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House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Nickel Belt for his question. For a long time, the NDP has been pushing for the injection of an additional $700 million into the guaranteed income supplement to help all seniors get out of poverty. This was one of the commitments we made during the election campaign. That is the first thing. The second thing is that we must improve and protect public pension systems in Canada in order to ensure that everyone has enough income after retirement to make ends meet and pay their bills. We must also invest in social housing so that people have the opportunity to live in affordable housing where they can be independent and yet access services adapted to their needs.

Access to health care is also extremely important for seniors. We must therefore stop the slide toward the privatization of our health care system and give people access to health care with their health insurance cards rather than their credit cards.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie on his election and welcome him to the House.

Earlier, I heard members talk about experiencing déjà vu with this budget. Perhaps the member remembers the movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray's character lives the same day over and over, making different mistakes as he tries to charm the character played by Andie MacDowell. We hope that the government will stop making mistakes in its budget and will do things right. I am worried about the budget cuts that were announced in last year's and this year's budget. We do not know how the government will manage to make these cuts, which it is keeping secret. We ask for details, but it refuses to give us any.

Does the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie have anything to say about that?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for that pertinent question. His party said that this budget feels like the movie Groundhog Day. We prefer to use the expression "copy and paste". It is as though absolutely nothing happened between March and May, as though this government did not hear the needs and demands expressed by Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

The proposed budget cuts are worrisome, in terms of both their scope and the uncertainty surrounding exactly what is going to happen. The government is throwing around huge, staggering numbers—$4 billion in savings next year alone—without giving any clue as to who will be hit and where the government is going to cut.

We know we are in a difficult budget situation, and the government needs all of its revenues. Now is not the time to give any gifts to large corporations like oil companies and banks, and then turn around and say that the government can no longer invest because it has no money.

The NDP is proposing that the government stop giving gifts to those who do not need them. Last year, Canada's six major banks made over $20 billion in profits. If we lower their taxes, they are not going to create jobs. That would be a gift to them, when that money is needed to meet the needs of ordinary Canadians.

If we need to find $4 billion next year, why not put an end to the tax breaks? That would get us halfway there, since that would mean an extra $2 billion right away.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Madam Speaker, this is the first time I have risen in the House. First, I wish to salute all my House of Commons colleagues. I consider it a great responsibility and a great honour to represent the people of my riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. I would like to thank them today for the trust they placed in me and to say to them that I will defend their interests every day of my term in the coming years.

On May 2, the people of the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands sent us a clear message: our region deserves to take its rightful place in the Canadian federation. They are ready to contribute to improving their country. The people in my region want change. They rallied around the NDP vision for developing a progressive Canada, a dynamic and enterprising Canada, as the people of the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands have always been. They also want a Canada where justice and compassion prevail, where families are a priority, and where no one is left behind. I am pleased to be able to contribute, together with the people in my riding, to this wave of change.

With regard to yesterday's budget brought down by my Conservative colleagues in the House, I see that it is more or less the same budget that was brought down in March. Despite the message of non-confidence sent by Quebeckers and current worrisome economic indicators, the government has not changed its line of thinking. This is essentially a minimalist budget that includes very few social measures to help people who are contributing more than their fair share to the Canadian treasury. We see that the government is not acting responsibly toward the people it represents.

Of course we commend its commitment to sales tax harmonization, but we are bitterly disappointed in the lack of support for seniors, people in the middle class and the less fortunate. The average disposable income per capita in the Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine region is $5,000 less than the Quebec average, at just over $20,000 a year. Some 20% of the people in our riding are 65 or older. The measly $600 allocated under the guaranteed income supplement to single seniors will not significantly help seniors living in poverty. The tax credit for family caregivers is also more a symbolic measure than true recognition of the enormous task accomplished by these people, mostly women I should point out.

This budget does not contain any proposals for reducing the financial burden on families. In terms of help from the government, most of my constituents will not see any improvement in their living conditions.

