Mr. Speaker, as Canada celebrated International Women's Day yesterday and we are currently in the middle of International Women's Week, I believe it is important to reflect on the impact that this budget and our previous budgets have had on women.
This year, Canada's theme for International Women's Day is “Strong Women. Strong Canada. Strong World.” It reflects our government's firm belief that increasing women's participation and access to leadership roles and opportunities will help women and girls reach their full potential and help build a more prosperous Canada.
Canadian women have made enormous strides and the current government has the highest percentage of women in cabinet in Canadian history. The House of Commons currently has 67 women in it.
A strong economy that benefits all Canadians remains our government's top priority. Our objectives are to fully implement the economic action plan, balance the budget once the economy has recovered, and build Canada's economy for the future. Our economic and social programs are helping hundreds of thousands of women at every income level to take action to increase their security and improve their lives.
For example, since 2006-07, a total of 396 projects have been approved by the Government of Canada through Status of Women Canada. Our federal government is investing over $19 billion in 2009-10 in supports for children and their families. This includes approximately $5.9 billion for early childhood development and child care. Since 2006, the federal government's universal child care plan provides choice in child care to all parents of young children, whether they work in the paid labour force or care for their children at home.
This plan has two components. First, the universal child care benefit offsets the cost of whatever form of child care parents choose, providing families with $100 per month for each child under six. Second, there is $250 million in new transfers for provinces and territories to support the creation of child care spaces in addition to other transfers for early childhood development and early learning and child care.
In all, federal transfers in support of families with children total over $1.13 billion this year. When we talk about this budget and about the track record that our government has had, especially for women and children in this country, it is of paramount importance. This budget speech will centre around what our government has done, especially for women. It will also talk about some of the opportunities that my riding of Kildonan—St. Paul has had to improve its community centres and infrastructure.
As far as the economic benefits of women are concerned, employment insurance has several features that benefit women, including extending parental benefits to 35 weeks and allowing recipients to work. Self-employed women now have greater access to business financing and a full range of supports to launch and expand their businesses.
Women are now one of the business engines in our economy. As I speak, many women are starting their own home businesses. They are engaging in the business world, creating a lot of jobs and stimulating the economy. This is a result of the opportunities that our government has put in place for women to grow their businesses.
The aboriginal human resources development strategy and the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy focus on supporting demand-driven skills development, fostering partnerships with the private sector in the provinces and territories, and emphasizing accountability and results. A lot of women are involved in these strategies.
A variety of federal supports, such as the Canada child tax benefit, the national child benefit supplement and the child disability benefit, help women combine earning with caring for their children. In addition, the child-rearing provision in the Canada and Quebec pension plans helps increase women's retirement income. These are very important elements. In my riding, many older women are telling me they wished they had these benefits when they were raising their children years ago.
The Fairness for the Self-Employed Act extends special employment insurance benefits like maternity, parental, sickness, and compassionate care to self-employed individuals, a growing number of whom are women doing this on a voluntary basis.
The aboriginal skills and training strategic investment fund supports a number of projects that target aboriginal women, including one to increase women's knowledge of business management, financial management, and small business development. Another project seeks to engage aboriginal women in academic and educational activities.
The working income tax benefit supplements the earnings of low income workers, many of whom are women.
I want to talk about violence against women. As members know, Bill C-268 is currently in the Senate and I am awaiting its passage. Under the federal government, in March 2008 the Government of Canada announced five new shelters to be built in five provinces to address violence against first nations women and children. In the 2007 budget, it included funds to expand the new horizons for seniors program. A portion of that goes to the elder abuse awareness program to foster activities to help reduce the incidence of abuse of older adults. Many older women are recipients of this abuse.
Starting in 2007 our government committed $6 million annually to help prevent human trafficking and online child exploitation. As members know, the horrendous crime of trafficking of children is growing in the country. The government has acknowledged that funds must be put in place to help combat it.
In 2008 Canada also strongly supported the renewal of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, to collect information, recommend measures to eliminate violence, and remedy its consequences. Under the administration of the Government of Canada, there have been many inroads and steps forward to help support women, children, and the most vulnerable people in society.
In December 2009 Status of Women Canada contributed $1 million to UNiTE to End Violence Against Women. That is a project run by shelter organizations across Canada to facilitate the national exchange of best practices and to design a national network of women's shelters across Canada. This is connecting the dots.
On January 15, 2009, Public Safety Canada, the RCMP, and the Canadian Crime Stoppers Association partnered to develop a national media campaign to raise awareness on human trafficking and to access the crime stoppers' 24/7 anonymous national tip line for reporting suspected cases of human trafficking, which includes the domestic trafficking of women and girls for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
The budget is all about stimulating the economy. In looking at the new budget that was just announced a few days ago, it is continuing that stimulation of the economy. It is supporting women and children, and also our most vulnerable citizens, our elderly. However, it also provides at the community level dollars and cents that are put into programs such as the RInC program. Manitoba infrastructure has been the recipient of that money. In my riding, many centres like the Gateway Community Centre, the Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre, the Garden City Community Centre, and the Red River Community Centre have been recipients of these programs.
In Canada's communities, many children who go into their community rinks and recreation centres have the opportunity to grow, learn sports, be healthy, and stay out of trouble. Families can do this kind of activity together. It is low cost.
In terms of looking at the budget, it is staying the course. It is making Canada a place where people can grow, live, and be able to prosper.
Canada went into the recession late. We are coming out of the global recession. It is a fragile emergence from the global recession. Canada has much to be proud of.