Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate on budget 2011. I will be splitting my time with the Minister of Labour.
I want to encourage all parliamentarians to support this excellent budget. I want to encourage all Canadians, in fact, to read this budget in detail because it includes a number of measures that are certainly worthy of support.
In general, this budget supports job creation by helping businesses and entrepreneurs succeed.
It keeps taxes low, invests in projects of national importance and it maintains Canada's brand as one of the best places to invest in the world. It supports families and communities so that all Canadians can enjoy a high standard of living and our communities can stay vibrant and safe.
It invests in innovation, education and training to promote research and leading-edge technologies, and to provide Canadians with the opportunity and incentives to acquire the skills needed for jobs in today's labour market.
It also preserves our fiscal advantage in order to be able to invest in the priorities of Canadians, to keep Canada's economy growing strongly and to maintain our low interest rates.
Particularly, I want to address the benefits in this budget for my province, the province of Alberta.
Under our Conservative government in 2011-12, Alberta will see record federal transfers totalling nearly $3.4 billion; an increase of $1.1 billion from the former Liberal government.
Alberta will see growing transfer support for health care, which is a 29% jump from the Liberal government, or $2.1 billion; and for social services, which is a jump of nearly $1.3 billion, or 114% over the former government.
This increased support will help hospitals, doctors, nurses, schools, teachers and other critical services in my province.
A permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund would be legislated, which was the number one priority outlined to me by the mayors of Edmonton, Leduc and Devon in terms of making this a predictable, stable, long-term funding for municipalities that they can count on into the future.
A one-time credit of $1,000 against the small employer's increase in 2011 EI premiums over those paid in 2010, which was called for by small businesses from across Canada and by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. I want to thank them for putting that idea forward.
The budget also provides assistance to the manufacturing and processing sector. I want to compliment the work of people like Larry Kaumeyer from Almita Piling Inc. and Lori Schmidt who works with Productivity Alberta, another investment that we made through western diversification in terms of making these manufacturers and processors even more efficient.
I want to compliment the Minister of Finance on extending the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing and processing, which was something that was unanimously supported in the 2007 industry committee report.
There is also help for farmers, especially those in rural areas, in terms of a $50 million initiative for agricultural innovation.
There is an additional support of $10 million for work sharing. This was raised by companies like Argus Manufacturing and Nisku. It would allow these companies to retain employees by having the government cover part of the cost of the employee. For those industries that have periods of boom and bust, it would allow them to retain employees during those tough times so that they would be there when the market and services pick up.
I would like to recognize the work done by both the current and former ministers in terms of the Red Tape Reduction Commission and also extending the BizPaL service across the country.
As well, I would like to recognize the extension of the energy retrofit housing program.
In my riding in the area of Devon where we have the research centre that deals with a lot of the tailings technology for the oil sands, Sustainable Development Technology Canada is very active in terms of supporting companies like Titanium with some very new technologies. This budget provides $40 million over two years in SDTC and that is why they have come out in support of this budget very strongly.
I want to talk about innovation and investments in R and D. This budget provides $80 million in new funding over three years for the industrial research assistance program, IRAP. Small- and medium-size businesses across this country would all point to IRAP as an effective program that works and our government has funded this to the tune of $80 million over three years.
There is an additional $37 million per year to support three federal research granting councils, CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC, which had asked for increased funding. We are prioritizing during times when we have to reach a balanced budget by 2015-16.
We are investing in key areas like innovation and research at universities and colleges, which is why the universities and the colleges have come out and strongly supported this budget.
Just before Christmas, this Parliament adopted a motion I introduced with respect to Alzheimer's. I am very proud to say that this budget allocates $100 million to help establish a Canada brain research fund. It will support the very best Canadian neuroscience and accelerate discoveries to improve the health and quality of life of Canadians who suffer from brain disorders.
The motion was adopted unanimously by this House of Commons. Members of Parliament from the four parties spoke in favour of the motion and it is now in the federal budget. The point that the Prime Minister is making in his statement this week to the other parties and to Canadians is that a lot of the initiatives in the budget were in fact ideas that were presented by all four parties and by Canadians from all walks of life. The motion made its way into the budget and this is why the budget does deserve support.
There is some other funding in terms of investment and research and development. Over $50 million over five years is provided to support the creation of 10 new Canada Excellence Research Chairs.
There is an additional $65 million for Genome Canada to continue its work. This was certainly called for by all four parties as well.
Another $50 million over five years is provided to the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, which is doing outstanding work in that region.
Another $60 million over three years is provided to promote increased student enrolment in key disciplines related to the digital economy.
I do want to address the issue of seniors because many seniors in my riding have come forward, especially in the province of Alberta where the inflation rate has been higher than the national average. Obviously, having an economy that typically grows above a national average overall is a good thing, but it does place some constraints certainly on seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes, in terms of dealing with rising costs. The budget enhances the guaranteed income supplement for those seniors who rely almost exclusively on their old age security and their GIS payments. It puts an additional $300 million into this program, which is $600 for single seniors and $840 for a couple. This investment will help 680,000 seniors across this country.
As the House knows, this was asked for by other parties. It was certainly supported strongly by members of the Conservative caucus. This is an initiative worthy of support and I ask all parties to therefore support it.
With respect to the mandatory retirement age for federally regulated employees, we in fact are changing the federal rules with respect to this and the targeted initiative for older workers, which was in fact another request made by opposition parties.
I want to review some of the initiatives that this government has already taken with respect to seniors.
Since 2006, our government has increased the age amount, first by $1,000 in 2006, and then by another $1,000 in 2009. We have doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000. We have introduced pension income splitting. We have increased the age limit for maturing pensions and RRSP plans to 71 from 69 years of age, something that was done by the former government. It had put it down to 69 from 71. We have reversed that policy change. This means that in 2011, a single senior can earn at least $19,000 and a senior couple at least $38,000, before having to pay any federal income tax.
In the time remaining in my speech, I would like to quote from a number of organizations which have come out in strong support of this budget. Chambers of commerce from across the country have applauded it. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce applauds a low-tax budget.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and its network have been very active in the corporate income tax debate over the last few months and our message has been heard:
--Canada’s low tax plan has created a healthy economic environment for business investment and we applaud the government for staying the course.
It is not only endorsed by those organizations representing all businesses. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, also came out and endorsed this budget as well. It endorsed the EI hiring tax credit:
CFIB is extremely pleased to see its top budget priority- an EI Hiring Credit for Small Business--announced in the 2011 budget. As this budget forecasts rising EI premiums in each of the next three years, this credit will be a major help to small firms in growing their workforce.
In terms of red tape, the CFIB as well commends this government for its action taken in terms of improving taxpayer fairness under the Canada Revenue Agency, which I know my colleague will follow up on in his speech later this afternoon.
In terms of retirement income, the CFIB strongly endorses the government's action with respect to the ongoing work to introduce pooled registered pension plans to really help those Canadians who do not have a public pension plan or do not have a private pension plan.
I see that my time is up--