I will have the member know that these are my own notes. The member for Malpeque needs to know I write my own notes because that is critical to the story this evening. These may be estimates, but these are my notes.
It gives me great pleasure today to discuss the government's main estimates. I want to focus on an issue that is of great importance to the citizens of my province, the manufacturing sector. It is important to remind Canadians, as the United Steelworkers did, that the manufacturing crisis did not start when the Conservatives took office. The Liberals had 12 years to deal with this stuff and they did nothing. Unlike the Liberals, this Conservative government has taken decisive action over the last two years to help the manufacturing sector.
Ontario's automotive sector has been affected by the slowing global economy. The sector remains the largest manufacturing industry in the country and has a proven global reputation for quality and productivity, helping Canada rank as one of the top vehicle-producing countries in the world. I am proud to say that includes my home town of St. Catharines.
To maintain its leadership and competitive advantage, Canada's automotive sector is moving to become more innovative and adapt to new environmental standards. This requires a highly skilled workforce and increased investment in research and innovation to develop new process technologies and vehicles that are more fuel efficient and environmentally sustainable.
To help the automotive sector, the Conservative government has committed over $1.6 billion to measures that will help the automotive industry successfully meet these challenges. These include $1 billion in tax relief for the auto sector by 2012-13 and $250 million, a quarter of a billion dollar investment, over five years, through a new automotive innovation fund, to support large-scale research and development projects to develop innovative and more fuel efficient vehicles. It also includes $400 million as a contribution toward the access road to the new Windsor-Detroit border crossing.
In includes an enhancement to Export Development Canada's existing export guarantee program that will increase coverage, benefiting particularly those businesses in the automotive sector. Specifically, EDC will increase its guarantee coverage under the export guarantee program from 75% to 90% for loans up to $500,000. This will assist small and medium sized manufacturers in fulfilling export contracts. EDC is also working to enhance its financing and insurance products in support of the automotive and manufacturing sector.
We fulfilled our promise to cut the GST, and we have reduced it by two full points, making cars more affordable. In fact, last month, car sales rose yet again, the fifth increase in six months.
However, the Liberals want to undo these positive steps by not only increasing the GST, but also imposing, as the minister has clearly stated, a gouging gas tax that will make purchasing a car more expensive and devastate the auto sector in our province.
The list of what the government has done for the auto sector does not end here. Let us talk a little about research and development.
Maintaining Canada's competitive advantage also requires investment in research and development. Canada continues to be a world leader in funding post-secondary research, ranking second in the OECD and first in the G-7.
To maintain Canada's premier position, budget 2008 builds on this investment. When I say premier, I am not talking about the two former premiers from the Liberal Party who sit across the way.
I am talking about a budget that talks about investment to continue to support world class research and researchers at our universities, including $34 million per year to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council for collaborative research that directly contributes to the knowledge and innovation needs of Canada's automotive, manufacturing, forestry and fishing industries.
The government also recognizes that increasing business investments in research and development will be crucial for our long term competitiveness. Budget 2008 enhances support for business investments with improvements to the scientific research and experimental development tax, which we at finance committee call SR&ED. This new incentive and new program to support research and development investment in the automotive industry is something to be spoken about.
This government realizes that investing in the future means investing in knowledge, it means investing in science, and it means investing in innovation.
I want to speak a bit about the capital cost allowance. It was not introduced in 2008. In fact, it was introduced in 2007, but the minister extended the program. We are providing further assistance for Canada's manufacturing and processing sector by extending the accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for investment in machinery and equipment for three years. Specifically, the 50% straight line accelerated capital cost allowance treatment will apply for one additional year and the accelerated treatment will then be provided on a declining basis over a two year period.
I have to congratulate the member for Burlington who chairs the steel caucus. He is doing an excellent job. Representatives from the steel industry across this country sat down and met with us tonight and credited a number of things. The one thing that stood out this evening for us when they spoke was the fact that the accelerated capital cost allowance is telling its employees of the future that they are wanted, they are needed, and they are accepted in every manufacturing company in this country.
In addition, we are supporting 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 automotive expense deductions and taxable benefits. In other words, we are going to make sure we reduce the red tape.
Let me speak for a couple of moments about the community development trust.
While Canada's economic fundamentals remain solid, the government recognizes that there are some workers and communities that face challenges in adjusting to changes in the international economy. That is why in January 2008 the government announced up to $1 billion for the community development trust to support those experiencing hardship due to international economic volatility. The 2008 budget built on this initiative by providing an additional $90 million to extend to 2012 the targeted initiative for older workers to help older workers stay in the workforce.
A one billion dollar investment, $350 million in the province of Ontario, was an investment made by the federal government. As much as we would like the provinces and the territories to give the federal government credit for making this investment, we realize that those dollars are transferred to them to allow them to make decisions according to what they believe to be in the best interests of the businesses in their provinces and territories. We are not asking for credit. We did not ask the provinces to go out and state that we were the ones who provided that community investment fund.
It takes a lot of guts and it takes a lot of nerve for the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance to allocate $1 billion for community reinvestment across this country with the full understanding that they and this government would not receive credit for it, not because we wanted the credit but because it was the right thing to do at the right time, in the right place, in this country.
Now, finally, Canada's economic fundamentals are solved and that is good news for all sectors and for all Canadians. We have paid down debt. We have reduced taxes paid by families and individuals. We have also cut corporate taxes.
In fact, let me take a moment to outline that we have taken steps federally by lowering business taxes to 15% by 2012. This will encourage investment, promote competitiveness, and most importantly, increase productivity. We certainly hope that other jurisdictions with large manufacturing sectors will follow suit and lower their corporate taxes. We can only lead by example; we cannot dictate.
The member for Markham—Unionville agrees with the significant steps that this Conservative government has taken. Some may be surprised to hear that, but he does. He said that corporate tax cuts are one of the best strategies to attract investment.
Let me ask the finance minister or the parliamentary secretary in the time remaining to speak about the many positive measures that we have advanced for the manufacturing, auto and forestry sectors.