Mr. Speaker, Canada's economic action plan is a multi-year plan designed to stimulate the economy while protecting Canadians who are affected most by this economic crisis. This plan is the right choice for Canada because this government undertook the most comprehensive prebudget consultations ever.
We launched an open and public discussion with the people of Canada. We held public town hall and round table meetings across the country, met with government leaders from all provinces and territories, and established a non-partisan economic advisory council of eminent Canadian business leaders for advice on the budget and on the economy in the coming months ahead.
The finance minister and Prime Minister consulted with business leaders, economists, academics, industry leaders, labour organizations and business chambers across Canada. These measures allowed this Conservative government to have an indepth understanding of what is needed to help Canadians through this economic crisis.
I am honoured that I had the opportunity to meet and consult with the people of my riding of Edmonton--Sherwood Park and Fort Saskatchewan. I met with workers, families, small business owners, the chamber of commerce, students and seniors. They all shared their concerns and ideas. I listened to them and brought these ideas and concerns to our caucus and to the Minister of Finance.
Workers were concerned about losing their jobs. Business owners told me that they were most concerned about access to credit. If businesses cannot get credit, they cannot continue to function. Families were concerned with their savings and paying their bills. Students were concerned about finding work once they were finished their education. Seniors were concerned about their own personal finances. These were just a few of the concerns expressed to me.
I am honoured to say that I can now go back to my constituents with pride. Our Conservative government is helping Canadians in this time of economic difficulty. This economic action plan is exactly what Canada needs in so many ways.
In this time of economic hardship, the Conservative government of Canada is reducing the tax burden to help those hit hardest by the downturn. This government stands by its belief that the best place for people's money is in their own pockets. That is why across the board this government is helping people maintain their earning power, pay fewer taxes, and regain the confidence they have lost.
While the crisis did not start in Canada, this Conservative government is acting to help Canadians affected by it.
We are increasing the basic personal amount that all Canadians can earn before being forced to pay income tax. For those with the lowest earnings in the country, those struggling to scrape by, this will allow them to earn more money before they are taxed. We have also raised the upper limit of both the lowest tax brackets. Those who have seen their earnings decline because of the economic slump can rest assured that the government is acting directly to aid them. These tax cuts will help the people immediately. There will be no need for Canadians to wait for funds to trickle down. They will feel the impact of this action plan right away.
This government has created other measures to help those in our society who are rendered vulnerable by the economic downturn.
We have increased the age credit by $1,000, benefiting 2.2 million seniors. Combined with the other measures we have instituted for seniors, such as pension splitting and the increase in the pension income credit, the Conservative government has ensured that it will support seniors during this recession. These measures for seniors, when put together, provide almost $2 billion of aid to the seniors of Canada.
We propose in this plan to nearly double the working income tax benefit, ensuring that those who decide to work and contribute to the economy are never punished financially for their actions.
I believe the greatest stimulus is to give the people of Canada their money back and let them decide where and how to spend it.
Members of the NDP have made it clear that they do not think that the people of Canada deserve this money. They have made it clear that they desire to keep taxes high, even in the midst of a recession. They have made it clear that they do not want to support businesses. They have made it clear that they do not want Canadians to get back to work. The leader of the NDP decided to oppose this budget before he even knew what was in it.
The Conservative government knows that, if given the support they need, the Canadian people can and will overcome the challenges that our nation faces.
We know that during trying economic times the Canadian people represent our greatest strength. We know that ultimately this government is responsible to Canadians and that it is the Canadian people who have allowed us to be here and who have given us the mandate to work together to help them get through this economic crisis affecting the entire world.
The solution for Canada is the economic action plan this government has put forward. This economic action plan will create opportunities across the country.
We will not mince words. The next couple of years will not be easy. While deficit spending is not comfortable for any of us, we have to be responsible and act. There is no room for political manoeuvring when Canadians' livelihoods are at stake.
That is why I am pleased this budget has shown both forethought and planning. We will see our nation return to balanced budgets within about five years. This action plan has the right combination of protection for Canadian workers and training for their future to bring us into prosperity once the economic seas have calmed.
This economic slump is a period of transition for our nation. That is why we are working to provide learning and training opportunities.
Our Conservative government spent almost $2 billion on training because we believe that Canadians who seek a new job, a new career and a new life for themselves and their families should be able to count on the Government of Canada.
We will spend $500 million over two years on a strategic training and transition fund to ensure that it is not only those who benefit from EI who have access to training. We will invest $50 million into our future by helping young Canadians find summer jobs. We will address the shortage of skilled workers in our nation by launching a $2,000 apprenticeship completion grant.
Finally, we will fulfill the dream that has brought so many people to Canada from other countries, including my own parents: the dream of a better life for themselves and for their children. Through partnerships with the provinces, this government is committed to developing a national foreign credential framework. Highly skilled immigrants can come to Canada knowing that the value of their education will be recognized here.
The renovation tax credit in the action plan will impact an estimated 4.6 million Canadian homeowners and will allow our families to improve their homes. By implementing a temporary home renovation tax credit, our Conservative government will be benefiting homeowners in Alberta for up to $338 million over two years. The temporary nature of this credit will provide an immediate incentive for Canadians to undertake new renovations or to accelerate planned projects.
These renovations will add to the growing green economy, allowing the people of Edmonton--Sherwood Park and Fort Saskatchewan to purchase energy efficient appliances by providing $300 million over two years to the eco-energy home retrofit program. Our government is expecting to support an additional 200,000 energy-saving home retrofits that will be kind to the environment and will keep more money in the pockets of Albertans.
Given these troubled times, our government recognizes the undue strain placed on first-time home buyers and the negative effects it directly places on their future aspirations. Our Conservative government is providing a first-time home buyers' tax credit that will provide tax relief to those families looking to purchase their first home. In addition, we will increase the amount that first-time home buyers can withdraw from their RRSPs to purchase a home.
Small businesses are the foundation of our economy. Our Conservative government understands the immediate action that must be taken to support businesses within our communities. Our dedication to sustaining strong, competitive businesses will not only create revenue for Albertans and Canadians alike, but will also stimulate jobs and investment.
We are dedicated to increasing access to financing for small businesses through proposed amendments to the Canada small business financing program and the Business Development Bank of Canada. In addition, we are increasing the amount of small business income eligible for the reduced federal tax rate of 11% to $500,000 from the current limit of $400,000 as of January 1, 2009.
In the consultation process for the budget we heard loud and clear that Canadian financial institutions have been less willing to lend to credit-worthy Canadian families and businesses. The Canadian secured credit facility will be created, with an allocation of up to $12 billion to support the financing of vehicles and equipment for consumers and businesses. This measure will also help the auto industry to increase sales, as they have been hit particularly hard by this recession.
With access to financing, Canadian families can continue to make the purchases that keep the economy moving ahead. It will be easier for people to get car loans. Businesses will be able to purchase new equipment, invest in their operations and grow in the future.
Once again, I am proud to be a member of this party and this government, a government that has put this country and its citizens first, ahead of all party politics. This is an economic action plan that will help our entire nation move forward to create jobs, hope and prosperity. This is an action plan that will bring our economy in from the cold and support the Canadian work force.
I am pleased to see that it has gained the support of the official opposition and I applaud their decision to put the Canadian people before politics.