Mr. Speaker, at the outset I want to indicate that I will be splitting my time with the new member for Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon.
I want to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your ascension to the speakership, as well as your colleagues. I know you will serve this House very well.
I also want to thank the constituents of Edmonton—Leduc for electing me to this chamber for a fifth time.
I would like to congratulate all re-elected and newly elected MPs. It is certainly a very different chamber from what it was before the election. It shows, in fact, that elections matter, that votes matter, that voters can fundamentally alter the political reality and the leadership of political parties in this place, as they have done. It also shows that we should always treasure the form of government we have. Our form of government is obviously, as Winston Churchill said, not perfect, but we should embrace the positive aspects of our political system and the results it delivers.
I also want to acknowledge all of those who put their names forward in the last election, in my constituency and across the country, who were not successful. It takes courage, that virtue which Aristotle said was the greatest virtue, to put their name forward, knock on doors, go out there and participate in forums. I want to commend all of those people who put their names forward.
Lastly I would like to recognize all those who volunteer, those Canadians who give their time and efforts to volunteer for their candidate and party. They deserve our recognition as well.
Today we are debating the budget introduced earlier this week by the hon. Minister of Finance, which is substantially the same document that our government presented in March of this year. During the election, we explicitly promised to reintroduce this budget if re-elected, which is exactly what we have done.
What does this budget do? First of all, it continues to support job creation. We have created 540,000 jobs since July 2009, an outstanding figure when compared to other industrialized countries.
How does it do this? It provides a temporary hiring credit for small business to encourage additional hiring by this vital sector, something that was very strongly put forward and endorsed by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
It extends the work-sharing program and the targeted initiative for older workers to help Canadians in some of the hardest hits areas stay in the workforce. This has helped companies like Argus in my constituency in the Nisku area. It had experienced a sharp downtown, but the measures I mentioned allowed it to keep employees. Because it kept these people and did not lose them and is now experiencing more growth, it can fulfill the increased orders. This was a very good program that we are continuing.
The third point I want to mention in this area is our support for the manufacturing and processing sector by extending the accelerated capital cost allowance rate for investment in manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment for an additional two years. This was first put forward in an industry committee report in February 2007. It was put in the budget of March 2007. It has been extended until this point and, obviously, will be extended for another two years once the budget passes. It is a credit to the committee that I had the privilege of chairing.
Mr. Speaker, I know you spent some time on that committee. All four parties endorsed that measure, and I hope they all endorse this measure and this specific budget.
The last thing in this area is providing renewed funding of almost $100 million over two years for research, development and demonstrations of clean energy and energy efficiency.
The second thing we do in this budget is preserve Canada's fiscal advantage. We reaffirm our plan to eliminate deficits a year earlier than previously projected without raising taxes, without cutting transfers to persons, seniors and families, and without cutting transfers to provinces for things like health care, education and social services. In fact, transfers to provinces for health care will increase by 6% per year and by 3% a year for education and social services.
This hit home very strongly during the recent election campaign. People said they wanted the government to balance the budget as quickly as possible, but they wanted to see essential programs, like health care and education, maintained going forward.
We should recognize that the deficit in 2010-11 is projected to be 25% lower than it was in the previous fiscal year and to shrink again by more than 25% in the next year. This is very good news. We are on track to meet our targets and we should continue to do so.
The third area I want to talk about is strengthening our families and communities. Obviously in this House there has been great discussion about how we help these low income seniors. We are proposing to enhance the guaranteed income supplement for low income seniors by $300 million, providing additional yearly benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples.
The second thing is to introduce a family caregiver tax credit of up to $2,000.
The third thing is providing nearly $870 million over two years to address climate change and air quality, including the extension of the eco-energy retrofit program, which will help homeowners. It is a very popular program and we have proposed extending it by a year.
I want to talk about an area of passion for me personally, that of research and development and innovation. I had the experience, as I mentioned, of serving on the industry committee and meeting a lot of the scientists and creators across this country, who are absolutely inspiring.
This budget continues our efforts along these lines by investing in innovation and the economy of tomorrow. It provides $80 million in new funding over three years through the industrial research assistance program. The IRAP program under the National Research Council, in my view, is one of the best government programs in targeting resources towards small- and medium-size businesses to improve their efficiency so that they can grow. One of Canada's fundamental challenges going forward is how we get those small- and medium-size businesses to grow and become larger businesses. It is exactly why we are investing in the IRAP program.
Another thing we are doing is establishing 10 new Canada excellence research chairs. I should point out that I am very proud of the university in my city of Edmonton. The University of Alberta has already been successful at obtaining four Canada excellence research chairs. The university president had a function here in Ottawa in February, where she had all the excellence research chairs from across the country present their ideas and research. It was absolutely fascinating. Our government is obviously adding to this program in this budget, which is an excellent initiative.
We are increasing the budgets of the three federal granting councils by $47 million annually. This was requested by the Association of Universities and Colleges and by researchers across the country, who were saying that we still needed to fund basic research and the three granting councils at an even better rate.
The next story I want to talk about is our support for students. Since 2006, we have supported students in a number of ways. We have created the Canada student grant program. It is providing up to $250 per month of assistance to low income students and up to $100 per month to middle income students.
We have also provided $140 million per year to encourage more young Canadians to pursue apprenticeships, including the new apprenticeship incentive grant and apprenticeship completion grant. I do want to recognize Sam Shaw from the city of Edmonton. He was president of NAIT, which trains the highest proportion of apprentices across this country and does a fantastic job in doing so.
Where we are going from here with this plan is to talk about student loan forgiveness for doctors and nurses working in rural and remote areas. Practising family physicians will be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness of up to $8,000 per year to a maximum of $40,000. Nurse practitioners and nurses will be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness of up to $4,000 per year to a maximum of $20,000.
We are also supporting Canadian students abroad. Many student groups have approached us as members of Parliament for this. We are reducing the 13-week minimum duration requirement to 3 consecutive weeks with respect to the education and textbook tax credit. We are doubling the in-study income exemption and we are reducing the in-study interest rate for part-time Canadian student loan recipients.
I want to touch briefly on my own province of Alberta. The budget demonstrates strong federal government support for provinces like Alberta, including transfers for vital areas like health care, education and social services. In fact, we have increased transfers to the Province of Alberta since 2005 by nearly 50%, totalling nearly $3.4 billion. This is outstanding, allowing provinces to address their health care, education and social service needs.
I ask all parliamentarians to endorse this plan. It is a prudent plan. It is a plan that has been endorsed by economic organizations the world over.
Relatively speaking, our country has done very well. We understand that there are some challenges out there and a significant amount of risk, if we look at the tragedy that occurred in Japan, the European debt situation, and the U.S. economy and fiscal situation being weaker than expected. That is why we need a prudent plan going forward, and that is exactly what this budget is.
That is why I am asking members of Parliament to endorse this budget.