Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today, not only in my capacity as Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, but also as the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, concerning the tabling of the Conservative government's third balanced budget.
First, I would like to talk about the approach our government has taken in this budget, as in the previous one, with respect to the sound management of public funds.
In budget 2007, the Government of Canada made a commitment to adopt a new way of managing taxpayer money. We believe that it is very important to ensure that every dollar spent produces concrete and positive results for all Canadians. One of the requirements of this new approach is to examine all the programs and expenditures based on a four-year cycle. Having done that, our government is better able to honour the priorities of Canadians with effective programs focused on the essential role of government.
The government has been looking towards the future. It took preventive and decisive measures in fall 2007 and winter 2008 to reduce the debt, by lowering taxes and offering targeted support to the industries in need. We prepare the budget using conservative financial principles. That is why budget 2008 is balanced, targeted and cautious. The budget is an extension of what we have already achieved. We are lowering taxes for individuals and corporations, we are paying down the debt and reducing the size of our national mortgage, we are offering targeted support to the industries in need, we are investing in the future by creating programs that focus on science, education and the environment, and that make it possible to help the least fortunate.
When we took power, we had to take care of some important priorities and had to sort out some files that had been neglected for years by the Liberals: the fiscal imbalance, health care, the environment, the state of our armed forces and security, and our families. We are getting the job done while still properly managing our finances.
Canadians believe that their government must contribute effectively to our society's cultural vitality. This is one of the main goals of my department and other organizations in my portfolio and it is a priority for our government.
In fact, since our arrival in government in 2006, we have allocated $50 million in additional funding over two years to the Canada Council for the Arts, with $20 million for 2006-07 and $30 million for the current fiscal year. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Canada Council for the Arts, the government announced that the $30 million in funding will now be provided on a recurrent basis.
In addition, communities across Canada are benefiting from an additional investment of $30 million a year as a result of budget 2007. In September I had the pleasure of announcing details of this investment. Among other things, it includes the creation of a new program, building communities through arts and heritage, which supports festivals and activities celebrating local heritage and arts.
Support is also being increased for arts festivals under the arts presentation Canada program. The diversity of our cultural and artistic expressions is a treasure to which all Canadians must have access. We believe that national cultural institutions can be located outside the national capital region. We believe that all sectors of our society, including the private sector, must take an active role in the effort to disseminate culture. This is why we have signed an agreement with public and private sector support to establish the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg.
Our government has also launched a call for proposals to build the portrait gallery of Canada in one of nine Canadian cities.
Together with the Aga Khan, we have created the new Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa.
In terms of official languages, funding for linguistic duality and for official language minority communities will be increased by $30 million over two years.
Some of my colleagues closely followed Bernard Lord's consultations held across Canada. Mr. Lord gathered Canadians' opinions about important issues pertaining to linguistic duality and support for official language minority communities.
Our government is currently working on phase two of the action plan for official languages and the results of these consultations will be very useful.
The Government of Canada also has an important role in the celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City. The Department of Canadian Heritage is coordinating the government's participation in these celebrations. The founding of Quebec City was a historic event for all of Canada. It marks not only the founding of Quebec City but also of Canada.
Our government has demonstrated leadership in all these important matters and we are proposing new ways of meeting citizens' needs.
The budget that my colleague, the Minister of Finance, brought down last Tuesday provides funding for major projects that will give Canadians many opportunities to enjoy rewarding experiences.
On February 6, the two-year countdown began to the opening of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler. The Government of Canada is working very hard to make these games Canada's games.
Budget 2008 supports this effort by providing $25 million for the celebrations around the Olympic and Paralympic torch relays. From November 2009 to February 2010, activities will take place in 350 communities across the country in connection with these relays. I am confident that the relay will inspire pride in Canadians all along the route.
This year, we will also cheer on our summer athletes who will proudly represent Canada at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing. Budget 2008 supports excellence in summer sports by providing funding of $24 million over the next two years and $24 million per year subsequently to support the road to excellence program for summer athletes.
In the national museums sector we are reinvesting $9 million over two years to strengthen our four national cultural institutions: the National Gallery of Canada; the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation; the Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation; and the Canadian Museum of Nature.
This support is a clear example of the results of our government's responsible approach to managing public funds. It is an investment in institutions wholly under the responsibility of the federal government. It is also an investment that will allow us to better protect and disseminate our cultural heritage.
Finally, as a follow-up to budget 2007 which increased the budget for the women's program by $20 million, our government will work to develop an action plan over the coming year to advance women's equality in Canada.
We want to improve the economic and social conditions of women while helping them to participate more fully in our country's democratic life. Citizen participation is highly enriching, as I can testify by my own experience, and my sincere wish is that all Canadian women have access to similar experiences in their lives.
And we must not forget what our government has done for the people of Quebec City. We have invested $70 million in Beauport Bay, the Louise Basin, the Brown Basin and Pointe-à-Carcy.
In 2008, the National Battlefields Commission will celebrate its 100th anniversary. The Plains of Abraham will be at the centre of the celebrations in Quebec City, and our government has granted more than $500,000 to mark this anniversary.
With this budget and with its achievements, our government has proven that it remains committed to Canada's culture, arts and heritage.
Our government continues to feel strongly about promoting our cultural diversity, our linguistic duality and all Canadians' participation in our society.
We plan to give everyone the chance to take part in two major celebrations: the 400th anniversary of Quebec City and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver. These are perfect opportunities to promote our unique history and the excellence of our artists and athletes.