Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood for that fine introduction. I know he is waiting with bated breath to see how we actually reflect on this motion.
I was just reading this motion. This is a motion that was put before the House on March 4, before the budget was tabled. I will read the part of it:
....while Canada is starting to recover from the global economic recession, the recovery is tentative and uncertain and the number one priority of Canadians remains jobs and economic growth, now and for the future.
I have been listening closely to some of the speeches today and that has been left out of many of the speeches, which I find very troubling. As we all know, later that day in this very House, the budget document was tabled, and its title is “Leading the Way on Jobs and Growth”. That is more than just ironic; that is a reflection of what this government believes is the number one priority for Canadians. I would encourage all members to remember that.
We were elected to represent our constituents, those who have jobs, those who want to have jobs, and those who have lost their jobs. That is why we are building economic growth, to make sure that the corporations are a fundamental part of this economy. As much as the NDP talks down our businesses, our corporations, it is they that create jobs.
The government's role is not to create jobs. It never has been and never should be. The government's role is to create an environment where corporations can prosper and they create the jobs. That is the fundamental difference between this party and at least the NDP. Sometimes the Liberals actually recognize that and we appreciate that.
Let us refer to the budget document, “Leading the Way on Jobs and Growth”. First of all, we reminded Canadians of our promise in the first year of the economic action plan, and that was to stimulate the economy. That was with taxpayers' money. We were very prudent with that money. It was spread out across this country equally to make sure that jobs were created.
As I said, that was our number one priority, to make sure that as few Canadians as possible actually lost their jobs. However, those who did would actually have a chance at being able to sustain their families until they got another job. We extended EI. We put in another very important piece in that puzzle and that was work sharing.
As the finance minister and I travelled across the country in prebudget consultations, we heard from many firms that said they were seriously considering closing doors on some of their plants until they looked at the work-sharing opportunity. They kept those plants open and people's jobs were saved. Some of those plants are now back up to speed with full employment.
February's job numbers were released this morning and there is good news. We are not out of the woods but there are 21,000 new jobs. The February figures show gains of more than 60,000 in full-time jobs. That is exactly what our economic action plan year one was meant to do.
Now we are into year two. In year two we are going to continue with what we promised in the first year, and that is $19 billion in new stimulus to provide and create jobs. The other thing that we have said we are going to do and which was laid out in the budget document is we will be providing a limited number of targeted measures, once again to build jobs.
Phase three is about planning to return to budgetary balance. My constituents were more than thrilled to hear that.
My constituents are very conservative and most of them were troubled when we had to go into a deficit, but they understood that Canadians were losing their jobs, that it was very important that we step forward and made sure that the impact was as minimal as it could be on those people who lost their jobs. Now they are asking us and pleading with us to please get back to balance so that we do not pass on a deficit to our children and grandchildren.
Budget 2010 creates and protects jobs through these proposals. As I say, our work-sharing program is very successful. To date 225,000 jobs have been maintained because it was possible to share them with other workers.
We are supporting young workers through our internship and skills development program. That is one of the few things the Liberals raised as an issue. We listened to them. The finance minister and I sat down with the finance critics of all three parties and listened intently to what they had to offer. A good suggestion from the Liberals was to not forget youth employment. Therefore, we put in place a program for youth internship and skills development.
Innovation and training, education and research and development to create the jobs of tomorrow is what our future depends on. That is what our young people in university right now need to know, that the government is there to provide incentives for innovation so there will be new jobs in the future.
Another important item that we cannot forget, and on which we find the NDP members lacking in comprehension, is how keeping taxes low benefits jobs. Low taxes encourage growth and make us more competitive.
We will see that in the small and medium enterprises across this country. We have lowered the taxation level for small and medium size businesses. Once again in our cross-country consultations, we heard back from these small corporations, the mom and pop industries that employ most Canadians, that the money we left in their pockets allowed them to reinvest in their businesses and create more jobs.
As I referred to in an earlier speech, one of the items whose value many people are underestimating is tariff elimination. We started that step in budget 2009 on a select number of tariffs. That was so successful that we have put in place a plan to eliminate all import tariffs on machinery and equipment, on the goods that will be used to manufacture further goods.
That makes this country the first tariff free zone in the G20. To me, that is ground breaking. There are many countries that have tariff free zones in cities. In this country the entire country will be a tariff free zone.
Of course, we will be winding down our extraordinary stimulus measures. That is a necessary part of our plan but we will be restraining growth of spending as well. We have special targeted measures to do that, and that is very important to Canadians.
To do that we will be launching a comprehensive review of government spending, administration and overhead. Many Canadians have had to cut back in their own lives, so it is only fair that the government, which uses taxpayers' money, does exactly the same thing and does it prudently.
As a result of that, by the end of the second year of our economic action plan, we will see our deficit cut in half. That should make Canadians proud of what their government is doing. They have asked us to do that and we have put in place a plan to do that. In year three, we will have cut that deficit by two-thirds.
The most important thing to note, as reflected in the earlier question by the member for Cariboo—Prince George to the opposition on how it had balanced the budget when it was in power as the former Liberal government, is that it did so on the backs of Canadians. It cut health transfers. It cut social transfers. It cut foreign aid.
We will not do that and I will reaffirm that we will not raise taxes.
We heard the job numbers and have reflected on them, and I believe I answered a question to that effect during question period. This puts us now at 160,000 net new jobs through the impact of our economic action plan. There were 225,000 jobs saved through work sharing. We have already committed 90% of the 2010-11 funding for specific projects, and we will see those roll out as we travel back to our ridings every weekend. As we get back into construction season, we will see the beginnings of these projects and more and more people back to work, more of the 16,000 jobs that will be created through these infrastructure projects.
