Mr. Speaker, I will begin by congratulating you on your election as the Speaker of this House. I also want to congratulate all members of Parliament, those who are newly elected, as well as those who have been re-elected to Parliament.
I also give a huge thanks to the people of Portage—Lisgar. It is an honour to represent them here in Ottawa and to be able to serve them in the riding. They have given me a very strong mandate. Personally, I had 76% of plurality in my riding and, therefore, thank the people of Portage—Lisgar for that support.
I also thank the volunteers because an effort like that never happens without tremendous volunteers who help me. I especially thank my official agent, Scott Beattie, who did a tremendous job in his role. I also thank my staff who has worked so hard over the last several years: Victoria Bendle, Teresa Friesen, Brittany Saunders, Laura Moran and Colleen Kyle. I thank them for all of their help and support.
Finally, I thank my family, especially my children. As all of us know, it is our families that, many times, sacrifice the most. I thank my children, Lukas, Delaney and Parker, so much for their love and support. I also must wish a happy 17th birthday to Delaney who had her birthday yesterday.
I am pleased to take a few moments to speak to the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, budget 2011, a low tax plan for jobs and growth.
As we all know, during 2008, a deep recession hit all of us, with virtually no country in the world being untouched. It was a recession that had the ability to destroy countries, and certainly there are countries that are still feeling the effects and are still trying to come out from underneath the deep recession of 2008.
However, we can proudly and gratefully say that Canada became a beacon. Canada became a ray of hope and a light. The reason for that was that Canada had a government, and has a government, that refused to put politics ahead of the interests of the Canadian people. We also came out of that recession because Canadian people stood tall, stood proud, worked hard and were tenacious. Because of that, we were able to come out of the 2008 recession stronger than ever.
In 2008, our government introduced Canada's economic action plan, a plan that included spending when spending was needed to help create jobs and a plan that included restraint when that was required. The economic action plan did work and it continues to work.
In fact, as I have already mentioned, I had 540,000 jobs written down but I had to change it to 560,000 new jobs created since July 2009.
Our housing market is stable, our dollar is strong and Canadians are hopeful for the future.
On May 2, Canadians gave this Conservative government a strong and solid mandate to move ahead with the next phase of our economic action plan, which is exactly what budget 2011 does. It is the kind of prudent fiscal management Canadians have come to expect from our Conservative government. It is a back-to-basics plan that will keep Canada's economy on track and disciplined as we work to the balance the budget by 2015.
I am so grateful for the mayors, the reeves, the farmers, the producers, the businesspeople and the mums and dads, the everyday Canadians in my riding and across the country who came out to town hall meetings and who met with me over coffee shop meetings to give me their ideas and give ideas to our government on the economic action plan.
There are so many great parts of this budget but I will highlight a few of the areas that really are benefiting and are very important to my riding.
One of those areas is agriculture. Some of the best crops in the world are produced in the riding of Portage—Lisgar. We have some of the best vegetables in the world, some of the best livestock, the best grain and the best edible beans and pulse crops. Agriculture is a very important part of my riding and, indeed, all of Canada.
Budget 2011 recognizes that to maintain the global competitiveness of the Canadian agricultural sector, we must constantly be looking for opportunities to grow, adapt and innovate. To ensure that Canadian producers remain on the cutting edge of science and technology, budget 2011 announced a two year, $50 million agricultural innovation initiative to support knowledge creation and transfer and increased commercialization of agricultural innovations. This initiative will have a positive effect on producers across Canada and especially in my home in Manitoba.
The Grain Growers of Canada, which I have so much respect and gratitude for the work it does on behalf of producers, said:
...are also pleased with the announcement of a $50 million fund for research and innovation. ... Farmers from across Canada have lobbied aggressively for the Government to invest in this area, and they have heard us.
Indeed, that is what this Conservative government does: we listen. We listen to our constituents. We listened to farmers and we have given them what they have asked for in order to have more successful businesses.
I am also very pleased that our government has indicated that we will be giving farmers choice when it comes to marketing their grain. This is an opportunity for a win-win. I believe that those in this country who support the Wheat Board can move ahead with this but there are also western farmers who want choice and they should be allowed choice. Instead of making this a political game or issue, which it has been, I encourage all sides, the Wheat Board supporters and the choice supporters, to work together. The monopoly will end but the Wheat Board does not need to end. This is something I believe in, our government believes in and western farmers support.
Another issue that I have heard a lot on from my constituents is reducing the deficit and cutting the fat from government. One of the reasons Canadians gave this Conservative government a strong mandate is because we understand that every dollar spent is a taxpayers' dollars and their dollars must be respected and used wisely. Returning to a balanced budget is the cornerstone of budget 2011. Part of the plan includes doing a strategic and operating review to cut inefficiencies and improve productivity.
I have travelled around to many businesses in my riding and businesses do this all the time, some on a daily basis. They go through their operations to see where they can be become more efficient and take even the smallest step to cut waste. If we ask businesses and families to do this, our government should be doing the same thing. We should be looking for fat and waste in the system, eliminating it and finding ways to do the business of nation as efficiently and effectively as possible.
That brings me to my next point, which is our commitment to end political subsidies. They have been a huge fat in the system. I am pleased to see that our Conservative government is taking action and phasing out the per-vote subsidies for political parties. We have always been opposed to forcing taxpayers to support political parties that they may not necessarily believe in. There is no excuse for political parties not to be raising their own money instead of forcing the taxpayers to pay their bill. I may be wrong, and if I am I look forward to being proven wrong, but there seems to be an aversion by some opposition parties to get out and pound the pavement, speak to their constituents, speak to the people who support them and actually raise funds.
As a political organizer and someone who has done a lot of work talking to people who supported Conservative initiatives, even before I was elected as a member of Parliament, there is no greater satisfaction than when people come up to any one of us to say that they support what we are doing, support our policy and give us a cheque for $25 to help along the way. That is so gratifying and we appreciate people who are so generous. However, people should not be forced to take their tax dollar and put it into a political party against their will.
I think there will come a day when the political parties that do not believe in this, the opposition, will probably thank us. It will make them become closer to their constituents and actually have to create policies that people will agree with. It is a good policy, it is good for democracy and it is good for all Canadians.
There are so many more things that I could speak to but I see that my time is running out. We are supporting families, seniors and volunteer firefighters. I have heard so much from the firefighters across my riding, which is a huge riding of 14,000 square kilometres. We have wonderful volunteer firefighters who are professional. The kind of service that some firefighters are giving in cities, my rural people are getting from the firefighters in Portage—Lisgar. That is another fantastic initiative.
I encourage all members to support this budget. It is a good economic action plan. Let us work together for the good of all Canadians.