What is more, looming cuts to government agencies are making us fear the worst when it comes to support for small to medium-sized businesses. For a large region like Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, whose economy relies mainly on developing natural resources, yesterday's budget is disastrous and cause for serious concern.

The Conservative government announced budgetary cuts to the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec to the tune of $13.4 million in 2013-14. For Fisheries and Oceans Canada, up to $56.8 million in budgetary cuts are projected for 2013-14. This is totally unacceptable.

In a region where the labour market remains fragile, where salaries are low and natural resources have often been overexploited, resource preservation, enhancement and research programs are essential. Although the region has been working hard to create jobs and the unemployment rate has been steadily decreasing for three years, the unemployment rate was still 12.5% in 2010. Cutting support for the economy of the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands will serve only to destroy any hope of maintaining the tentative economic recovery. Rather than continuing the recovery that began several years ago, our region is at risk of regressing and remaining dependent on government support, which will cost more for everyone.

The conscientious exploitation of natural resources belonging to Canadians remains a government responsibility. And, once again, our elected officials are avoiding their responsibilities.

Our analysis of the budget is therefore very pessimistic. We are opposed to the idea of drastically downsizing the government in a context of economic recovery. The repercussions may be even more serious for the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands, which have aging populations and are far from the services offered in major centres. However, we remain hopeful that the government will quickly realize that it is about to cause a catastrophe and will change its mind on several points. We also hope that it will strengthen the good measures that it plans to put in place.

For example, the eco-energy program that my dear colleague mentioned earlier could be extended for much longer than one year. Help for family caregivers could be increased significantly. The temporary hiring credit against the increase in employment insurance premiums for SMEs could be made more permanent. As a member of Parliament, I will work to convince my counterparts to strengthen such measures that are positive for our region.

I want our region, which has been hit hard by the forestry crisis, to benefit from the $60 million investment announced to help forestry companies innovate and compete. The government absolutely must extend this investment beyond one year. The government has not done enough for this industry in the past.

Furthermore, subsidies for the oil companies do nothing to help the people in our region. In my riding, known around the world for its beautiful scenery and wonderful natural resources that attract thousands of sports tourists every year, many people are disappointed that Ottawa is subsidizing the major polluters instead of encouraging a green economy. The people of the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands want assurances that their environment will be protected, and the issue of oil at the Old Harry site will be crucial in this part of Canada.

I hope that I can count on the co-operation of all members in the House in adopting practical solutions that will make a real difference in our riding. Tax cuts will not make a difference when it comes to job creation or the sound exploitation of our natural resources.

I am counting on the leadership of our Prime Minister to respect the mandate that the public has given us and to allow us to do our job in Parliament. I hope that he will listen to us when we propose solutions to help our economy offer new jobs and a decent future for Canadians. I hope that we will be able to show the people in my region that they have a place in an open and visionary Canada.

I believe that we can choose to work together constructively, respecting those who elected us.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, congratulations on your new role.

During the election I met with thousands of individuals across my riding, Canadians who actually supported the Conservative plan and the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. I would like to remind the Speaker and the member opposite that Canadians actually did not support the opposition. In fact 70% of them did not support the opposition.

My question is with respect to seniors. In the budget we have talked about increasing the GIS, $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples, benefiting over 680,000 Canadian seniors. I would ask the member if he has concerns regarding seniors, whether he and his colleagues will support the 2011 budget that for the first time increases the GIS and whether they intend to support that initiative to support seniors?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, what has been proposed by the government side regarding supporting seniors, while it is a step forward, is entirely insufficient.

We need to bring seniors out of poverty and a $600 credit per year is simply inadequate and is not at the right level to help our seniors get to the point where they deserve to be.

They have worked their entire lives to create this beautiful country and quite frankly $600 a year I suppose is perhaps enough to pay part of their rent for one month, but we are talking about seniors who, by and large, are scraping by and spending their savings in order to pay for their groceries, transportation and to avoid being a burden to their families.

