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!”