Mr. Speaker, let us hope we can bring some order to this House and quiet down the debate to some reasonable and realistic comments.
I rise to speak to the amendment put forward by the NDP to effectively and substantially delay second reading of a very important piece of government legislation.
First, I must express my dismay with the NDP for defending the enormous immigration backlog in this country. The NDP members stand in this House and say that they stand up for immigrants, but they actually are putting forward an amendment that will delay a process which will actually improve and speed up the immigration process.
The backlog, of course, is keeping families apart and is denying Canada the much needed talent and skills that we require to improve our competitiveness and ensure our long term economic prosperity. By extension, that backlog is threatening Canada's quality of life and the strength and the integrity of the social safety net that the NDP claims to champion.
The NDP members, along with their Liberal and Bloc friends, say they support a vibrant 21st century economy. They offer no solutions to address the serious labour force challenges that our country is facing. They fail to recognize that Canada is in fierce competition with other countries to attract the skilled immigrants who have the talent and the training to meet these challenges.
My hon. colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, spoke at length on the need to proceed with these valuable and much needed reforms. I am going to speak to some of the other important measures that these political games are delaying. They are delaying benefits to Canadian families and businesses. We will make it loud and clear to all Canadians that it is the NDP members, along with their Liberal and Bloc allies, who are to blame for these delays.
Bill C-50, as with all our previous budget bills, is primarily about making a positive impact on the lives of Canadians, who for too long were overtaxed and poorly served by their federal government. We committed to changing that and we remain committed to delivering positive results for Canadians.
I know the NDP is never happy about Canadians keeping more of their hard-earned money, but I can assure members that Canadians certainly are excited about the tax-free savings account or, as we call it, TFSA. With the tax-free savings account, budget 2008 provides Canadians with the most important savings vehicle since the introduction of the RRSP. This flexible, registered, general purpose account will allow Canadians to watch their savings grow tax free. The reaction has been almost overwhelmingly positive in support of this TFSA.
I ask members to listen to the words of Finn Poschmann, director of Research at the C.D. Howe Institute. He said:
This tax policy gem is very good news for Canadians, and [the finance minister] and his government deserve credit for a novel program.
Budget 2008 also provides for an increase in the northern residents deductions of 10%, effective for the 2008 tax year, a move with broad positive support, even from the NDP.
Let us listen to the words of NDP member for Western Arctic, who said that it is a positive first step. I note for that particular NDP member the disappointment that his constituents, in the form of a recent Yellowknifer editorial, have already indicated in regard to his first vote against the budget:
Considering the NDP won't form a government at any time soon, it would have been best had [the NDP member from Western Arctic] swallowed the pill and voted with the [Conservative] government.
Let us imagine how much more disappointed they will be in him once they hear that their member is now trying to delay this positive step.
I hear on a daily basis from the NDP that the government is not paying enough attention to the challenges faced by our students. Budget 2008 is a generous budget for students and goes a long way to address the neglect they suffered under the previous Liberal government.
Through Bill C-50, the government is committing $123 million over four years, starting in 2009-10, to streamline and modernize the Canada student loans program and expand online services for students, enabling them to manage their student loan accounts online.
It would provide further support for Canadian students with a $350 million investment in 2009-10, rising to $430 million in 2012-13, in a new consolidated Canada student grant program that would reach 245,000 college and undergraduate students per year when it takes effect in 2009. That is almost 100,000 more students than the previous program that we are replacing.
One can imagine students' disappointment once they hear of today's delays.
We recognize that small and medium businesses are the backbone of our economy and our government is committed to fostering an environment that enables them to thrive.
Budget 2008 would benefit small and medium-sized businesses by improving the scientific research and experimental development tax incentive program and easing the tax compliance burden by reducing the record-keeping requirements for automobile expense deductions and taxable benefits.
We believe that Canadians share our desire to see more of our seniors maintain their independence for as long as possible. This government also recognizes that our seniors will have a valuable contribution to make to our economy, which is why we are investing $60 million per year to ensure that low income seniors who work can realize greater benefits from their earnings through an increase in the guaranteed income supplement exemption. This is one of the most innovative and promising initiatives put forward in budget 2008 and addresses, head on, a serious challenge faced by Canadian society.
Through Bill C-50, we will invest $110 million in the Mental Health Commission of Canada to support five innovative demonstration projects across the country to develop best practices to help Canadians facing mental health and homelessness challenges.
The protection of its citizens is one of the most important responsibilities of a government. We are committed to following through with the resources to show Canadians we take that responsibility very seriously.
To back up our commitment, Bill C-50 provides $400 million through a third party trust for provinces and territories to support their efforts in recruiting 2,500 new front line police officers.
This government believes we can never fully enjoy the benefits of our hard work and unique joys of being fortunate enough to live in a country like Canada if we do not protect our environment as well. Clean air, clean water and clean land are not only what Canadians deserve, they are the bedrock ingredients of our long term prosperity and success as a country. That is why our government has made, and will continue to make, substantial investments in protecting our environment.
Bill C-50 allocates $500 million in 2007-08, through a third party trust, on a provincial-territorial per capita basis, for public transit infrastructure and sets aside $250 million for a full scale, commercial demonstration carbon capture and storage in the coal-fired electrical sector.
As we can see, Bill C-50, the first budget implementation act for 2008, is filled with positive news for Canadians, news that I would have thought the NDP could support and should support. It contains targeted and timely funding to address many of the challenges that our country is facing while, at the same time, introducing the tax-free savings account, one of the most innovative and welcomed savings vehicles to come along since the RRSP.
I encourage the NDP and all opposition parties to put aside petty partisan wrangling and support Bill C-50. If they cannot see their way to doing that, they should at least get out of the way and stop delaying such important legislation.