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House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was post.

Topics

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

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.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the hon. parliamentary secretary could tell the House, after the private sector was allowed into the mortgage insurance sector in Canada, how many 40-year zero-down mortgages were introduced, and how many Canadians have these mortgages which we know are the most risky, least flexible and most expensive for Canadian consumers.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am so glad my colleague has asked a question about those very dangerous 40-year amortized mortgages that no longer exist. Thanks to who? Thanks to this government that changed the rules and now we see that an amortized mortgage is reduced to a much smaller limit.

It is thanks to this government that recognized early in the recession that the housing market was very much at risk in other areas of the world. It is because we took actions very early that the housing market in Canada is seen as the strongest in the world. I continue to be proud of the measures that our government is going to continue to take to secure oversight in that area.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have a question to the parliamentary secretary, based on her last response.

She just claimed credit for her government's ending the ridiculous policy of 40-year mortgages with no down payment. I agree with her. It was a dangerous, reckless policy, and we supported the government's ultimate decision to change that policy.

However, is she not aware that it was her government and her Conservative finance minister who, in his first budget in 2006, introduced to Canada 40-year mortgages with no down payment? Is she aware of that?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am well aware of the history of amortized mortgages and that is why our government and the finance minister recognized early on that the recession was actually going to take hold in a number of areas in the world where the housing market was going to be responsible for a significant decline. Thanks to the finance minister of the Conservative government, the amortized time period was, in fact, reduced a first time to 35 years, then again to 30 years.

A number of other measures have been taken to ensure that fixed mortgage rates are sustainable and achievable. We are going to continue to take care of Canadians in the housing market area. We are going to have some significant oversight thanks to this bill.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I too was at the committee meeting and I saw the NDP vote for the bill. I thought the NDP members were reassured when they heard the imperative reasons for the increase to $300 from $250. They also heard that the legislation would create transparency.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance talk about the imperative of moving forward quickly in terms of allowing Canadians to have options?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

It is imperative, Mr. Speaker. This is an urgent matter because the finance minister and this government need to have the ability to take immediate action should we find ourselves in any kind of a situation where a recession is again a risk.

There are countries around the world that are at risk, and we just need to look at some of the European countries, like Greece. We must be prepared for any kind of a downturn in the world that might affect us. That is why it is urgent. We must ensure the housing market has some oversight. Without this legislation, we cannot do that.

I would implore members of the House to consider that. I would implore the NDP members to again vote for the bill as they did in committee to ensure the housing market is protected.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-3, the budget implementation bill.

The government has actually not made the case as to why it is rushing the bill through this House, particularly regarding part 11 on shared services and part 7 on residential mortgages.

On the shared services issue, during my tenure as the former minister of public works, I led the way forward for reform of the Department of Public Works. At that time we were in times of very significant surplus. I recognized the importance of always respecting every hard-earned tax dollar we received from Canadians during good times and bad time, in surplus and deficit, and ensuring that we delivered the best possible services to Canadians, and got the best value for tax dollars received.

That is why we in the Paul Martin government engaged in a very extensive expenditure review process. We had an expenditure review committee of cabinet. I was part of that committee. Without reducing services to Canadians, we were able to find billions of dollars in savings within the Government of Canada.

Within the Department of Public Works alone, we were able to identify $3 billion over five years and a billion every year after that by reforming procurement. I remember the hon. Walt Lastewka, who was the parliamentary secretary to public works and the former member of Parliament for St. Catharines, helped lead that. He brought his experience as a procurement expert from General Motors to the department and helped lead some of those reforms.

We were reforming the way we managed our real estate. We used efficiencies, including outsourcing certain types of services to get better value and provide better services to our tenants, which were government departments. We were modernizing all the procurement and real estate services in a way that ultimately saved billions of dollars without reducing services. We did it by working with the public servants.

I remember the day after I was sworn in as minister, as we were going through some of these proposals and ideas, we made a decision very quickly to engage the 14,000 public servants in a discussion about the plans to modernize the department. We did not hide our plans to reduce costs and to get better value for taxpayers. We did not hide those plans from the public service. We decided to engage the public service fully.

In fact, I did town hall meetings across Canada with 1,400 people coming out to a town hall meeting in Gatineau to 400 in Halifax. We engaged public servants at the grassroots. We engaged them not simply as union members but as citizens, as taxpayers, as public servants who were drawn to the public service with a desire to serve Canadians, to do a good job and to make a difference.

