Mr. Speaker, as this is my first opportunity to be back in the House, I first want to thank the constituents of Selkirk—Interlake for sending me back for the fourth time. It is indeed an honour and a privilege to represent the great people of Selkirk—Interlake.
We had an incredible election. I travelled almost 10,000 kilometres across my riding, which is slightly bigger than the province of Nova Scotia. However, it is great to be here to advocate on behalf of my constituents.
I want to thank the almost 300 volunteers on my campaign team for helping to get me re-elected. I also thank my staff in both my constituency office and here on the Hill for all the great work they have done for me over the past several years.
I extend my deep love and appreciation to my wife Kelly and my daughters, Cortney, Taylor and Cassidy, for their continued support and love and for allowing me to do this job and to be so far away from the farm.
I also congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your new appointment. This is your first day on the job in this new role and we are looking forward to working with you over the next four and a half years.
Indeed, I congratulate all members for being elected to this esteemed House. This is a great opportunity for all of us here to debate policy and acts and to deal with legislation that will improve the lives of Canadians. We always have differences of opinion but it is a great opportunity to talk about those opinions in the House in a respectful way. I am looking forward to the improved decorum that we will bring to the House.
What we are dealing with today is budget 2011, which is a rerun of what we dealt with back in March. I congratulate the Minister of Finance for retabling this document because we took this document to the people after March 25 and we campaigned on it. We talked about all the great things that are happening in the budget and Canadians overwhelmingly said yes, that they supported it. In my riding, over 65% of the people support the government's policies and this budget.
This budget is great for my riding of Selkirk—Interlake. It is great for Manitoba and it is great for all of Canada. I really want to talk about how this budget, which is so fiscally responsible, getting us back to balanced budgets, eliminating the deficit and continuing to grow our economy and create opportunities for Canadians, is so important for rural Canadians.
One of the highlights in the budget, at least for me, is the way that we will attract more doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners to rural areas. In my riding of Selkirk—Interlake, and indeed in Manitoba, we see the provincial government and different health agencies trying to recruit doctors from all over the world. That is not sustainable and that has not really worked. A lot of them do not want to stay in rural areas and so they move away.
The Conservative government is proposing a made in Canada solution. We will offer student loan forgiveness for doctors up to $40,000, and for nurses and nurse practitioners up to $20,000 if they practise in rural communities. They would get to come right out of university, establish themselves in rural communities, maybe meet a significant other, start up their practices and really get to fall in love with our rural way of life. To me, that is exciting and something that will really pay dividends long term.
Another thing in the budget is a new $3 million initiative to help communities develop a more integrated approach to dealing with palliative and end of life care. In Manitoba, unfortunately, palliative care is treated differently in rural areas than in the city of Winnipeg. In the city, the provincial NDP government funds palliative care. However, in rural areas, we need to volunteer, do all sorts of fundraising drives and hospice walks just so we can pay for coordinators and programs. It is important that our government is stepping up at the federal level to supply $3 million to communities that want to develop an integrated approach to palliative care. That is something that is so desperately needed across Canada.
Tying in with that is the new tax credit for family caregivers. That is something that will provide dollars to those people who take care of a loved one who is sick or is in palliative care and allow them to be recognized economically for the service they are providing that is not being provided through the health care system.
We have heard a lot of talk today about the increase in the guaranteed income supplement. It is a great move. We will see dollars go up for individuals and for couples, and it will help the most disadvantaged seniors.
If we look at rural areas, we often see seniors who are widows or who come from a farm family or a small business where they did not contribute to a pension or do not have any CPP. They really do live on their OAS and GIS. Therefore $50 a month, $600 a year, is a big improvement for those seniors who are still living below the poverty line.
Maybe it is not enough. We hear that all the time. However, it is the first step and it is the first time anything has been done. The former Liberal government did absolutely nothing.
I am proud that our government recognized it. Now we are stepping up and providing the assistance that is so desperately needed.
We have also instituted the new horizons program and are increasing it to $10 million a year. That new horizons program for seniors has been very well received in my rural communities. New horizons groups and different senior resource groups have been able to access money to help seniors be mentors in our areas, to provide accessibility into different facilities and to develop programs and places where they can meet and gather. That is also where we have stepped up. We developed the program, and seniors across this country have thanked us.
Of course this budget really does support our business community. Up and down my main streets, it is all small business. We do have some manufacturing and some medium-sized enterprises, and there are a few large corporations in the riding, but overwhelmingly it is like most of Canada, where two-thirds of the businesses are small and medium-sized enterprises. They employ over 60% of Canadians. That is where we should be putting our efforts, and we have.
They have benefited from the tax cuts we have brought forward. They will benefit from the new EI holiday for new hires. That tax credit will assist in developing more jobs and long-term gainful employment for people in our areas. That is important for rural Canada.
We also see that they will benefit from the new capital cost allowance. We are extending it so they can pay off their purchases over two years on an accelerated basis. The accelerated capital cost allowance will see them retool, be more productive and be more competitive, which again helps our manufacturing base. We are seeing a growth in manufacturing in my riding.
Our rural municipalities have really benefited. They thank the federal government for making the gas tax fund a permanent measure that they can now count on and bank on. They can go in a year ahead and know that these dollars are coming from the federal government. They find it just fantastic.
The infrastructure investments we have made throughout my riding and throughout Canada have been very well received by the municipalities because they were in such a deficit position from the standpoint of infrastructure and the need for infrastructure investment. Now they have that investment and they thank us for it, because they were ignored by the previous government and often the provincial government.
In Manitoba the provincial NDP has not stepped up and put in its share of the dollars to ensure that infrastructure investments happen. They thank the federal government for stepping forward and bringing in the building Canada fund, increasing the federal-provincial-territorial base infrastructure program, bringing economic stimulus dollars and even the community adjustment fund so that they are able to access dollars and make significant investments.
In the province of Manitoba the NDP government is thankful for this budget. It is really pleased that we have been able to increase transfers for health care. The total budget for health care is almost a billion dollars in Manitoba. It is up significantly, up by almost 30% from where the Liberals were. We have also seen an increase in investments and in transfers for social assistance and infrastructure to the provinces.
Overall in the Manitoba budget, $3.4 billion comes from federal transfers. Almost 40% of its entire budget is coming through transfers. The provincial NDP in Manitoba thanks Canada's Conservative government for ensuring that it will have those investments.
One of the things I am quite pleased to see in this budget is that we are doing away with political subsidies. Over the last number of years in this House we have heard a lot of name-calling and braying. We have heard people complain about dollars used for partisan purposes. Nothing is more partisan than giving taxpayer dollars to fund political operations and political mechanisms within parties across this country, and funding organizations like the Bloc Québécois, which used Canadian taxpayers' dollars to advance its separatist cause.
That is just ridiculous. I hear about it all the time. When I was campaigning, my constituents were asking over and over again why we were giving money to a political party that wanted to completely ruin Canada.
It is a great budget.
I know my time is up. I look forward to answering questions another day.