Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time this morning with the member from the beautiful riding of South Shore—St. Margaret's.
It is indeed a pleasure and a privilege to rise in the House today to speak on behalf of the people of Brant.
Brant is made up of the city of Brantford, the county of Brant, Six Nations of the Grand and the Mississaugas of the New Credit, a diverse community, rich in heritage.
Each community is unique but its people are bound nonetheless by a common history and a common cause: to contribute, to prosper and to give the next generation hope for a better life than they themselves have had. That is simple, some might say, and obvious, yet so often forgotten in the pursuit of personal agendas.
Agriculture has been and always will be an integral part of Brant's history. While farm families in St. George, Paris and Burford grew the food we ate, thousands more, many of them immigrants to this land, built farm equipment in Brantford's factories like Cockshutt Farm Equipment, Massey Ferguson and White Farm Equipment.
Canada's farmers continue to strive to develop innovative, high quality food products for Canada's families and markets abroad. In Brant they form a solid economic foundation for the rural communities in which they live and work. Despite strong economic gains in some sectors over the past two years, Canada's farm sector is not isolated from the current economic downturn. Some farmers, such as livestock producers, are facing higher input prices and many are affected by low and volatile commodity prices.
Since 2006 the government has introduced major enhancements to agricultural programming. The new suite of business risk management programs launched in April 2008 provides comprehensive protection against income variability, natural hazards and disasters.
Our government's economic action plan announces new measures to build on this strong foundation. The government will implement a five year, $500 million agricultural flexibility program that will facilitate the implementation of new initiatives, both federally and in partnership with provinces, territories and industry. This program will help farmers adapt to the pressures and improve their competitiveness. The plan announces proposed amendments to the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act to help make credit available to new farmers and support intergenerational farm transfers.
At the birth of the last century, Brant was the third largest manufacturing centre in Canada, third only to Montreal and Toronto. Those first tractors made in Brantford's factories supplied a global market moving toward modernized farming.
Today global events are shaping the riding of Brant as they have in the past. A global recession originating in the United States threatens us here at home. The first priority for all of us is to protect each other during this global recession
Our government's economic action plan accomplishes this by, among other measures, extending EI benefits to a maximum of 50 weeks; providing $400 million to support on reserve housing; providing another $400 million for low income seniors housing; extending the wage earner protection program to cover severance and termination pay owed to eligible workers impacted by an employer's bankruptcy; and yes, tax cuts, particularly for low to middle income Canadians, a total of $4.3 billion in personal income tax relief.
However, we must not forget the desire of Canadians to give to the next generation hope for a better life than they themselves have had. The economic action plan provides for $12 billion in infrastructure spending not only to create jobs but to engage in nation building by building roads, universities and recreational facilities. The plan provides for two year targeted funding of $165 million for the completion of drinking water and waste water infrastructure projects to address the health and safety priorities in first nation communities across the country.
Unprecedented economic times require creative economic solutions. The introduction of Canada's renovation tax credit is one such solution.
I dare say the vast majority of Canadians who enjoy the pride of home ownership have at least one project in mind to improve their home and their investment. Further, I would go so far as to say that every member in the House today has a project in mind for their home, if they own one, and this may not include the project that their spouse or partner has in mind. How do I know this? Experience. I have over two decades of construction experience specializing in home renovation, at first swinging a hammer, mixing concrete, sweeping the sawdust from the floors and later on, as the business grew, helping families at their kitchen tables design, develop and fulfill their dreams. For a time I served as president of the Ontario Home Builders' Association and as chair of the Ontario Renovators' Council.
I can tell the House from that experience that during the new home construction downturn of the early 1990s renovation work kept food on the table of many a tradesperson. Men and women, skilled and unskilled, were able to keep working and stay off the unemployment line.
Our government has listened, designed and developed the home renovation tax credit. This highly stimulative measure will provide up to $1,350 in tax relief to reduce the cost of renovations for an estimated 4.6 million Canadian families.
The first-time homebuyers' tax credit will provide $750 in tax relief to first-time homebuyers, money that can be spent by young families on furnishing homes, perhaps furnishing a nursery. As well, first-time homebuyers will be able to increase their RRSP withdrawal amount from $20,000 to $25,000 to purchase a home.
In addition, our action plan adds $300 million over two years to the eco-energy home retrofit program, which is expected to support an additional 200,000 energy-saving home retrofits.
It is important to remember that there is a tenfold spinoff to home building and renovation spending. Manufacturing is supported to produce building products. Distribution systems deliver those goods to the work site. Retailers benefit from purchases by homeowners during and after the project is completed through purchases of appliances, electronics, window coverings, furniture and much more. As one old-timer said to me when I told him I was a renovation contractor, “Ah, renovation, that's a cat with a long tail”.
In closing, this week our government delivered an economic action plan for an unprecedented time in our history. It is a plan built on unprecedented consultation, a plan built on pragmatic and practical approaches, and a plan that responds to the needs of honest, middle-class Canadians, hard-working Canadians who play by the rules, just like the good people of Brant.