What we see with the government is a lack of respect for the public service as it takes an adversarial approach to these kinds of initiatives. There is secrecy wherein it does not share some of its plans to modernize government and save costs to get better value for taxpayers. I do not think there is anybody in this House who would disagree with the idea that there are ways to get better value for taxpayers.

Our quarrel with the government is with its lack of respect for the public service and its inability, incapacity, or refusal to actually work with the public service to get those better results.

We are accustomed to this kind of approach as a Parliament. The government treats Parliament as a rubber stamp. It does not provide Parliament with the facts and the costs required for Parliament to do its work.

If we look at the way the government approaches Parliament and the way it approaches the public service, it brings back memories of the Mike Harris government.

The finance minister, the foreign affairs minister, and the President of the Treasury Board were all members of the Mike Harris government and they picked fights--

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Did you ever campaign for Mike Harris?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

No, in fact, Mr. Speaker. I have never campaigned for Mike Harris.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Neither have I.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Neither has my leader. I can say that unequivocally.

During that time, they picked gratuitous fights with unions. They caused countless strikes and disruptions to government services. They left the public without services, as schools shut down and government offices closed. They really made labour relations toxic throughout the public service.

There is a need, obviously, from time to time, for a government to disagree with the unions leading the public service. However, there is an opportunity at all times to work with the public service and get better results.

Again, in this budget and Bill C-3 and part seven of it, we see a refusal of the government to share with this Parliament and the public service its plans to reduce expenditures. Either the government does not have a plan or it is hiding the plan from Canadians. We know that when it comes to Consulting and Audit Canada, the government hid its plan during the election to eliminate much of the audit capacity of the federal government. Again, this is consistent with a government of secrecy that does not want Canadians to have the facts, that does not want scrutiny by legitimate audit functions within government. This is not a cost-cutting measure but an ideological measure designed to try to shut down anyone who asks legitimate questions of the government and to try to continue to hide the truth from Canadians.

I would like to speak to the residential mortgages issue.

The parliamentary secretary, a few minutes ago, commended the Minister of Finance for his prescience in eliminating 40-year mortgages with no down payments. She neglected to tell the House that it was that minister who, just a few years before that, had introduced in his first budget 40-year mortgages with no down payments.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Oops.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Oops.

The reality, Mr. Speaker, is that it was tremendously irresponsible for the Minister of Finance to introduce 40-year mortgages with no down payments in his first budget in 2006.

The Liberal opposition raised repeatedly, day after day in this House, the housing bubble, a bubble that was mentioned earlier by Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, in reports, including an extensive report in The Economist magazine a few months ago that cited the housing bubble in Canada. When we raised questions to that effect, the Minister of Finance, the government, continually rejected our assertion that this was a problem that needed corrective action.

The reality is that it is not just a housing bubble but a personal debt bubble that we have in Canada. The average Canadian family owes $1.50 for every dollar of annual income.

Again, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney, has described housing as “severely unaffordable” and that we must remain vigilant against an upcoming correction.

Under the previous Liberal government, mortgage rules were prudent. There were 25-year mortgages with 5% down payment required. That was changed under the current government to 40-year mortgages with no downpayment. Then it reduced them to 35 years with a 5% downpayment, and then 30-year mortgages. We hope that the Minister of Finance will soon get back to the prudent Liberal policy of 25-year mortgage amortizations.

The government is now asking us to take on more risk, effectively. The CMHC limit was $350 billion in 2008 and that has been raised to $600 billion. Ultimately, we recognize that there could be a strong argument made for raising the limit. However, this is a very significant public policy matter. It deserves more debate than what is being afforded in this budget discussion. We should have an informed vote on it and, frankly, part seven should be introduced as a separate bill and be studied very carefully.

These are important issues, if we consider the level of debt Canadians have and the importance of real estate as the principal asset that many Canadian families rely on for their income and financial security in their retirement. I think there is a strong argument to be made that part seven should be a separate piece of legislation and be afforded more diligence in this Parliament.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the member that he does not need to tell us again that he was a minister of public works. I think he mentioned it six or seven times. We all know that when the Liberal Party actually had more than 30 members in the House and was in government some time ago, he was a minister. I wanted to let him know that.

In relation to part 7 and part 11, shared services in particular, he mentioned that we were keeping these secret. I just want to let the member know that if he read the budget implementation act, they are mentioned there. The secret has been published. It is no longer a secret.

What is not a secret is that most Canadians would be shocked to find out that up to this point, many government departments could not share services between each other. They did not have the ability to do so.

This government, in looking at ways not to cut jobs but actually to save money for taxpayers, is looking at ways like that of sharing services.