The $600 credit per year is simply insufficient and we really hope the Conservatives will actually propose something which would be more readily acceptable to Canadian seniors.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment to the chair.

I would also like to congratulate the hon. member opposite on his election to the House. This is a great place to be and a great place to share our ideas and knowledge.

First of all, I would like to thank the voters of the great riding of Medicine Hat for re-electing me as the member for that constituency.

My colleague just mentioned this, but I would like to mention it again because it appears that some of the members opposite do not recognize that over 70% of Canadians did not vote for the NDP.

The other thing I would like to point out is that certainly some of the NDP policies and intentions are to tax Canadians heavily and to spend heavily. I wonder if the NDP has actually looked at those kinds of policies to see what has happened in Europe. In particular I am talking about Greece and Spain which are next to being bankrupt.

The policies the NDP is proposing would have a huge deficit impact on Canadians with regard to jobs and opportunities for companies to build this great country of ours.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question and congratulate him also on his election in Medicine Hat.

I thank him as well for his comments from the party that was supported by 40% of the Canadian population, which 60% did not support, so I believe 60% of the Canadian population is actually looking for an alternative to the budget that has been proposed.

When it comes to worrying about increasing taxes, when it comes to worrying about crippling the economy and the GNP in general, frankly, if we were to create more employment, if we were to help small business more, the creation of employment, in and of itself, would bring revenues to our fine government and would help to pay for the services that we are proposing today.

We are not anywhere near the point of thinking that we must go running to the IMF for help with our budget. We have lots of room. We have many innovative ideas. I am very disappointed that the government side was not able to introduce any of those ideas in its budget yesterday.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Halton Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister of Labour

Congratulations, Mr. Speaker. I am going to be splitting my time with my colleague, the member of Parliament for Yukon.

As Canada's labour minister, I am pleased to take part in this important debate on the 2011 budget, the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a low-tax plan for jobs and growth. This budget is a model of sound fiscal management because it is focused on strengthening Canada's economic recovery by improving the ability of businesses and entrepreneurs to respond to emerging growth opportunities and create jobs.

The Canadian economic recovery is well under way and that is thanks to extraordinary measures in the economic action plan and Canada's solid economic fundamentals. Canadians have every reason to be optimistic about the future.

Our country has posted the strongest economic growth among the G7 countries since mid-2009 and we have recouped all the job losses incurred during the global economic recession. As we continue to recover from this economic downturn, it is more important than ever that we encourage a co-operative and productive workplace.

A harmonious workplace lies at the heart of a prosperous economy. Productivity and innovation thrive in places where work can be done safely, in an environment that values quality, fairness and excellence. By providing mediation and conciliation services to federally-regulated industries that are engaged in collective bargaining, the labour program's Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service helps employers and unions to resolve their differences without a work stoppage, strike or lockout and the economy becomes stronger as a result of this labour stability.

In the past five years, 832 collective agreements were finalized and 792 of them were reached without a work stoppage. This represents a success rate of more than 95% when a federal conciliator or mediation officer intervenes in a dispute.

If I could, I would like to mention a notable success that has just been achieved on the west coast of Canada. There is a historic eight-year agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada, representing approximately 4,500 longshore workers, and the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association. This represents the longest collective agreement ever negotiated on the west coast of North America. The parties agreed to it themselves and they did it without any interruption in service at our Pacific ports.

It is a noteworthy achievement because it sends a clear message to the rest of the world. That message is that Canada is open for business and we can be relied upon to meet the import and export demands of the 21st century. That is why the next phase of Canada's economic action plan proposes to expand the delivery of the preventive mediation program with an investment of just over $1 million over two years. It is a modest investment, but it will pay real dividends in the years to come.

Let me now turn my attention to those who often face the brunt during an economic downturn: the workers. Our economic action plan established the wage earner protection program, or WEPP, as it is known. This program helps workers manage one of the toughest challenges they will ever face: going without hard-earned pay because an employer has gone bankrupt.

