Mr. Speaker, the first time I rose I was delivering an SO 31. It entailed all of the minute that I had before me so I did not get the opportunity to thank the people of Chatham-Kent—Essex, the wonderful riding that I represent, for putting their trust in me these past five and a half years and returning me back to this honourable position. I want to also thank all those who worked so hard to get me re-elected. I want to take this time, too, to thank my family and especially my beautiful wife, Faye, for her love and support these past 36 years. We just celebrated 36 years of marriage and it just keeps getting better with eight beautiful children and those twenty-three beautiful grandchildren that our children have given us as well.
I say with respect as well that the reason I feel I am here is to serve the people of Chatham-Kent—Essex but also, to ensure our children and our grandchildren can still share the bounty and the blessings that this wonderful land has given us.
That is why I am here and I am pleased to rise and speak to the budget. On June 6, our Conservative government introduced budget 2011, the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a low-tax plan for jobs and growth, in the House of Commons. While Canada has out-performed, and continues to out-perform most other G7 countries economically, there is still a great deal of uncertainty within the global economy in the fragile global recovery.
As we all know, Canada is not an island. We will be impacted by global economic storms. That is why we need to remain focused, singularly, on the economy and jobs and building on Canada's economic action plan.
To date, our plan and tax-cutting agenda introduced in 2009, have proven extremely invaluable in helping protect and grow Canada's economy. Indeed, Canada has seen over 560,000 net new jobs since July 2009. Even better, Canada has also seen seven straight positive quarters of economic growth. Canada's economic record in recent years has also attracted a fair amount of attention, praise and even a little envy from outside our borders. Only last week, an op-ed in The Washington Times declared:
It’s hard to find good economic news anywhere in the West...Yet there is one country where the unemployment rate actually fell last month: Canada. Its 7.4 percent unemployment rate reflects huge private-sector job gains consolidated over the past year...Today, despite the global downturn, Canada has an economy that is creating jobs, with a government that is not crowding out private investment as it borrows to finance its own spending, and a social security system that is fully solvent. The lesson is clear...Tax cuts work. They can make the economy grow, they can create jobs...It’s time to try something that has actually worked.
Listen to the last line: “It's time for America to be more like Canada”.
However, our Conservative government understands that Canada cannot afford to be complacent. We cannot rest on our laurels. Indeed, with still too many Canadians looking for work and the global economic recovery still fragile, we cannot afford to be focused on anything else but the economy. That is why we need to stay the course, remain focused on the economy and implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. We are doing just that with the Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act. This act would implement many key and positive provisions of budget 2011.
I would like to mention some examples now. To begin with, to help seniors, the bill would enhance the guaranteed income supplement, GIS, for seniors who may be at risk of experiencing financial difficulties. This measure will provide a new top-up benefit to more than 680,000 seniors across Canada. This means up to $600 per year for single seniors and $840 per year for couples.
Another measure within today's bill assists many provinces during the fragile economic recovery by extending the temporary total transfer protection to 2011-12, representing nearly $1 billion in support to affected provinces like Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba. This would support provincial front line delivery of health care and social programs that families depend on.
We also recognize the importance of entrepreneurship and our youth across this great country as within the act is a measure to encourage young entrepreneurs by providing $20 million to help the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.
Sticking to the theme of helping our youth and supporting Canadians, I will also mention another measure in the act that sets out to enhance federal assistance for part-time students. This is accomplished by making education more accessible by reducing the in-study interest rate for part-time students to zero, bringing them in line with full-time students.
I have mentioned how we are helping Canada's most vulnerable seniors. We are supporting provinces during the fragile economic recovery. We are supporting entrepreneurship in our youth. I would also mention how we are assisting students. These measures alone are enough good reasons to support this bill. Despite all of the outstanding measures raised above that will undoubtedly have positive effects on Canadians facing real life issues, there is more.
With today's bill we are also helping the disabled by strong improvements to the registered disability savings plan, or RDSP, by increasing flexibility to assist RDSP assets to beneficiaries with shortened life expectancies and ensuring that individuals can appeal in every case a determination concerning their eligibility for the disability tax credit.
The bill also works to support our brave veterans who have given so much to Canada by providing sales tax relief to the Royal Canadian Legion for their purchases of Remembrance Day poppies and wreaths.
We are also maintaining Canada's leadership in genomics research by providing $65 million for Genome Canada to launch a new competition in the area of human health and sustaining the operating costs to Genome Canada and genome centres.
One last measure I would like to mention is the bill's provision to protect most Canadian housing markets with new measures to reinforce the stability of Canada's housing finance system by strengthening the government's oversight of the mortgage insurance industry. I should note that respected public policy commentator, Finn Poschmann of the C.D. Howe Institute, appeared at the finance committee. He was there along with some of my colleagues the other day to applaud this portion of the bill. He also wrote a lengthy article about it in the Financial Post that I encourage everyone to read, where he labelled it, “a deft move”.
I will quote portions of it:
--even though it does little more than formalize existing arrangements. The legislation says that the private insurers must set aside adequate capital, and to do so as specified by the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. In other words, sound, prudential oversight remains a requirement, and we will have transparency and risk disclosure that is as good as we can manage.
It refers to the act explicitly and says that the finance minister may demand immediate access to any records relevant to CMHC's activities and make them public, something he says is:
--a big step toward transparency and disclosure--and an important one to the Canadian public--
Clearly, this is a positive and important bill, especially for our seniors. Seniors have worked tirelessly to afford us what we have today, a beautiful country to call our own, a country that is recognized around the world as a truly remarkable place to live. Now it is time to give back to Canada's seniors who are in the most vulnerable positions. I am confident that all members in this House will agree.
Canada's most vulnerable seniors are counting on the GIS top-up to come into effect on July 4, as promised. Let us make that happen.