In mentioning the prudent Liberal policy, is this particular member talking about the policy where they cut $25 billion from the most needy people in Canada, including from hospitals, schools and the elderly? Is that the policy he is talking about as so prudent?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member has a business background, which is commendable. He refers to that sometimes. I was referring to my background and experience as a minister of public works who actually helped lead the shared services initiative within the Government of Canada.

I dare say, although I recognize it is quite a long ways from where my priority is right now to being back in government, I think there is a strong argument to be made, and some would say, I have a better chance of being in a cabinet than the hon. member.

I would say, from having led shared services initiatives, it should not be just—

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. It is very difficult for hon. members to hear the questions and comments when there is so much noise.

Questions and comments.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just want to clarify for the record that at the committee, when members vote to bring a committee report to the House, they do not necessarily vote in favour of or in opposition to the budget. They are simply voting to report it, which is what was done yesterday.

The opposition was very clear at the meeting regarding our concern about the changes being proposed to the insurance aspect of CMHC and the bringing in of American companies.

My question for the member for Kings—Hants is about the CMHC delivering $12 billion in tax revenue directly to the coffers of Canada, money that it has obtained from its operations. Why in the world would the government want to give that to American companies to send back to the U.S.?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I do not have a philosophical problem with using private sector resources and initiatives, and capital in some cases, to provide public services with good sound regulation.

We have to look at every one of these cases separately. There are cases of outsourcing that can make sense and deliver good services for Canadians in conjunction with the public service, and there are some that do not make sense.

The unfortunate thing is that by lumping this provision into this budget and not providing us with adequate opportunities to study it, we cannot determine whether it makes sense in this case. I think we would agree that it requires greater study and, as such, a separate piece of legislation. Given the importance of this, I think it would make a lot of sense.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday at committee the party of the member from Kings—Hants voted in favour of Bill C-3. Notwithstanding his remarks here today, does the member intend to vote in favour of the bill in the House?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, we are studying this piece of legislation. We will determine our support at the appropriate time.

However, it is clear that both in the House and at committee, through the legislative processes, we will make a determination at every level. We take our role as parliamentarians seriously and are studying the bill. We are also asking the right questions. I think that is key, both at committee and in the House, to be asking these questions and raising important issues.

I would urge the hon. member, as a member of that caucus, to raise those questions as well. He has a role not just to do what the government is telling him to do but also to dig in and ask those questions. I am certain he will. I certainly hope so.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to rise today to speak to the budget, which is currently being discussed by my colleagues on both sides of the House.

I would like to take the liberty of putting this new budget into context, so that its vision of where we are heading becomes clearer.

Many members of the House have spoken in the chamber about the budget. One unique perspective I would like to add is how the budget reflects the specific needs of communities, such as the one I have the honour to represent.

On that note, I would like to thank the constituents of West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country, commonly known as the most beautiful place on earth, for honouring me with the privilege of serving them a second time.

I also want to thank local leaders, including the mayors, the MLAs, the first nations chiefs and others who have worked so closely with me to generate the results achieved under the first phase of the economic action plan, which concentrated on economic stimulus and prepared the groundwork for the phase we are now debating in the House, the low tax plan for jobs and growth.

Together, we showed in the first phase of the economic action plan that we can achieve anything as a community. We Canadians are diverse, industrious and entrepreneurial, and the people I represent showed skills of communication and collaboration that allowed us together to initiate and complete over 120 projects under the first phase of the economic action plan.

The member for Burnaby—New Westminster said earlier today in question period that he yearned for open, transparent and honest public consultation. That is what we saw in the first phase of the economic action plan.

Time after time, we saw the magic of priorities driven by each local community in the riding I represent, including Squamish, Whistler, the Sunshine Coast, Powell River, West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Bowen Island and Lions Bay. The steps to strengthen cultural identity, develop critical infrastructure and invest in the health and safety of all of our communities were steps that we saw adroitly taken. Most important, we created jobs, including many of the 560,000 new jobs created under Canada's economic action plan since July 2009.

This is a plan that has put our country atop the world for our economic recovery. Why? Because our government worked closely with each local community.

What did we achieve in Squamish? We achieved support for the West Coast Railway Museum, for small craft harbours, for sewer and water main upgrades, for biking and hiking trails and for seniors' housing units.

What did we achieve in Whistler? We achieved support for the World Ski and Snowboard Festival and for Whistler Crankworx, the great biking festival; for the Whistler Public Library; for the arts council; for the Whistler Centre for Sustainability and for upgrades to Highway 99.

