Mr. Speaker, I rise today in favour of our government's keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act.
Our government has remained squarely focused on the economy during these turbulent economic times and we have been getting results for Canadians. For instance, approximately 650,000 more Canadians are working today than in July 2009.
In the IMF and OECD forecast our economy will continue to be among the strongest in the G7 this year and next. When we consider what is happening around the world, that is a positive accomplishment. What is more, only recently Forbes magazine ranked Canada as the best place in the world for businesses to grow and create jobs.
Canadians can be confident their country is better positioned to face global economic challenges than most and that our government will remain focused on what matters to Canadians: jobs and the economy.
Focusing on the economy and helping Canadian families is exactly what we are doing through the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act. This key legislation would ensure we can keep moving forward in implementing Canada's economic action plan to grow the economy and create jobs.
The plan has been well received in my home province. For instance, the Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick has called it, “far-sighted with provisions to help small and medium-size businesses increase and retain their workforce”.
As well, Doug Northrup, H&R Block tax professional in New Brunswick and a Moncton Times & Transcript personal finance columnist, called it “a people budget with new credits that will help families and seniors get more money back”.
I would like to highlight a few of the important measures in the bill at this moment.
First, recognizing the need for new family physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses to practise or work in underserviced rural or remote communities, we are introducing the medical graduates loan forgiveness initiative. This plan would forgive a portion of Canada student loans for new family physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses who worked in rural or remote communities.
Starting in 2012, new family physicians practising in such communities would be eligible for a federal Canada student loan forgiveness of up to $8,000 per year to a maximum of $40,000. New nurse practitioners and nurses practising in underserved rural or remote communities would be eligible for forgiveness of up to $4,000 a year to a maximum of $20,000.
Another measure I would like to highlight is the volunteer firefighters tax credit.
Another important measure I will highlight is the volunteer firefighters tax credit. This measure is long overdue and it recognizes the hard work of men and women in communities across the country. Volunteer firefighters play a critical role in serving communities across Canada, including in my riding of New Brunswick Southwest, often putting themselves at risk for the safety of their neighbours. Often, in rural and remote communities, these volunteer firefighters are the first responders at the site of home fires or accidents on roads. Across the country, nearly 85,000 volunteer firefighters provide their services to protect the lives of Canadians and they deserve our gratitude and support. That is why this act includes a volunteer firefighters tax credit in the amount of $3,000. This is a positive measure that has been welcomed across the country, including in my home province, as a tool to ensure we retain our volunteer firefighters.
The New Brunswick Association of Fire Chiefs declared:
...the tax credit is also an important tool when it comes to recruitment and retention. We feel that retaining volunteers that are already in place is even more important almost...because you've already invested money into those volunteers. So you want to keep them on and keep them as long as you can. Retention with some of the smaller volunteer fire departments is a big deal.
In my riding there are a lot of these small fire departments and this support is welcome.
Another measure I will highlight is supporting infrastructure in Canada by legislating that the gas tax fund transfer be permanent.
As we know, Canada’s economic action plan has helped accelerate and expand federal investments in infrastructure. The actions we took helped Canada deal with the global economic turbulence in the short term, with more modern infrastructure for the long term.
Canada's historic investment in infrastructure, like improving our roads, bridges or, in my riding, wharves, will continue to support jobs and growth beyond the economic downturn. Announced in budget 2007, the seven year building Canada plan consists of programs to meet varying infrastructure needs across the country, including the gas tax fund and a full rebate of the goods and services tax paid by municipalities. Through the gas tax fund, the Government of Canada provides $2 billion annually to support municipal infrastructure. Today's act proposes to legislate a permanent annual transfer, through the gas tax fund, to provide predictable, long-term infrastructure funding to Canada's cities and towns. This means that this funding would be taken away from the hands of politicians, I suppose, to use it as a political football, thereby guaranteeing it to municipalities so that it would be there year in and year out.
We all know that state of the art infrastructure moves people, goods and services safely and reliably. It improves business competitiveness, allowing the economy to grow and prosper, and it also enhances the quality of life of Canadians.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation—a group I am very familiar with—has applauded this move, noting, “making the Gas Tax Transfer permanent is a clear follow-through on a longstanding taxpayer priority. This will ensure that more gas tax revenues go back into roads”.
That is a good measure and one that is long overdue.
A final point that I will highlight is our Conservative government's commitment to return to balanced budgets through the responsible spending of taxpayer dollars. We are committed to principled, effective fiscal management through a detailed review of all government spending.
Nevertheless, prudent fiscal management also means leading by example and that includes political parties. That is why today’s bill phases out the costly per-vote subsidy to political parties, which forced taxpayers to support political parties rather than political parties receiving donations voluntarily from Canadians.
We firmly believe that Canadians demand that their tax dollars be treated with great care and only used in the public interest, in good times as well as in turbulent economic times. As such, I believe this move to end the political party subsidies has been and will be applauded by Canadians from coast to coast.
Again, the Taxpayers Federation said:
Eliminating the per-vote subsidy is a major victory in the fight against political welfare. ...this is major win for taxpayers and for democratic reform.
Another plug is from the Calgary Herald editorial. It remarked:
Phasing out the subsidy also forces political parties to do their own fundraising, while asking Canadians to back up their beliefs by putting their hard-earned dollars behind the parties they support.
Here in Ontario, a Kingston Whig Standard editorial heralded it as well when it stated:
If people want to advance a political agenda, let them work to finance the means to get elected. If it appeals to people, they will support it.
It's time politicians and their shills learned how to earn our support, not merely expect it.
While I only highlighted a few measures of today’s act, there are many more.
The keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act recognizes the need to focus on the economy for the short and long term. I would therefore encourage all members of the House to support this key legislation.