Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss Bill C-13 and point out that it clearly illustrates how the government is keeping its promise to Canadians.
As we all know, Canadians have weathered some difficult economic times over the last several years. The government has taken unprecedented action to help them through this challenging world environment. Indeed, we are seeing reassuring signs throughout the economy, though the international economy is still fragile.
The next phase of Canada's economic action plan builds on the government's record by announcing new measures for families and additional support for communities. This includes encouraging hiring by providing a temporary hiring credit for small business of up to $1,000 against a small firm's increase in its 2011 EI premiums, or those paid in 2010. The plan also includes an extension of active or recently terminated work-sharing agreements by up to 16 weeks so companies can avoid layoffs by offering EI benefits to workers willing to work a reduced work week while their company recovers.
Our government is focused on supporting Canadian families with a range of targeted measures that will help Canadians find and hold on to good, high paying jobs, while improving the quality of the lives of Canadians in big and small communities across the country.
Other areas that we are working on include assistance for remote communities that often lack the same level of services as larger centres. Our government is taking measures to address this unfortunate reality. For example, we propose to strengthen the health care in rural communities by supporting family physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses who make the choice to practise in underserved or remote communities. Today's bill proposes to forgive a portion of the federal share of the Canada student loans for new family physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses who practise in underserved rural or remote communities, including communities that provide health services to first nations and Inuit populations.
Starting in 2012-13, practising family physicians will be eligible for federal Canada student loan forgiveness of up to $8,000 per year to a maximum of $40,000. Nurse practitioners and nurses will be eligible for federal Canada student loan forgiveness of up to $4,000 per year to a maximum of $20,000. By bringing doctors and nurses into our rural communities, we are helping all Canadians access essential health services no matter where they live.
The other part of the action plan deals with firefighters. The next phase of Canada's economic action plan recognizes the invaluable contribution that volunteer firefighters make every day to the safety and security of their communities. Specifically, Bill C-13 proposes a volunteer firefighter tax credit, a non-refundable tax credit on an amount of $3,000, for volunteer firefighters who perform at least 200 hours of service in their communities during the year. This credit will provide up to $450 in tax relief to eligible firefighters who volunteer in this often thankless task. Eligible volunteer firefighters who currently receive honorariums in respect to their duties as a firefighter will be able to choose between the new tax credit or existing tax exemptions of up to $1,000 for the honorarium.
The president of the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association, Martin Bell, called the tax credit “wonderful news” and said that the tax credit would contribute significantly to the capacity of volunteer fire departments to protect lives and property.
Budget 2011 also keeps our commitments for the future of the gas tax fund.
In 2007 we extended the gas tax fund by four years, delivering $11.8 billion in gas tax funding from 2007 to 2014 for infrastructure in cities and communities.
In 2008 we committed to making the gas tax fund permanent.
In 2009 we doubled the gas tax fund to $2 billion a year.
In 2010, despite challenging economic circumstances, we pledged to protect the gas tax fund.
In 2011, this legislation, Bill C-13, contains a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in municipal infrastructure through the gas tax fund.
The gas tax fund provides predictable, long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities, allowing them to better protect their future infrastructure investments.
Given the current environment, the number one issue for this government is to get people back to work which will help grow our economy.
Temporary measures in support of the economic recovery were included in the economic action plan to reinforce the substantial support the government already provides to job creators. The measures in this bill will build on that momentum, laying the foundation for long-term prosperity by encouraging business investments that are necessary to sustain economic growth. This includes extending the accelerated capital cost allowance treatment for investments, manufacturing, and processing machinery and equipment for two years to support the manufacturing and processing sector.
As members are aware, providing support for families and communities helps to ensure Canadians benefit from the opportunities and wealth that long-term growth creates no matter where they live.
The government is showing its commitment to help families and communities. It has stood up for all Canadians to help ensure that their needs are addressed through a wide variety of tax reliefs and targeted investments.
Canadians should be proud of how the government has responded to these challenges today. We are far better off today than we were even a few years ago, and we are well-positioned to deal with the issues that are ahead.
Canadians need the skills to participate fully in society and to secure Canada's position as a leader in the global economy. Further action is required and we are taking that action.
Canada is the best country in the world to live. We are living at the best time in human history. We are doing far better than most in the world. The government will ensure that in the future we remain the best country to live. A strong economy is key to that and to the quality of life for Canadians to ensure that every Canadian can reach their full potential as human beings.
May God keep our land glorious and free.