Mr. Speaker, I do want to take this opportunity to also state that I was at that meeting and the NDP did in fact vote for our bill. Regardless of what has been said here, the facts remain. The truth is that the NDP voted for the bill in committee and have now flip-flopped for whatever reason they want to provide. That is up to them.
I would like to share my time with the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.
I sincerely thank the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance for quickly studying and passing this important bill. As hon. members know, the Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act includes a number of measures from the 2011 budget and is a key part of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a plan that keeps taxes low to stimulate growth and jobs. Our economic growth shows that Canada's economic action plan is working and that the Conservative government is on the right track with our economic recovery.
Let us look at the facts: Canada's economy has seen seven consecutive quarters of growth. Since July 2009, we have created almost 560,000 net new jobs, 80% of which are full time. Canada's unemployment rate is considerably lower than that of the United States, something we have not seen in over 30 years. Little wonder that countless independent experts and observers have been near unanimous in their praise for Canada's economy. For example, Claude Picher, an economic and financial columnist for La Presse, said:
It is true that all of Canada's economic indicators are quite positive when compared with other G7 countries. Canada has weathered the recession better than the others. It is certainly the G7 champion in terms of economic growth and job creation.
However, too many Canadians are still looking for work, and the global economic recovery remains fragile. The financial difficulties of some European countries, such as Greece, attest to the fact that there are still international issues that could affect us. That is why protecting the economy has been and will remain our government's top priority. And that includes implementing the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.
The supporting vulnerable seniors and strengthening Canada's economy act contains many important measures that will not only support our economic recovery but also help everyday Canadians, especially seniors, such as: assisting Canada's most in need seniors with a significant boost to the guaranteed income supplement; supporting health care and social programs at the provincial level with nearly $1 billion in payments to provinces eligible for the temporary total transfer protections extension to 2011-12; encouraging young entrepreneurs with $20 million to help the Canadian Youth Business Foundation; enhancing federal support for part-time students; improving the registered disability savings plan; supporting Canada's veterans with tax relief for the Royal Canadian Legion; maintaining Canada's leadership in genomics research with $65 million for Genome Canada; reinforcing the stability of Canada's housing market with increased government oversight of the mortgage insurance industry; and much more.
I think all parliamentarians recognize that Canada's seniors sacrificed a lot to build this great country and I believe we all want a strong support system for their retirement. That is why our Conservative government has taken significant action since 2006 to improve the quality of life of Canadian seniors.
The measures taken include providing seniors and pensioners with over $2 billion in annual tax relief and creating a minister of state for seniors to ensure they have a dedicated voice in government to address their issues.
However, there is always more to be done. Unfortunately, there are still too many seniors with fixed incomes experiencing financial difficulties. Many of these low-income seniors are widowers who made sacrifices of themselves to stay home, to raise their families and better their communities. As a result of that, they do not have a pension income.
To show our appreciation to these seniors and assist them, our Conservative government is proposing to provide an additional GIS top up annually of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples. This would represent the single biggest increase to the GIS in over 25 long years. The new GIS top up will help over 680,000 of Canada's poorest and most vulnerable seniors starting July 1, providing them with improved financial peace of mind.
It is little wonder that the Service Employees International Union, representing front-line health care providers and other service industry workers, applauded the GIS increase as, “A win for every senior living in poverty in Canada”.
I want to be crystal clear with all elected members in this House and all appointed senators in the Senate when I say that Canada's most vulnerable and poorest seniors are absolutely counting on the GIS top up and they need this bill passed quickly to allow it to come into effect on July 1, 2011, as promised.
I have heard some in Parliament smugly dismiss the GIS top up as only an extra few dollars a year. I challenge those parliamentarians to say that to the countless widows and seniors who are counting on the monthly GIS top up to make ends meet. I challenge members to ask those poor seniors, who do not have the luxuries we as parliamentarians enjoy, if those extra few dollars will make a difference to them as they worry day by day about how they will pay for their rent and food.
I know the answer because I have actually asked them. They need this money and it will make a world of difference for many of them. They are depending on us to ease their financial burden and the hundreds of dollars they will collect from the government's proposed GIS top up are absolutely crucial to their future.
I ask all parliamentarians, both here and in the Senate, to please put partisanship antics aside, do the right thing and pass this bill before we rise. Royal assent must be ensured to allow the increased GIS cheques to start going out July 1. Let us give these vulnerable seniors the dignity and respect they deserve.
I also implore my colleagues to consider another important measure in this bill that has the potential to change lives substantially. Genome Canada is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting Canada's research leadership in genomics.
Genomics is the science of studying the genome or blueprint contained in the DNA of a human or other species, along with what happens when certain genes interact with each other and the environment. Genomics research is helping Canadians make scientific breakthroughs and advances in important areas, such as health, fisheries, forestry, agriculture and the environment.
To date, the government has provided over $900 million to Genome Canada. This support has helped establish Canada as a world leader in genomics research, including in the areas of cancer, infectious and rare genetic diseases, adverse drug reactions and crop sciences. What is more, Genome Canada-funded research has contributed to the development and training of thousands of highly skilled individuals and the creation of more than 20 new companies.
I am proud to note that Genome Canada has a centre in my hometown of Winnipeg as well as centres in Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax, Montreal and Toronto. The additional $65 million for Genome Canada proposed in today's legislation would launch a new competition in the area of human health, while also covering ongoing operating costs.
Genome Canada President Dr. Pierre Meulien has expressed his appreciation for this new financial support, noting:
--it provides the means necessary to continue advancing our genomics...It also reiterates the government’s interest and priority in cultivating a genomics enterprise in Canada--
These are just two of the many important measures we are proposing in the Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada’s Economy Act. These measures will help Canadian families, particularly the most vulnerable ones. This bill is an essential part of implementing the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, which will ensure that our economy recovers for the benefit of all Canadians, today and in the years to come. For these reasons, I once again call upon the House to support this bill promptly and without delay.