Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the budget today in this my maiden speech in the House of Commons. First, let me congratulate you on your new role in the Chair.
I thank the people of Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon for putting their trust in me to represent them in Ottawa.
On May 2, I said that I would be taking the common sense of the common people to the House of Commons and I make that commitment to them again today.
I thank all of the volunteers who worked so hard to make my election possible. Special thanks goes to my good friend and campaign manager, Matthew Barker; my official agent, Tyler Schulz; my volunteer coordinator, Joe Verhulst; my office manager, Audrey Green; my sign manager, Jeremy Giesbrecht; and the hundreds of others who took part in ensuring we elected a Conservative in Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon.
I also thank my wife, Lisa, and my son, Maclean, for their constant love and support. I would not be here without them. I also thank my sisters, their husbands and my mom and dad for supporting me in whatever path I have chosen, including this latest one.
I thank the many members who have taken the time and gone out of their way to let me know just how well loved Chuck Strahl was when he was in this place. As countless members have reminded me, I have big shoes to fill. And, since countless members have asked, the answer is yes I can sing too, although dad would claim he has a better and lower voice.
I thank the former member of Parliament, Grant McNally, who hired me as a young 20-year-old, and the current member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission who brought me aboard as his executive assistant in 2004 and gave me the opportunity to work for him and to see firsthand how the job of an MP should be done.
Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon is a beautiful big riding. It is 30,000 square kilometres in size. I dare say that it is the most impressive riding in all of Canada. I would invite my colleagues in this House and all Canadians to come and visit. I can assure people that if they do make it out to this great part of our great country, they will be back again and again.
It is an honour to address the budget today. As a Conservative, I campaigned on our low tax plan for jobs and growth and I am proud to see that we delivered on our campaign commitments. We promised additional funding for our most vulnerable seniors and we delivered. We promised tax credits for children's arts programs, for family caregivers, for volunteer firefighters and we have delivered. We promised to keep taxes low, something that no other party in this place campaigned on, and we have delivered.
I note that the official opposition and the Liberal Party, both in the campaign and here in debate, have reiterated their desire to increase taxes on job creators. However, I will tell members what a local non-profit organization in my riding had to say about that plan.
I will read a letter from the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce into the record. It was sent to my predecessor, Chuck Strahl, on March 2, only three months ago. Just so that there is no confusion and no one can say that I have misconstrued the content, I will read it in its entirety. It reads,
“Dear Mr. Strahl:
“On behalf of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce, I am writing to you to convey the importance of protecting the prosperity of the businesses within your constituency by ensuring the government follows through on its promise to reduce business taxes.
“With government stimulus programs ending this year, the tax reductions are especially important as they will free up capital to be put to work to grow Canada's businesses and its economy. This strategy has been supported by a majority of parliamentarians in two federal budgets since its inception in 2007.
“As of Jan. 1, 2011, the federal general corporate income tax rate fell from 18 per cent to 16.5 per cent, with a further 1.5 percentage point reduction scheduled for 2012. When fully implemented, this three percentage point reduction means that in each and every year going forward, business in British Columbia will save approximately $400 million, money that can be used by businesses across the province to invest in their operations and create jobs.
“Today, some politicians are calling for these tax rate reductions to be reversed and for the government to direct the revenues to new spending. The Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce feels strongly this will constrain the job creation and investment in Chilliwack businesses. Our political leaders have to live up to the promises they have made. Businesses in Chilliwack and across the country have invested with the understanding that taxes would decline.
“A sudden change of course would constitute a broken promise to thousands of businesses and the people they employ--including members of your constituency.
“Business tax reductions are relevant to all Canadian businesses--large and small--in all regions of the country, including Chilliwack. Small business has a keen interest in this issue. Most small businesses are suppliers to bigger businesses; opportunities flow when the larger firms have the capital to buy. The alternative--rising taxes--dries up those opportunities. A vibrant large business sector leads to a strong and prosperous small business sector.
“Reducing business taxes is also an issue of vital importance to your constituents. Business taxes fall directly on families in Chilliwack-workers through lower wages, consumers in the form of higher prices for goods and services, and shareholders (including pensioners who own equity through RPPs, RRSPs and mutual funds) through lower returns.
“As my MP, I am calling on you to protect the prosperity of the businesses and families within your constituency by ensuring the government follows through on its promise to reduce business taxes. You can be sure the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce will continue to champion for a strong economic environment that allows the businesses in our city to grow and create the jobs and opportunities that make this community a wonderful place to live and raise a family. We hope that you will actively do the same.
Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce”
This letter was not written by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, although there will be benefits all across the country. It was not written by the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce, though there are specific benefits in the budget for British Columbia. It was written by the local chamber of commerce, put on its letterhead and put on its website, because it wanted everyone to know about its position on this issue. This is an organization of small- and medium-size businesses, not the big corporations that the other side likes to talk about.
Some of the most prominent members of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce are also prominent members of the local federal Liberal association. Even they can see the value of having tax policies that benefit our local businesses.
Over the last two years, our government has made unprecedented investments in infrastructure right across the country, and certainly in Chilliwack--Fraser Canyon.
On May 27, I was pleased to undertake my first official duty as a member of Parliament to participate in the official opening of the new Kawkawa Lake Road Bridge in Hope, British Columbia, along with Mayor Laurie French and MLA Barry Penner, a project made possible by Canada's economic action plan.
I was pleased to see in the budget that our government is committed to working with the provinces and municipalities to deliver a long-term infrastructure program that will continue to address the needs of our communities, a move that has been applauded by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. We have also doubled the gas tax rebate and made it permanent, which will give our communities the funds and the certainty they need to invest in local infrastructure priorities.
Our budget contains even more items of importance for Chilliwack--Fraser Canyon: support for agriculture, support for the forest and mining industries and support for tourism. It contains new investments to support priorities in first nations education, child and family services, water and housing, first nations health, as well as aboriginal skills development and training. There are measures to encourage doctors and nurses to choose to serve rural communities like Lytton, Lillooet, Cache Creek and Ashcroft, to name just a few.
There is much more to say about the Conservatives' low tax plan for jobs and growth. However, I will conclude by saying that the budget is good news for Canada, good news for British Columbia and good news for the people of Chilliwack--Fraser Canyon, and I encourage members on all sides of the House to support it.