Returning momentarily to tax cuts, the opposition seems to think that all of the tax reductions this government has put in place are for corporations, whereas in fact $3 billion of those tax cuts stay in people's pockets, because they are tax cuts for individual Canadians. It is very important, when people's jobs are in jeopardy, to leave more money in their own pockets. We helped families purchase and renovate their homes with $3 billion in tax relief to do that. Of course, there is also our famous and well advertised home renovation tax credit, advertised not just by government but also by the corporations that were actually receiving the benefits and the people who enjoyed them. That was a resounding success. We even had people in the House of Commons who had voted against it come back and ask us to renew it. However, this government keeps its promises. We said it was a one-year program and after one year we ended it, just like we will end the deficit, temporary and targeted.
Let us talk about how the $19 billion is divided up. There is $3.2 billion in personal income tax relief, and $4 billion directly for retraining and worker support, enhancing EI benefits and training opportunities to transition workers from their current challenges toward future prosperity. There is $7.7 billion for infrastructure to create jobs. There is that jobs word again. It is what we are focusing on, as well as modernizing infrastructure, supporting home ownership, and stimulating and improving housing all across this country.
There is also $1.9 billion for research and development. That is for the jobs of the future. Once again we are focusing on jobs, attracting talent, strengthening research capacity, improving commercialization, which is another topic we heard of in many of our cross country consultations. There is basic research development money, but we need money for commercialization to take it from the bench model to the actual product. We recognize that and are increasing funding for it.
There is also targeted support for industries and communities of $2.2 billion, helping create and maintain jobs in sectors like the forest industry. We listened to what the Bloc was concerned about. Quebec has a large forestry sector. The Bloc members asked us to put in a fuel system based on forest products. We put money in the budget specifically for that to help the industries, not just in Quebec, but it is certainly reflective of those industries in Quebec.
We are also supporting workers by investing $100 million to extend the maximum length of the work-sharing agreements, and are helping young workers, offering $100 million to support them. These are just a few of the budget items.
I want to change gears, Mr. Speaker. You listened to questions all through question period and I am sure you are also wondering about some of the questions that have come up, and some of the false accusations suggesting that we have done nothing on pensions. I have been deeply involved personally on the pension issue across this country. It is disappointing and unfortunate that the opposition has been misleading the House about what has been done. As I said today, we welcome opposition members to the file. It has been going on much longer than they recognize.
Opposition members are misleading Canadians when they refer to overall pensions as being a federal jurisdiction. If they had spent more time seriously listening to people, they would realize that only about 7% of private pension plans across this country are actually federally regulated.
The finance minister saw the concerns and the issues in unfunded, insolvent pension plans. In the one question I did get about pensions, I reflected on the fact that some corporations were in jeopardy of failing because of their unfunded or insolvent pension plans. The finance minister stepped in personally in those situations to save the pensions of hundreds of thousands of Canadians and, in fact, may have saved some Canadian corporations.
For anyone to suggest that we have not been active in the retirement income adequacy of seniors is very misguided. I would actually challenge opposition members. I will give them a little assistance here. I will repeat some of the changes that we made to the federally regulated private pension plans but I would be quite surprised if any one of them has actually taken note of what we did to protect pensions.
On October 27, we put in place a regulatory framework to enhance the protections for plan members, reduce funding volatility for defined benefit plans, make it easier for participants to negotiate changes to their pension arrangements, improve the framework for defined and negotiated contribution plans and modernize the rules for investments.
Some of these old, antiquated rules on pension funds were very much outdated. I will give one simple example. Pension funds could not issue a statement to the plan members electronically. It had to be by letter. We can imagine the cost of that today, when it is so simple to do it electronically. Those are some of the simple things that we changed.
We put in place an opportunity going forward for these large funds to, in a tax-protected position, overfund their solvency. They can have up to 125% of their immediate requirements to pay out to their plan members. This was not available before and many of our plan sponsors told me that they wanted the opportunity to tax protect a surplus so that when we get into times like we did in late 2007 and 2008, they actually stay in a solvent position much longer and they are able to meet their commitment.
The Liberals have put forward some vague ideas about improvements to retirement income and they asked us to move on these immediately. One is a suggested change to the Canada pension plan. If they had taken the time to even look at it, they would have realized that the Canada pension plan is a joint jurisdiction with the provinces.
We are communicating and working with the provinces. We held a summit with the finance ministers in Whitehorse to discuss the federally regulated private pension plans and, in going forward, how to address the issues of retirement income adequacy for all seniors.
However, the opposition would have us unilaterally interfere with provincial jurisdiction and make changes to the Canada pension plan without even communicating.
I see that I am running out of time here, which is most unfortunate. I was only getting started on the pension issue and, Mr. Speaker, I know that for you and I, with the little grey hair that we have, it will be a very serious issue soon, but I will give a bit of a summation.
We will be continuing this consultation process with the provinces, which is the appropriate way to do it, in joint jurisdiction with the provinces, and we will be hosting another summit with the finance ministers' meeting in May, the culmination of our work and the culmination of the work that the provinces are doing.
It is very important that we protect these pensions because seniors have contributed immensely to the structure of this country. We owe it to them to ensure they have a good retirement.
There are many more things I would like to talk about. I have a whole list of quotes I would really love to get on the record.
We have had some comments today about our Parliamentary Budget Office saying that our budget was not prudent. I hope that I was clear in my answer today. The Parliamentary Budget Office is not being critical of the finance minister, it is being critical of some of the top economists in Canada. Those are the economists who represent the strongest financial institutions in the world, not just in the country. The Parliamentary Budget Officer should perhaps consult a little closer with his economic colleagues in those departments. He might come back and suggest that indeed those numbers are very prudent.