As a direct result of the WEPP program, eligible workers who lose their jobs and are owed money in the six months prior to their employer going bankrupt or subject to receivership are now compensated for unpaid wages and vacation pay. This also includes severance and termination pay. Therefore, in total, workers can receive up to a maximum of $3,400, money which is paid out quickly to ensure that the most vulnerable period of time for workers and their families is covered.

The WEPP has made an important difference to those in need. Since January 2009 over 30,000 WEPP claimants have received almost $67 million in payments and with all these funds going directly to hard-working Canadians they were really the innocent victims of corporate failures.

Our budget provides even more support for workers caught in this unfortunate situation. We are going to extend WEPP to cover employees who lose their jobs when their employers' attempt at restructuring takes longer than six months and is subsequently unsuccessful. It is an important enhancement to a valuable program.

The enhanced protection could provide an estimated $4.5 million annually to financially assist Canadians affected by the bankruptcy of their employer who would not have had coverage under the program as it was developed. This will ensure that employees are not unfairly penalized if their employer tries but fails to restructure in the face of financial difficulties.

Budget 2011 also announces the government's intention to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code to eliminate mandatory retirement in the federal jurisdiction. We are taking this step because we believe that forcing an employee to retire by reason of age is a form of discrimination and is unequal treatment. There is no question that Canadians are living longer and they are more active than ever, so people should be able to choose when they retire unless there are compelling reasons like health and safety concerns that prohibit them from doing so.

The budget strikes the right balance between fiscal prudence and targeted investment. It is no surprise that both business and labour groups have reacted favourably to the proposals in the budget. It is a rare occasion when organized labour comes out and publicly endorses a Conservative budget.

When the labour items in the budget were first presented, Mr. Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress--

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay is rising on a point of order?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the member should correct the record. It would be very unfair to have in the House that the Canadian Labour Congress supports this budget. Ken Georgetti has written a very clear statement that the Canadian Labour Congress opposes the budget. I would ask the member to strike that and continue on with her friends at the chambers of commerce and other such businesses. The Canadian Labour Congress does not support the budget. She should be accurate with her information.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I think in this circumstance it is a point of debate. We will allow the minister to carry on.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand by my statements.

As I was saying, when the labour items in this budget were first presented, Mr. Ken Georgetti, who is the president of the Canadian Labour Congress, stated that he was “pleased with announcements in the budget about extending work sharing programs, EI pilot projects, support for laid-off older workers, and improving wage protection for laid-off workers”. That is high praise for those elements of the budget.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend my hon. colleague the Minister of Finance for the increase in support for seniors and families in this budget as well.

This government recognizes that Canada's seniors helped build and make this country great. That is why the next phase of Canada's economic action plan is continuing to support seniors by enhancing the GIS, extending the new horizons for seniors program, eliminating mandatory retirement and more.

Since 2006 the government has provided over $2.3 billion in annual tax relief to seniors and pensioners. Since 2006 the Conservative government has made families a priority.

We reduced the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. We introduced the children's fitness tax credit, and due to our strong record of tax relief, total savings for a typical family, such as one in my riding of Halton, are over $3,000.

In budget 2011 we have added a new children's arts tax credit. We have added the extension of the eco-energy retrofit homes program. We are helping full-time students to earn more money without affecting their loans and giving them a break on certification fees.

Our government introduced yesterday the next phase of Canada's economic action plan to ensure that Canada remains one of the world's top performing economies.

Today, with the support of budget 2011, the labour program will continue to focus its priorities on protecting Canadian workers and employers, and on strengthening labour management relations while playing a leadership role in intergovernmental and international labour affairs.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest and some surprise at some of the statements my hon. colleague made, particularly quoting Ken Georgetti. Poor Ken is going to be choking on his coffee back at his office when he finds out that he is being rolled out as a supporter of the Conservative Party because Ken was very clear in his opposition.

