Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to address the budget, our Conservative government's sixth budget since forming office.
I am well aware of the burning desire of the Liberal- NDP-Bloc coalition to plunge this country into an unnecessary election, no matter the cost.
However, the instantaneous rejection of this budget by the three opposition party leaders is nothing short of irresponsible. In a time of continuing global economic uncertainty, especially following the disaster in Japan and the upheaval across much of the Arab world, the economic recovery is still fragile.
The opposition leaders are showing reckless disregard for the Canadian economy by their knee-jerk reactions. I was appalled, in particular, by the Liberal Party's response to our budget. The Liberal Party's focus on the spending for new jets for our Royal Canadian Air Force and on prisons was both shallow and ill-considered.
Of course, there is no spending for new jets in this budget and there will not be until 2016 when we start to receive the new jets. And the cost of purchasing those jets is spread over the lifespan of the jets, which is 20 to 30 years.
I should also note that it was the previous Liberal government that set us on the path to purchasing these jets in the first place by spending $100 million on developing them. The current Liberal leader seems to think we should just throw away the $100 million. I do not think that is a good idea.
With respect to prisons, our government has provided detailed cost estimates to Parliament for housing the expanded prison population that may result from our tougher sentencing legislation.
While Liberals have focused on the modest increased cost for prisons, they have completely and totally ignored the cost to Canadian society of allowing repeat and violent offenders to quickly resume their lives of crime through early release.
They have forgotten the costs to the victims of crime, the property owners, women, children, seniors, and others who will be prey to rapists, murderers, fraudsters, and drug dealers.
The cost to Canadian society of a revolving-door liberal criminal justice system is at least an order of magnitude higher than the cost we will incur by ensuring criminals serve sentences proportionate to their crimes.
It is clear to me that in their blind pursuit of power, the opposition parties have forgotten about listening to Canadians.
We began preparing for this budget many months ago. We listened to thousands of groups and individuals from across Canada. I consulted widely in my community. The finance committee, of which I am a member, held hearings in my riding to hear from local groups and individuals.
Earlier this year I hosted a Canadian first, the first ever live telephone town hall meeting with the finance minister. Thousands of my constituents were able to participate, and provide their feedback and input into our budget.
Our Conservative government has listened to the people of Canada. This budget reflects the needs and concerns of Canadians during this time of economic recovery. We heard some clear messages from Canadians. We heard that despite our solid job creation numbers, over 480,000 new jobs since July 2009, we need to continue with our job creation efforts.
We heard that since our infrastructure spending is winding down, it is now time to get spending down and our budget back in balance. We also heard that some groups in Canadian society, such as low income seniors or families caring for an infirm loved one, need more support.
This budget reflects the comments, suggestions, concerns, and needs we have heard from Canadians over the last several months.
I would like to focus many of my remarks on the positive initiatives we have taken in this budget. As I mentioned earlier, our focus is on jobs and growth. One key to jobs and growth is lower taxes. We are continuing to reduce taxes for families and small businesses in this budget. I am particularly pleased with the incentives we have created for small businesses in my community to hire new workers.
The budget provides for a one time credit of up to $1,000 to small businesses which hire new employees. This new credit will be available to approximately 525,000 employers, reducing their 2011 payroll costs by about $165 million.
My riding has one of the largest populations of seniors in Canada. Canadians from across the country like to retire in the temperate climate of our beautiful west coast community. However, some seniors face financial challenges, and our Conservative government has taken steps in the budget to support them.
Our top-up to the guaranteed income supplement will provide up to an extra $600 a year for low income single seniors, and up to $840 more for low income couples. This measure will support 680,000 lower income seniors across Canada.
I am also pleased with the tax credits for families. The children's arts tax credit will allow parents to claim costs of up to $500 per year related to activities such as piano lessons and art classes. This new tax credit builds on the success of our children's sport tax credit, and I believe it will be popular and be used by millions of families.
Also the new family caregiver tax credit will be available to people who care for infirm, dependent relatives like a spouse and minor children. We have also introduced new measures to help students. In particular, the in-study income exemption will be doubled from $50 per week to $100 per week, allowing approximately 100,000 students to earn this income tax free while pursuing their education.
We are offering help to home owners, with a $400 million extension of the eco-energy program to encourage home renovations that reduce electricity and heating costs, and we are making permanent the $2 billion federal contribution to the gas tax fund, which funds our municipal infrastructure. These are funds that our city governments can count on for repairing our streets and sidewalks.
We have also increased funding for health care. This matters to my constituents in British Columbia. We are providing almost $3.8 billion for health care in B.C., an increase of $216 million over last year.
Finally, because our budget sets us on a path toward the elimination of the deficit and toward a surplus, Canadians can look forward to additional tax relief, hopefully soon. Indeed, my private member's Motion No. M-638 suggests that we make income splitting for families with children a priority as the budget comes back into balance.
The early analysis of people outside Ottawa is positive. The finance minister of British Columbia has endorsed our budget as good for British Columbia. The hon. Kevin Falcon said that he was encouraged by Ottawa's latest plan to reduce the federal deficit by a quarter this year and to continue progress until Canada is back to balanced budgets by 2015-16. He continued that the corporate tax cuts committed to by our Conservative government would combine with provincial rates to give B.C. the lowest corporate taxes of any jurisdiction, not just in Canada but among the G7 industrialized countries by next year. Let me repeat that. In B.C., thanks to our tax cuts and the tax cuts of the provincial government, we will have the lowest corporate taxes of any jurisdiction in the G7 next year. He also said that the investment incentives we had provided in the federal budget would help Ridley Terminals expand its capacity to ship B.C. coal and minerals overseas.
Jayson Myers, president of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, said:
If the budget is defeated, it's a real concern for manufacturers.... This two year write-off [for investment in machinery and equipment] comes to an end at the end of this year and that extension is essential if we are going to keep investment going in the sector. It would be nice to have a little bit of certainty that companies would be able to take advantage of that over the next two years.
Craig Alexander, the TD Bank's chief economist, remarked that if we are investing in roads, bridges, et cetera, we want know that the government funding is going to be there and, therefore, that it is actually a very positive thing that the government has decided to make the gas tax transfer to municipalities a permanent transfer.
Further, he stated that:
I think in general it’s a business-friendly budget because of the extension of the accelerated capital cost allowance for machinery and equipment investment. As an economist, I like it particularly because one of the core challenges facing Canadian businesses is productivity growth.
Craig Wright, RBC's chief economist, says that our projections are conservative and that we can expect to make good on our deficit-cutting projections.
Tom Courchene, an economist at Queen's University, said:
The budget looks after what falls under the federal jurisdiction in an excellent way. It’s a continuation of the action plan and its keeps Canada being in the forefront of nations in terms of the recovery from the financial crisis.
That is what others across Canada are saying, with their messages of confidence about the steady hand we have applied to managing the nation's finances.
I would encourage my fellow MPs to consider whether this sensible and prudent budget is really an issue over which to plunge our nation into an unnecessary election.