What did we achieve on the Sunshine Coast? Support for the pulp and paper industry, for public transit lines, for an improved Pender Harbour authority, for fitness centres, aquatic centres and highway improvements.

What did we achieve in Powell River? Support for the pulp and paper industry yet again, green energy hydro projects, harbour upgrades, water system upgrades and for sports facilities.

What did we achieve for the North Shore, for West and North Vancouver? We achieved a replacement of the ageing Blue Bridge; the provision of new bus lanes, which we commissioned only last weekend; upgrades to water and sewage facilities; a new artificial turf field, a spirit trail and other community amenities.

The magic that applies to all of these projects is not only that they generated jobs and stimulated the economy, but even more important that they came about as priorities generated by each community, borne of close communication and collaboration among all levels of government.

As we contemplate the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, the budget before us, Canadians are pleased to see once again their priorities reflected in the budget.

Uniformly, during the election campaign and throughout my first term in office, I heard members of my communities articulate three economic priorities for our government: first, to increase jobs; second, to support those in our communities who needed it most; and third, to respect our environment and, in doing so, drive the economy. I am proud to say that the low tax plan for jobs and growth embraces all of these priorities.

First, the budget before us will create more jobs. Notable is the hiring credit, which this year will encourage our riding's many small business owners to hire new employees and small business people across the country to do the same. On the international scene, our government continues to invest in the most successful Asia-Pacific Gateway project.

Second, our government is committed to supporting those in our communities who need it most. For our ridings' eligible seniors, starting in 2012 the low tax plan for jobs and growth will offer an annual benefit of $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples above what is currently offered.

For families with disabled family members, our government introduced and strengthened the registered disability savings plan. For our ridings' many students, our government plans this year to strengthen RESPs. We also plan to improve the Canada student grants program and the textbook tax credit. Our government will furthermore exempt scholarship and bursary income from students' taxable incomes, saving students thousands of dollars each year.

For families with children, programs, such as the universal child care benefit introduced in 2006, continue to offer greater choice in care by providing $100 per month for each child under six years old. I am particularly proud that our government has established a 15% volunteer firefighter tax credit, a measure for which I advocated on behalf of firefighters in our ridings. This credit will support the heroic men and women who voluntarily put themselves in harm's way to save the lives of friends and neighbours.

Third, our government is paving the way in making environmental sustainability a hallmark of our economic growth. The 2009 economic action plan provided $1 billion through the pulp and paper green transformation program, which assisted local employers in the riding I represent, such as those in Powell River and on the Sunshine Coast.

This year our government will build on that investment in our low tax plan for jobs and growth by contributing a further $97 million over two years for research and development of cleaner energy technologies. Such initiatives promise to help the people of our riding responsibly to enjoy the abundance for which we Canadians are famous.

These are concrete plans every Canadian can understand. We are on track, reflecting their priorities using taxpayers' dollars responsibly, creating jobs, helping people who most need the help and ensuring we act as efficient stewards of our most wonderful environment.

We are doing all of this without increasing taxes or cutting social services. We are doing all of this while wrestling the deficit to zero by 2014. We are doing all of this as a community. We, in West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, join together with all Canadians proving time and again that no good thing is impossible. We are doing all of these things together. Our government is serving Canadians for today, for tomorrow and for future generations.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, my Conservative friend talked about a concrete plan. I want to talk about the chunks of concrete that are falling off Canadian bridges. Just yesterday afternoon, basketball-sized chunks of concrete fell from the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto. A few months ago, chunks of concrete fell from the Mercier Bridge and the Champlain Bridge in Montreal.

I do not see any funds in the budget to build a new Champlain Bridge, to help repair our aging infrastructure and to help municipalities ensure their bridges remain safe, which is why we are not supporting this budget.

Precisely what is there in this budget for keeping bridges safe?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina for her question.

I am delighted to work with her in the House to promote health and fitness and other things that we collaborate on.

It is quite exciting to see her new-found interest in promoting infrastructure, because it was infrastructure that was so heavily promoted in our economic action plan. We saw bridges and infrastructure being improved across Canada, projects that promoted jobs where local priorities were reflected in a national budget. Many of the projects are just now being completed.

It is wonderful to see that she is on board with that and I hope she will, therefore, support the second phase of Canada's economic action plan.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. I have to differ with him initially, of course, in pointing out that Saanich—Gulf Islands is the most beautiful riding in Canada.

The member's speech focused on the budget but, as I understand it now, we are discussing Bill C-3, a budget implementation bill, a very narrow application of 12 specific measures to which I have no objection. Could he expand on why this budget implementation bill does not actually mention the major measures in the budget?