It goes to the fundamental issue the member talks about, the human right to work as long as a person wants. Charlie Angus died on the shop floor of the Hollinger Mine when he was 68 years old because there were no pensions. People worked in the mines until they died. My grandmother told me every month that she got her Canada pension, “We fought for this and we need to protect this”.

So, when people in my riding go back to work at 65, 66 and 67, it is not because it is a human rights choice. It is because they do not have a pension plan that protects them.

I want to ask the member, why is the government continuing to walk away on the biggest single crisis facing Canadian families, which is the need for a comprehensive overhaul of the Canada pension plan, so every senior could retire with dignity?

So, do not say it is their human right to work because they do not have enough money to live on. Their real basic right in Canada is to be able to retire when they want to and have a Canada pension plan that is sufficient. The Conservative government has abandoned seniors on that key element.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would invite the hon. member to perhaps take a look at my past experience because I do not talk about being from an area that mined coal. I am the daughter of a family of coal miners. I was raised by my grandmother on the GIS. I have full understanding of exactly what the member is saying. However, I choose the Conservative way, which is the way we have adopted in this budget.

That has to do with fundamentally putting the tools in the hands of the people to make their own decisions and make their own investments. That is exactly what we are talking about here.

With respect to the member referencing Mr. Georgetti, who is the head of the Canada Labour Congress, I have great respect for him. However, the fact remains that if the hon. member were to choose to take a look at what is reported in the media and it is there in hard copy for him to see, he would absolutely see that I said nothing more than what Mr. Georgetti has said himself.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, as this is the first time that I rise in the House, I would like to thank the great people of Kingston and the Islands for choosing me to be their member in the House of Commons.

The minister stated in her speech, and I heard this many times during the election campaign, that a typical family would save about $3,000 in taxes per year. What about the lowest quintile of wage earners, the people who really need government's help, the people whom we really should be here looking out for? Does the minister know what a typical family in the lowest quintile would get in tax savings?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is the government that introduced tax measures that actually stopped people from having to pay taxes. We are the ones who made it easier for people to be unburdened of taxes. As I mentioned, reducing the GST from 7% to 6% to 5% had a huge impact on those who were at the lowest earning levels.

However, it is also important to note that when we talk about whom we are representing here, and I welcome to the House the member for Kingston and the Islands, we as a Conservative majority government have a strong mandate for a stable enforcement of Canada's action plan. That is what Canadians voted on.

When I represent people in Halton, I represent all people in Halton, not just those whom I pick and choose to represent, every single one of them.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague, the Minister of Labour, for her words today. I also want to commend her for her actions, particularly with respect to extending the wage earner protection program, something we have worked on in this House, on both sides, for over five years. That is an excellent initiative.

I want to ask her a short question with respect to the role of the federal mediation and conciliation services. Budget 2011 allocates $1 million over two years. Could she expand on that in her remarks?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the wage earner protection program, I would be remiss if I did not point out that when I became Minister of Labour, it was Mr. Ken Lewenza from the CAW, another union person, who indicated how much he enjoyed the program and how beneficial it was for workers as well. So it is another case of organized labour working with the Conservative government.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your new role in the House. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to our Prime Minister for bestowing upon me the great honour to stand before you today to deliver this my maiden speech in the House of Commons.

I want to say congratulations to all members of Parliament on both sides of this House and, in my co-operative nature, would like to say that I for one am agreeable and committed to working with members sitting on the opposite side of the House.

Finally, I would like to offer profound thanks to the citizens of the great Yukon Territory, the land of the midnight sun, for placing their support in me. I wish to express the tremendous pride I feel as I stand here today representing one of 13 provinces and territories that collectively make up the greatest nation in the world.

This is an exciting time of year for young Canadians. I wish to congratulate Yukon College graduates. I encourage them to embrace the college's guiding brand “Start Here Go Anywhere”. I wish to congratulate Yukon High School graduates for their accomplishments and the exciting new chapter in their lives.

