, why not invest it in one of these, or $100 or $150?
This will provide that kind of incentive for Canadians at all income levels to start to think about the value of saving on a regular basis. I encourage all Canadians to participate in this. As we do, we will see our investments grow and grow tax-free. We will have the ability to withdraw and take that money out without it affecting our tax situations and without it affecting, for example, our ability to collect the guaranteed income supplements in our later years, and that is a good thing.
Another thing that is very important to my constituents is the whole notion of infrastructure, particularly a public transit infrastructure. I am in a suburban community of Vancouver. I often have meetings in Vancouver, so I make that commute there. Sometimes I take the train if it is available in the hours that I need. When I have to go by vehicle, it gives me a new appreciation for thousands of my constituents who day after day have to make that trip into greater Vancouver to work. They are concerned about what the government id doing about public transit.
Members will recall that in budget 2006 we put in place $1.3 billion in support for public transit, and the public transit tax credit. In budget 2008, we have allocated $500 million for a public transit capital trust. That will support projects such as the Evergreen line, which was mentioned in the budget document and in the budget speech from the minister. This is an important project. The line does not run right into my riding, but it will be the closest to my riding than we have ever had before. It will allow people to get from my riding to there and get through the northeast sector and into Vancouver, all with public transit.
I and the member for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam have been advocating for this for a number of years, and we believe this is very important.
When I speak to my municipalities, they are interested and concerned about their ability to make investments in infrastructure. I know they are very pleased about the announcement in the budget of the permanent gas tax fund. This would be long term funding for infrastructure. They would be able to plan and know it would be coming. There will be $2 billion in 2009-10 and more in later years. It is a permanent measure that comes year after year, allowing mayors and councils and their administrators to plan for this, and that is important to them as well.
There are many other good announcements in the budget such as the national crime prevention initiatives, support for Canadian students, funding for policing. All of these are important to my constituents.
One item not announced in the speech, but it is in that document, which I know my constituents will be happy about, is the fact that eventually we will go to a 10 year passport. We do thousands of passports in a year in my office. I know they have been talking to me about the possibility of having a 10 year passport, so I am very pleased about that.
I am very pleased to support the budget on behalf of my constituents. I encourage all members of the House to do the same.