Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to share my time today with the hon. member for Red Deer.
I am pleased to speak today in favour of Canada's economic action plan, as tabled by the hon. Minister of Finance, and I respectfully encourage all my fellow parliamentarians to support budget 2009. In my view, the government's economic action plan provides much-needed stimulus for our nation's economy that is timely, targeted, temporary and cost effective. I believe that the measures contained in our plan will lay the foundation for long term growth.
As we all know, Canada is facing the domestic effects of an unprecedented global financial crisis. Our financial institutions, while strong and sound by international standards, face the double jeopardy of an unavailability of liquidity to provide much needed loans to business and a short term negative economic forecast that causes them to hold back in making the loans and investments that Canadian business requires.
Credit-worthy Canadian businesses cannot access necessary sources of debt and equity to operate in the normal course and make the types of investments that will enable them to enhance their competitiveness and operate in a more environmentally sustainable way. Hard-working families are justifiably worried about their jobs and financial security and accordingly are cautious about spending and incurring debt.
These are truly extraordinary times. This is not a normal economic downturn. Despite the fact that Canada's economy is in relatively much better shape than any G7 nation, thanks in large part to the previously implemented economic and fiscal policies of this government, we must take extraordinary steps now to offset the domestic effects of the current crisis in world financial systems.
Given Canada's very favourable debt to GDP ratio, we have an opportunity now to borrow modestly at historically low interest rates and put that money to work for all Canadians to soften the impact of a financial crisis created beyond our borders and to help our economy emerge stronger, more competitive and a leader in cutting edge technology and industries.
The economic action plan is a coordinated plan that will simultaneously protect jobs through critical support for the auto industry, tax incentives for new investments in production machinery and environmental technologies and generous enhancements to the employment insurance program.
It will create new jobs through immediate and strategic investments in roads, bridges, public buildings, colleges and universities, investments that will enhance the efficiency of our economy and improve the quality of life for Canadians throughout this great land. It will maintain and create further jobs by incentivizing consumers to purchase homes and automobiles, and to renovate existing homes to enhance their value and energy efficiency.
It will also protect the most vulnerable in our society by providing significant new support for training for those laid-off workers to give them the knowledge and skills required to shift into new and emerging industries. It will provide tax cuts for hard-working, low income Canadians and significant new investments in affordable housing.
The economic action plan is proof that we listened and delivered. As members know, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and all of our members of Parliament met across the country with thousands of individuals, businesses, municipal and provincial governments and other stakeholders. This broad and comprehensive consultation process elicited many good suggestions, which are reflected in the economic action plan.
As a Conservative member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, I have participated in meetings with over 45 stakeholder groups. In my home province of Ontario, I met with the region of Peel, the city of Mississauga, local boards of trade, labour groups, charitable and social welfare organizations and ordinary citizens at public town hall meetings. In all of those consultations there quickly emerged a consensus on broad initiatives to stimulate our economy and protect workers and the most vulnerable in our society.
I am pleased to acknowledge that these important and desired initiatives have been included in Canada's economic action plan. We were advised by the Mississauga Board of Trade and many others to revise the employment insurance program to help save jobs through work-sharing. We responded by extending support for work-sharing arrangements by 14 weeks.
I would like to read from a press release, released by the Mississauga Board of Trade yesterday, in which it describes how the government responded to its requests.
The headline reads, “Federal budget is positive step forward for business and economy”. The statement reads:
Mississauga Board of Trade was pleased to see the federal government present a budget that took extraordinary measures to address an extraordinary economic climate.
MBOT President & CEO, Sheldon Leiba said, “Now we have the confidence that the federal government has a plan and strategy in place to restore our economy and achieve long-term competitiveness.”