I am proud to tell our Yukon students that because of the solid leadership of our Prime Minister and the continuation of Canada's economic action plan, they will have jobs to go to; they will have options to pursue a career; some will have savings to travel and explore this magnificent planet; and others will seek new skills and opportunities through post-secondary education.

It is through the strength of our economy and governance, and the continued implementation of Canada's economic action plan that these options are there for them, where other youth in the free world are not so fortunate. They can look forward to the modernization of the Canada student loans program and grants program. They can enjoy a more vibrant and accessible post-secondary education system through annual support to students and families.

Our government is committed to promoting enrolment in key disciplines related to the digital economy, fields which are important for meeting a range of social and economic challenges in health, the environment, natural resources, and national security.

I am especially proud to state that our government has made Canada's north a cornerstone of our agenda. I firmly believe that the land and the people of the north are, to some degree, a greater image of all Canadians. We are proud of the culture and history that is guarded daily by first nation, aboriginal and northern Canadians. We rest easy knowing they are determined, adventurous, and proud individuals who define the essence of community, co-operation and a true north strong and free.

From that perspective, I say to all members of the House that a budget and a plan that is good for the north is a budget and a plan that is good for all Canadians.

Federal support for the territories totals just over $3 billion in 2011-12, an increase of $847 million since 2005-06. This long-term growing support helps ensure that the territories have the resources required to provide essential public services and contributes to shared national objectives, including health care, post-secondary education, and other key components of Canada's social programs.

Connecting our country by road, from sea to sea to sea, is one such example of how diverse, yet how Canadians are and must be. The completion of the Dempster Highway from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk will support the northern communities through better access to public supplies and services, decreased cost of living, promotion of tourism, and reduced costs related to onshore oil and gas exploration.

It is the position of this government that increasing first nations community and government participation in the Canadian economy is the most effective way to improve the socio-economic conditions of first nations people.

I look forward to working with Yukon first nation governments and communities as they pursue emerging economic development at local levels. Opportunities that ensure a balance between the development of the environment and a connection between first nations people and the land, water, fish and wildlife of their traditional territories, so that it remains strong for generations to come.

The protection of the environment across Canada, and indeed Yukon and within first nations' traditional territories, will be supported through promoting the development of clean energy technology through an $8 million investment in aboriginal and northern communities, technologies and clean energy projects designed to ensure the reduction of greenhouse gases, which have national and regional impacts.

We are providing nearly $870 million over two years to address climate change and air quality, including the extension of the eco-energy homes program that will help homeowners make their homes more energy efficient and reduce the burden of high energy costs.

The Government of Canada has committed more than $3.2 million in funding to improve housing conditions for first nations in Yukon. Of this, Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation will receive close to $755,000 to retrofit 67 housing units and $630,000 toward the construction of 2 new units.

Education is key to the success of individuals, their families and communities and improving educational outcomes for first nations will benefit Canada as a whole. We believe first nations students should have an education that will see them graduate with the skills they need to enter the labour market successfully and participate fully in Canada's economic opportunities.

The next phase of Canada's economic action plan invests $9 million over two years to expand territorial colleges, adult-based education programs, particularly in remote communities, to enhance their ability to take advantage of economic opportunities in the north.

An additional $1.7 million for labour market training will be added as direct, targeted support for the territories. Families of children enrolled in artistic, cultural, recreation and development activities will benefit from the introduction of a children's art tax credit, an opportunity for children across Yukon, such as those at Robert Service School in Dawson City, with the School of Visual Arts only a few blocks away.

This tax credit builds on actions to help parents and children, such as the children's fitness tax credit, so energetic youth like the ones I know so well at Hidden Valley School can enjoy the positive benefits of a healthy and active childhood. The tax free savings account, universal child care benefit, the child tax credit and the first-time home buyers tax credit will all translate into assistance specifically for northerners who realize a higher cost of living in remote and isolated regions in Canada.

Eligible seniors across Canada, and indeed in the north, will receive an additional annual benefit of up to $600 for single seniors and up to $840 for couples.

