Mr. Speaker, it is certainly my privilege to speak to our economic action plan, phase two, and our low tax plan for jobs and growth. I think it is especially important, following those very wise words of all the members who are just leaving. So, that actually was special to hear and I think really adds to the debate that we are having right now.
I think there are a few things that have been missing in this debate to date.
First, this budget has been widely described as responsible. It is looking at a return to a balanced budget. It is targeted. It is providing very special opportunities, whether it be through innovation, whether it be through seniors, but it is targeted because we know that we cannot, obviously, do everything that we might like to do. It is also reasonable.
The opposition is really standing in isolation of many people out there, many organizations out there, when it is critical of this budget because most people are saying this is a good budget, this is a reasonable budget, and this is a budget for Canadians.
It sounds like there is very little time left. This might be the only day of debate in spite of our House leader's optimism, so I think it is really important that we listen carefully. There is still a bit of time, perhaps, for members to change their minds.
To look at why this is really a budget for Canadians, I would like to first talk about the process in my riding, in terms of consultation. First, I made telephone calls that reached out to every single household in the riding. We had many people who provided input into this budget. We ultimately topped this off with a round table with the finance minister.
This was not a partisan approach to this budget. This was a Canadian approach. Included in this round table with the finance minister, we had people who represented all sectors, we had people who represented the aboriginal community, we had young, and we had old. So, again, it was a very representative group of people who sat down with the finance minister to provide their input. It certainly was not a partisan effort, in terms of our area.
What was really also very interesting was that the majority of them were very reasonable. They were very practical. They did not want to leave a legacy of debt for the children who were coming behind them. I certainly remember the words of one of the students from the university who was there, imploring us to look in terms of the legacy of debt for even his children.
They did, however, recognize that some additional help was needed in some key areas. They also clearly articulated that there was a need for growth, innovation, education investment and training, and those would be the key things to drive our economy into the future.
Out of this conversation, they also got into some very specific issues. When I listened to the finance minister when he delivered this budget earlier this week, I listened with pleasure to hear 10 things that were at our table that were represented in this budget. We did not ever think that 100% would be included, like some of the opposition members that believe 100% of their wish lists can get in. The very practical, non-partisan group recognized that responsible governments have to make decisions.
I would like to share some of the things that did get in, and again I am not going to say it was just the input from our riding because I think there were similar messages, in similar forms, from across the country that drove the creation of this budget.
One item was the GIS. We really supported it. The Canadian Labour Congress said:
This is a win for every senior living in poverty in Canada and we're proud to have played a significant role in that campaign on their behalf.
Another was workshare. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said:
The economic measures announced in today’s budget will continue to support the economic recovery and help Canadian businesses prosper and compete.
It also was very appreciative of the low tax plan.
The mining exploration tax credit came up at our table. The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada said:
--I am pleased that the federal government has proposed that the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit be extended for another year...it is encouraging to see the federal budget propose that the program be continued--
I can keep going and I am going to go through all 10.
Firefighters were absolutely thrilled. Not only did we lose someone in Listowel, we lost a volunteer firefighter in my riding just a few months ago. Again, it is a measure I have heard about since the start of my job.
On forest innovation and market development, the Forest Products Association of Canada welcomed “the forest industry measures contained in today’s Federal Budget which support the industry and the 240,000 Canadians it directly employs..."
It went on at length to talk about how important it is.
Eco-energy retrofit is a great program. The Canadian Home Builders' Association said, “This budget marks a careful and responsible transition from stimulus spending towards creating the conditions that will renew private sector--”
I will take a minute for a quick plug from Kamloops where there is a home that was built in partnership with the Canadian Home Builders' Association, the university students and CMHC. It is a net zero green home. It has had about 60,000 people through it to see what we have done to create a net zero home. Those people want to make changes in their own homes and they are looking for an eco-energy retrofit program.
I will spend more time later talking about the rural physician and nurse opportunities. We have the manufacturing flow through and I can quote from many industries in terms of that particular piece.
Unlike the opposition, people were not expecting 100% satisfaction, but they did believe that the measures were reasonable, appropriate and have broad-based support. It was quite stunning when the opposition quickly indicated, in some cases before they read it, that they were not going to support it. However, it is truly a budget for Canadians.
I will speak quickly on health care, especially after hearing the NDP critic in terms of the health care opportunities.
People might know that health care has a special place in my heart. I have long experience in that area. It is very easy to throw billions and billions of dollars at the health care system, but we responsibly had a partnership with the provinces and have given 6% more per year. The accord does not expire until 2014 and the provinces are getting a 6% increase. There is money through Canada Health Infoway for electronic health records. A responsible government would ask if we have had an impact on wait lists. We cannot just throw billions and billions of dollars at the health care system. Let us evaluate the very significant commitments we have had and move that forward.
To the suggestion that the manpower in Canada is evenly distributed in terms of doctors and nurses and that we do not need incentives to get people into rural communities, perhaps the opposition do not know that right now a new nursing graduate from Thompson Rivers University cannot get a full-time job at the Royal Inland Hospital. Other hospitals in rural areas are desperate for employees. Again, we need to provide incentive for a better disbursal of our resources.
In summary, we are heading towards a balanced budget. Our expenditures to GDP are going down. I ask the opposition to please come to its senses and support this very important budget.