Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.
Last week the Minister of Finance delivered our government's third budget, a budget that builds on our record of strong financial management. It is a budget that reinforces the fiscal advantage for Canada and provides for responsible leadership in the current period of economic uncertainty.
In the past three budgets, including budget 2008, the government has provided more than $2.3 billion in new resources for science and technology initiatives. Focusing on targeted priorities, we will maximize the impact of these investments by ensuring they are applied where Canada can use its strengths to make a difference. We are carefully managing spending, reducing debt and ensuring government programs provide value for money while keeping the tax burden to a minimum.
Let me mention a few key measures that we have taken.
Since 2006, our government's actions will provide $21 billion in incremental tax relief to Canadians and to Canadian businesses this year. We continue our record of strong fiscal management, reducing debt for 2007-08 by $10.2 billion and $13.8 billion by 2009-10. In fact, by 2012-13 total debt reduction, since we came into office, will be more than $50 billion, which is a remarkable achievement.
Moreover, we are ensuring that programs and services are affordable, that they are focused and aligned with the priorities of Canadians. In fact, spending this year, as a share of GDP, is below the track set out in budget 2007.
Budget 2008 recognizes the importance of the automotive industry to our long term economic success. Canada's automotive industry is a world leader and provides high quality jobs in many communities across our country. The actions taken by the government will result in over $1.6 billion in benefits for the automotive sector over this and the next five years. The auto sector will benefit, as I pointed out, from over $1 billion in tax relief by 2012-13. In budget 2008 we have also extended the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for three years on a declining basis. This will provide the manufacturing and processing sectors both with an additional $1 billion in tax relief.
As promised, we have cut the GST from 7% to 6% and now 5%, which has lowered the cost of all new vehicles for Canadians.
The automotive sector produces 12% of our manufacturing gross domestic product and accounts for 24% of our exports. It directly employs over 150,000 Canadians. At this point in time one out of every six vehicles that is manufactured in North America is made in Canada. Our automotive plants are renowned for their high productivity and for their exceptional quality.
Worldwide the automobile industry is, however, changing and automotive technology is evolving very quickly. This presents both a challenge and opportunity for us in Canada. The competition around the world for new assembly plants is, quite frankly, fierce and the future will belong to those countries that both invest the most and aggressively innovate.
In budget 2008 the finance minister announced new key initiatives that broaden and deepen our approach to positioning Canada in this fast paced technologically driven industry. The approach is built on four pillars, which I spoke to in Toronto recently: first, a positive business climate; second, an integrated North American auto sector; third, investing in automotive research and development; and fourth, creating a new automotive innovation fund.
Dealing with the positive business climate, our strategic economic plan, “Advantage Canada”, creates the first pillar, and that is a positive business climate, which we have achieved by lowering taxes, by cutting red tape, by investing in critical infrastructure and by fostering what is the best educated, most skilled and most flexible labour force in the world.
This warrants emphasis. I have been to the floor of the assembly plant for trucks in Oshawa. The Canadian workers are the best workers. They are the best automobile assembly people anywhere in the world, with the highest quality product, the lowest number of down days and the lowest number of qualitative problems on the assembly line.
It does not matter of what company we speak. Our plants in Canada earn high marks. In many cases they are best of class facilities and in many cases they are award winning, world calibre facilities.
The second pillar aims to preserve and support the deep integration of the North American market for vehicles and parts. The Canadian automotive industry has succeeded over the past 40 years because it has integrated with the U.S. industry and has enjoyed easy access to the U.S. market.
There is only one automotive industry in North America. Whether we are speaking of Mexico, or the United States or Canada, this is an industry that is integrated across borders. It must be harmonized if we are to achieve the competitiveness that we need to achieve on a North American basis so we may take on all comers in the future.
In particular, the border at the Windsor-Detroit crossing is becoming increasingly clogged. We cannot remain competitive with a border that clogs and slows down the smooth operation of an integrated industry. Something approaching 40% of Canada's trade is carried across a single bridge constructed before the great depression, the so-call Ambassador Bridge. This is a critical point in terms of our capacity to trade with our American neighbours. I have pointed out repeatedly in other circumstances that in excess of the amount of trade done between the United States and Japan in an entire year moves back and forth across that single bridge in the same period of time.
We are working hard to remove barriers to the cross-border flow of vehicles and auto parts. The government will provide $400 million for an access road to the new Windsor-Detroit border crossing, which will also be expanded to provide seamless transportation of goods and services. This is something no previous government has been able to achieve. This government is, and we are moving forward.
The third pillar of our approach speaks to the importance of investing in R and D. Over the next five years, the government will use new resources in budget 2008 and will redirect existing resources in that budget to create a coordinated automotive R and D plan with industry and key provinces.
Our approach is going to focus on research and development support, which is the dollars the Government of Canada is currently expending, on creating a more innovative Canadian auto industry, making Canada a leader in green automotive technologies, in greenhouse gas reduction and in the long term competitiveness of the automotive sector.
If Canada is to do this, we need to go one step further. That is where the fourth pillar comes in. The United States and Mexican governments provide extensive support to attract this kind of new automotive investment. Canada's new automotive innovation fund, announced in the budget, allocates $250 million over the next five years to lever large scale private sector R and D and innovation. The fund will target areas in which the Canadian automotive industry has already secured a worldwide reputation, a reputation that we will build on and retool for a new, environmentally conscious, fuel efficient innovation.
Our goal is ambitious. It is to ensure that Canada remains the best place in the world to assembly automobiles, but the Government of Canada is just one player. Our success depends on a strong partnership with all members of the automotive team. That includes industry, labour, research institutes, academia, all levels of government and industry itself.
We have a sound approach for the automotive industry. We are dealing with the circumstances of creating a Canadian value proposition. We have been very good at automotive assembly in the past in our country and we have to be very good in the future.
Certainly, there are challenging circumstances that the industry has faced and will face in the days ahead, but all in all, we have been very successful in the automotive industry in Canada. With the four pillar approach which I have outlined today in the House, we intend to stay at the forefront of innovation, and I would suggest, do what we have always done, which is to be the best people in the world at automobile assembly.