Attracting doctors and nurses to remote communities through a loan forgiveness initiative is a critical step forward in improving the lives of family physicians, nurse practitioners and the clients they serve in these regions.

The territories will also benefit from continued direct targeted support in 2011-12, including $800,000 for the wait time reduction fund as part of the 10-year plan to strengthen health care. They will also benefit from the two year extension to the territorial health system sustainability initiative, which will provide $60 million over two years to consolidate progress made in reducing the reliance on outside health care systems and medical travel.

I am excited that budget 2011 will allow communities in the territories to benefit from a legislative permanent annual investment in the municipal infrastructure through the gas tax fund. The permanency of this fund will give communities the confidence and stability in their ability to access and utilize long-term infrastructure funding to meet the individual communities' specific needs.

Last but not least, I, along with many other new members of Parliament, may very well be standing in the House today because of the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. I am pleased to speak to Yukoners especially but to all Canadians, farmers, trappers, sportsmen and women, athletes, aboriginal and first nations peoples who have abided by the rules, contributed to our history, culture and to our economy, citizens like Yukon legend, Alex Van Bibber born on the banks of the Pelly River in 1916, who still lives off the land and at 95 years young still teaches Yukoners essential wilderness skills.

For fellow Yukon citizens, fellow Canadians, we will introduce legislative amendments to eliminate the requirement to register non-restricted long guns. In doing so, this government will not allow billions to be wasted or responsible, law-abiding Canadians to be affected, but will rather find more effective ways to keep our communities and neighbourhoods safe, our youth active, healthy and educated, our citizens assisted and employed, our homeless sheltered, our crime prevention strategies focused, criminals accountable and victims of crime supported.

In the words of Yukon's outdoor writer and columnist, Murray Martin, “I'll say Amen to that brother!”

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate all of my colleagues, from all political parties, on being elected. I would like to congratulate you on your appointment as Speaker. I would also like to thank all of my constituents and all those who have placed their trust in me. I am also pleased to be part of this very youthful NDP caucus. I am pleased that young people are better represented here in Parliament now, since the May 2 election.

I have a question for my hon. Conservative colleague regarding post-secondary education, which he mentioned in his speech. Given that students make up a large percentage of the people in my riding, I would like to know what the government intends to do to help them, since they often live below the poverty line and have a hard time making ends meet at the end of the month.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, that question is one that came up in Yukon while we were talking with our constituents.

The Conservative government has a plan in budget 2011 to offer an equalization on part-time and full-time student loans. We are looking at modernizing the Canadian student loan program to help students realize savings. Tied into health is the forgiveness of loans for doctors and nurses. This would be a tremendous benefit across Canada in attracting people to remote regions, such as our north, and would make it a more attractive career for students to pursue.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Yukon spoke about climate change and the fact that budget 2011 contained hundreds of thousands of dollars for home energy retrofits, which is a good thing. However, is the member prepared to ask his government's ministers for the millions of dollars year after year to deal with the effects of global warming, which, as the member for Yukon knows, will be the most intense in the Arctic?

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, we first have to start working on identifying some of the root causes of global warming and climate change. Investments in research and development will permit us to understand where we best spend the money and invoke the greatest initiatives to reduce climate change and the effects, which we are certainly aware of across the Arctic and the northern territories.

This is an area of key importance to the citizens of Yukon. I will be working with my riding and climate change experts in the territory to hear solutions and ideas to bring forward to this government to ensure that climate change remains an important issue.

Financial Statement of the Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your appointment and I congratulate my friend on his major speech in this most august of places in this beautiful country of ours.

The member talked at length about many of the items that were in budget 2011. He drew our attention to what it meant to him and his riding of Yukon.

I would like to hear him expand on the issue of the 15% mineral exploration tax credit. I would also like him to talk about what the government's creation of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency means to him and his riding. As well, if he could expand on the hiring credit for small businesses and any other items he may not have had time to tell us about that mean so much to his great riding of Yukon.