Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today for the first time to participate in the budget 2009 debate. I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton—Leduc.
I will begin by thanking the good constituents in Huron—Bruce for putting their faith in me on October 14 and allowing me to represent them in Ottawa. I would like to thank my family for their hard work and support and I would like to thank all of the dedicated, hard-working volunteers. Without their generosity I would not be here today.
A synchronized, global recession is hitting every economy in the world. Canada, as a great trading nation, is feeling the effects. On January 27, the hon. Minister of Finance delivered Canada's economic action plan. This plan will stimulate the Canadian economy to protect Canadians during the global recession and to invest in our long term growth. Our government built this plan after one of the broadest and deepest consultation processes in Canadian history. We heard Canadians' concerns about their jobs, savings, families, businesses and communities. We listened to their concerns and we took their advice.
This government is taking action. Budget 2009 will benefit Huron—Bruce dramatically. Over the past few years, we have continued to see the economy in southern Ontario deteriorate. For example, the unemployment rate in Ontario has risen in recent months and has been above the national average for unemployment rates for two years. In spite of these realities, southern Ontario benefits from a number of economic advantages, including high education levels, large and prosperous urban centres and a close proximity to the United States marketplace.
However, the weakening U.S. and global economies have resulted in plant closures and slower economic growth that are creating hardships for workers and families in southern Ontario.
On Tuesday, in response to Ontario's economic challenges, the Minister of Finance announced $1 billion for a southern Ontario development agency. This is good news for Huron—Bruce and all the ridings in southern Ontario. This agency will provide programs that support economic and community development, innovation and economic diversification with contributions to communities, businesses and non-profit organizations. It will help workers, communities and businesses in southern Ontario position themselves to take advantage of opportunities as economic growth recovers in Canada and around the world.
In addition to the regional programs, the Canadian skills and transition strategy will help to strengthen the benefits for Canadian workers, enhancing the availability of training and freezing EI rates at the lowest payroll tax in the world. This government has taken action to provide a broad range of financial support to help individuals and their families in difficult times, not only in Huron—Bruce, but across Canada.
These initiatives will support Canadians in the short term as well as help them find long term job prospects with investments in training. Budget 2009 has extended the work-sharing agreement by 14 weeks to a maximum of 52 weeks, so more Canadians can continue working. In addition, for two years we will increase EI entitlement benefits by five extra weeks, increasing the maximum benefit duration to 50 weeks from the previous 45 weeks. To help workers who participate in longer term training, this government is investing $500 million over the next two years to extend EI benefits. This will help an additional 10,000 workers.
We are doing more. This government is also investing $1 billion to enhance the availability of training delivered through EI programs over the next two years. We are also helping individuals who do not qualify for EI training, such as the self-employed or those who have been out of work for an extended period. Over the next two years, this government will invest $500 million in a strategic training and transition fund to support these individuals.
Since being elected in October, Huron—Bruce has experienced plant closures, layoffs and numerous people out of work. These programs will go a long way in Huron—Bruce to help our hard-working constituents retrain and get back into the workforce.
Budget 2009 also announced new measures for the agriculture industry. Farmers in Huron—Bruce continue to strive to develop innovative, high-quality food products for Canada's families and markets abroad. In turn, farmers provide a strong economic foundation for the rural communities in which they live and work.
The Canadian farm sector has not been isolated from the current economic downturn. The government will implement a five year, $500 million agriculture flexibility program, AgriFlex, that will facilitate the implementation of new initiatives both federally and in partnership with the provinces, territories and industry. This program will help the agriculture sector improve its competitiveness and respond to market challenges. In addition, the government will invest $50 million over three years to strengthen slaughterhouse capacity in various regions of the country to support the livestock sector.
Budget 2009 also announced proposed amendments to the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loan Act to help make credit available to new farmers, support intergenerational farm transfers and modify eligibility criteria for agriculture co-operatives. Without a doubt, this government has taken action. This budget ensures that many of the key concerns that Canadians had are addressed.
In addition to the building Canada plan, this government announced an additional $7 billion in infrastructure spending. This investment will create jobs and revitalize our transportation network with repairs to our roads, bridges, highways and rail links across the country. Huron—Bruce is a good example of this investment, with $750,000 allocated for pier rehabilitation to the South Hampton Harbour. We are doing more.
Budget 2009 also includes tax cuts for low and middle income families. The basic personal amount of taxable income will be raised from $9,600 to $10,320 per year. This will allow Canadians to earn more before they have to start paying taxes. This government has also increased the first and second personal income tax brackets to allow earnings to be taxed at a lower rate. This will put more money back in the pockets of Canadians.
We have effectively doubled the tax relief provided by the working income tax benefit to help low income Canadians over the welfare wall and into gainful employment. We have also created a home renovation tax credit that will provide incentives of up to $1,350 for Canadians to undertake new renovation projects or accelerate planned future projects.
This budget also provides numerous investments in social and affordable housing to provide Canadians with quality housing at affordable rates. These investments will help lower income families and individuals access safe, affordable and quality housing, build a stronger future and help to create sustainable communities. We will invest $1 billion to upgrade up to 200,000 social housing units across this country.
Budget 2009 will also invest $400 million for the construction of social housing units for low income seniors and $75 million over two years for the construction of social housing units for persons with disabilities. These investments will provide support for some of the most vulnerable in our society while providing short term stimulus relief to the Canadian economy.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that we are taking action to address the economic crisis for all Canadians. It is only through a strong economy that Canadians can create the quality of life and standard of living to which we all aspire within the context of today's economy.
Budget 2009 demonstrates the government's continued commitment to the economy and this country. This is the responsible federal leadership that Canadians rightfully demand and deserve. This is real action and real results for the Canadian economy.