That the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2011, less the amounts voted in interim supply, be concurred in.
Mr. Speaker, I thank members on this side of the House and on the other side. This is an important issue that we need to deal with regarding the appropriation of moneys so that the government can do the things it has committed to do.
As the House is aware, we are on track with our budget this year to see our deficit eliminated. We are moving toward a balanced budget in the year 2014 and, obviously, to carry out the plans we have in place right now, these appropriations have to come forward.
We are doing a number of things this year. We have announced that about a third of all government departments and agencies will undergo each year what is called a strategic review, and, in that review, we will look for savings of 5% from each of those departments and agencies. Our estimation is that savings will yield this year about $1.7 billion. We can say that with some confidence because last year, when we went through a similar exercise with departments and agencies, we actually wound up with savings of about $287 million. This year the group of departments and agencies that will go through this exercise are considerably larger and, therefore, we will see a larger return on that 5%.
We also want to continue with our economic action plan, but we have indicated that this being the second year of the plan, this would be the last year of the plan for the stimulus spending.
We said at the beginning of the global downturn that the stimulus spending that we would introduce would help our economy through this time of global downturn, and we knew we would take on a deficit to do that, but we were also very clear in saying that this would be temporary. Members will see the $19 billion that will go into the stimulus spending for this year, 2010-11, but that will end at the end of this fiscal year, which will help us because that will be $19 billion coming out of the deficit right there that will help us move toward a balanced budget.
We also announced, although it does not often get talked about, that we have gone into an operational freeze of all government operational spending, not just this year but for the next two years. That is three years in a row where there will not be an increase in government spending on the operational side. That also means that the salaries of members of Parliament on both sides of the House, of cabinet ministers and the salary of the Prime Minister will be frozen.
We are taking a number of steps to move us toward a balanced budget. We are also freezing all hospitality and travel at 2009 levels. So we are taking a number of steps to ensure we hit that target of a balanced budget.
We need the moneys in this appropriation, specifically in terms of dollars under these votes, one of approximately $1 billion, to address programs for vulnerable people; another of approximately $1 billion for a knowledge infrastructure program because we want to ensure that continues; and the $3 billion are to go on with issues related to our infrastructure that is still in need. We will continue infrastructure spending in a planned way over the time ahead, even though we plan to eliminate the $19 billion at the end of this year. The approximately $5.4 billion that we are asking for today in appropriations will be for the EI payments.
When we really look at it, about 45% of what we will be doing is related to these programs and spending on social programs, spending on programs for people.
One of the very distinct differences between our method of getting to a balanced budget as opposed to the former Liberal government, which achieved a balanced budget in the mid-nineties, its main reductions and cuts per se were in transfers to provinces and the virtually overnight slashing in health care spending by 30%. We are not doing that. We are looking at our own government spending. We think that is the responsible way to do this, which is why we are taking that particular approach.
About $259 billion is the actual expenditure that we are looking at in these appropriations. The full amount will be $261.2 billion but there will be a decrease of $2.2 billion in non-budgetary expenses that are related to certain loans and investments.
We want to see this achieved because we need this money to continue to run the affairs of government and take care of programs for people.
The finance committee of the Senate has also looked at these expenditures. Officials have reported there on that particular part of the program.
Some people might ask what the purpose is of bringing in restraint measures and having a balanced budget. We are still on a program to reduce our taxes right through to the year 2012 on the corporate side. We laid out a long term plan for that over two years ago.
We have sent a signal, not just to Canadians but to those around the world that we are reducing debt. We have the lowest debt to GDP ratio of all the developed nations. We are reducing deficit. We have the lowest deficit to GDP ratio of all developed nations. We have the lowest and most competitive tax on the business side, small, medium and large businesses, among the G8 countries. We sent the message out that we are holding the line on spending.
What is the result of that? The result is that around the world, where we know there are large pools of capital twitching, looking to where they should be investing, they are looking for places of confidence, places of fiscal predictability and places where the government has things under control.
We can talk about that here and we know that here but when we say it, it gets very little response, especially from across the way, even when it is good news. However, where it gives credibility is when we get the evaluations from agencies, organizations and individuals outside of the country.
The Economist Intelligence Unit says that we are an economic star among other countries. The OECD says that Canada's economy shines among all other countries. The International Monetary Fund says that Canada is best positioned coming out of this particular downturn.
We have seen close to 310,000 new jobs since last July. Even as I say this, some in the opposition are shaking their head, in contempt I guess because we are in such good shape. However, I want to add a couple of warnings. This is a fragile global recovery. Canada is doing well but it is fragile and we must continue to take care. That is why we are resisting so many of the requests for wild increases in spending that come from the opposition and why we are resisting the Liberals and the NDP when they say that we should move to a 45-day work year, that we should allow Canadians to work for 45 days and then get EI benefits for the rest of the year.
We have to resist that kind of thinking that got countries, like Greece, into the difficulties they are in today. We are proud of the record that we have established. We are attracting attention and we are seeing the investment from other countries come to Canada.
Last year's investment from China alone, foreign direct investment into Canada, was $8.8 billion. That is almost a 70% increase from the year before. The head of the largest investment bond fund in the world just recently said that he was advising his institutional investors and clients to look to Canada as the place of stability to invest.
It was only a few weeks ago that Russia announced that to shore up its own currency it would be buying Canadian dollars.
One after another, the endorsements from outside of our country continue to come in that we are on the right track, that Canadians can have some sense of security about that and that Canada is the place to be, which is what these appropriations are all about tonight.