Madam Speaker, in her presentation, the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke talked about some of the things that the folks in Killaloe think about. I look around my riding at some of the small villages like Landsdowne, Newboro, Maynard, Roebuck and other small villages and towns, and that is very much what the people in my riding think about, and they think about what we have done in this budget and the things they wanted to see in it.
I specifically want to talk about some of those things that are in the budget and some of those measures that are important to Leeds and Grenville.
I was very pleased when the Minister of Finance introduced the budget back in June. It was what we campaigned on and what we promised we would present. We are following through on our commitments. I noted at the time that it was a good budget for Leeds and Grenville and that it reflected what I heard in my extensive prebudget consultations last winter.
The budget supports families, seniors, workers and job creators. We have weathered the economic downturn in great shape but our economy is still fragile and the budget concentrates on continuing the recovery.
As well, it is keeping the economy on track. One change in the budget is the accelerated deficit reduction plan. We would see the deficit being eliminated by 2014 instead 2015, which was another important issue to the folks in my riding. They understood the need for the deficit but they also wanted to see it eliminated as soon as possible.
Several of the measures from the budget that have already been implemented were important to my riding. These included renewed funding for the eastern Ontario development program with the expenditure of $20 million over the next two years. This has been an important program for Leeds—Grenville. It was one of the key things that I heard during my prebudget consultations from municipal leaders and constituents. It will continue to be an important factor in further job creation in Leeds—Grenville.
I should note that the work that is undertaken by the community futures development programs in Leeds—Grenville, the organizations that distribute the ODP funding. These folks live and work in the riding and they know the communities they serve. They do an excellent job of getting value for our money while growing our economy at the same time.
Two of the other important measures that have already been implemented are the top up for low income seniors who rely on the guaranteed income supplement, and the $400 million that are going to the restart of the home retrofit program, which will help people reduce energy costs in their homes.
My offices in Brockville and here in Ottawa received numerous calls about both of those programs as soon as they were announced.
We are here today to talk about the implementation of more measures from the budget, so I will spend the rest of my time talking about these.
Later this month, I will be attending an announcement in the city of Brockville where officials will gather to celebrate a new energy saving green initiative undertaken by the city. This initiative will save the city money through the use of renewable resources. It was partially funded by the gas tax fund. This will be the second major announcement about the use of this particular fund in that city in the past two years.
Two years ago, we helped celebrate the new street light program that was being undertaken in Brockville. The city was replacing all of its street lights with more energy efficient models using the gas tax fund. The budget implementation bill would make the fund permanent. It will provide predictable, long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities, such as Brockville, so they can tackle projects that will help them save money and save energy for the long term.
A second measure that is being implemented under the bill is the volunteer firefighters tax credit. I heard loud and clear from our volunteer firefighters in Leeds and Grenville that this was something they wanted to see. The day the budget was tabled in June, one of our local fire chiefs, whose department is all volunteers, spoke out about the need for this tax credit. It would help volunteers cover some of their ongoing costs and it is just a token of our appreciation for the work that they do on our behalf. Many folks do not understand that these volunteers have the same professional requirements as full-time, permanent firefighters, but our government understands that and this credit would help recognize that.
In 2006, our government introduced a children's fitness tax credit that was appreciated by the families in my riding whose children were involved in sporting activities. At the same time, I heard from many individuals and organizations that this benefit should be extended to children's artistic and cultural endeavours. These, too, cost families money.
I was pleased to see in the spring budget that our government committed to the same treatment for families for the cost of artistic, cultural, recreational and developmental activities. With this implementation bill, these families would see a 15% credit on up to $500 of eligible fees for these activities. Since June, I have spoken with a number of parents and organizers of children's arts activities who have expressed appreciation that we have listened to their suggestions.
Families today face greater pressures than ever before, with both parents working to make ends meet and growing families to care for, dealing with an infirm loved one is an added burden. Our introduction in this budget of a new family caregiver tax credit would help those families. This 15% non-refundable tax credit would provide tax relief for caregivers of all types of infirm, dependent relatives, including, for the first time, spouses, common-law partners and children.
As well, our government, in this bill, would be removing the limit on the amount of eligible expenses caregivers can claim under the medical expense tax credit in respect of financially dependent relatives.
I want to talk briefly about the government subsidies to federal political parties. This has been a big issue in my riding for a long time. Since our government took office, we have taken action to take the influence of money out of politics in this country. We eliminated large personal donations to parties and we have banned donations from corporations and unions, all to ensure reasonable accountability.
As folks in my riding like to point out, we also have a duty to use their tax money wisely and for the constructive good of the entire country, especially when they themselves are struggling to make ends meet.
That is why, in the campaign last spring and in the June budget, we promised to introduce legislation to gradually reduce the $2.04 per year per vote subsidy in 51-cent increments starting April 1, 2012 until it is completely eliminated by 2015-16. This would generate savings ramping up to $30 million by 2015-16.
We have always opposed direct taxpayer subsidies to political parties as we believe that political parties should rely primarily on their own supporters for their financing. Political parties can issue tax receipts to their supporters and they already receive a partial reimbursement of their election expenses. By gradually phasing out this subsidy that has been paid to parties, we will all have time to increase our fundraising activities to compensate where required.
Finally, I want to talk about the measures we are taking for job creation and economic growth. As I spoke with people in my riding during my prebudget consultations last winter, this was the area of greatest concern, an area where we can have a great deal of influence. My riding, more than most, I suspect, was especially hard hit in the past 15 years as manufacturers left. In many instances, long-time plants that had been around for generations closed their doors, sometimes without saying goodbye to the workers.
Slowly but surely, we are beginning to see a bit of a turnaround in some areas. Just yesterday, for example, in the local daily newspaper in Brockville, David Beatty, the CEO of one of the city's leading manufacturers, Canarm, was talking about his company's expansion in Brockville. The headline read “Canarm head sees return of manufacturing jobs.” He noted that over the next decade we will see an increase in manufacturing jobs returning to Canada. While it will take time, the pendulum will swing back, he indicated.
We have already seen some of this as high transportation costs and increased living standards in some of the economically emerging countries that have captured some of our former jobs have started to eat into the previously available profits.
While there is good news on the horizon, we must still provide a boost where we can to ensure that our businesses and industries are ready to take advantage of any and all opportunities.
We have taken many measures: providing a temporary hiring credit for small businesses to encourage additional hiring; expanding tax support for clean energy generation to encourage green investments; and simplifying customs and tariffs in order to facilitate trade and lower the administrative burden for businesses. Many in my riding often send their goods across the border.
Our government is focused on jobs and the economy. We have accomplished a great deal for Canadians over the past several years and we will continue. The implementation of this bill will add to our strengths.