Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville, and I welcome him to the House.
I will take this opportunity to thank the wonderful constituents of my riding of Kelowna—Lake Country for their support in re-electing me for the third time as their Kelowna—Lake Country voice in Ottawa. I also extend my sincere thanks to all the hard-working and dedicated volunteers from my riding, especially those in the association who are here on the Hill this week for our national party convention. I especially thank my campaign manager and EDA president, Shari Matvieshen; my financial agent, Mark Thompson; and the rest of our team. I give special thanks to my incredible staff, Linda and Louise, in the riding, and, of course, they work with Steve and Lynne here in Ottawa. Without them I would not be able to do the job that I love to do. I thank them for doing such a great job to help our constituents.
Last but not least, behind every successful man is an astonished wife. I send special thanks to my best friend and dear wife, Cindy, and to our three lovely daughters for their unwavering support.
Today we talk about the budget 2011 that was tabled earlier this week, which is designed as a low tax plan aimed at creating jobs and growth in our economy. It contains targeted spending measures toward those who need it most, while maintaining the necessary fiscal restraint required during tough economic times. I believe it is a pragmatic, balanced approach and it is the right budget for the present time.
What does it do for me? That is often what I have heard from constituents in my riding of Kelowna—Lake Country and I could tell my constituents the following: Budget 2011 helps low income seniors and caregivers looking after aging parents or disabled family members; it helps small business and local manufacturers create and maintain jobs; it helps homeowners and local contractors through the extension of the home energy retrofit program to reduce home heating costs; it helps Canadian armed forces veterans make the job transition to civil society; and it acknowledges the importance of volunteers in our community, especially our local volunteer firefighters, providing them with a much needed tax break on their expenses.
I personally thank our firefighters from Oyama, Ellison, Joe Rich, Lake Country and Kelowna for their dedication to keeping our communities safe.
Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with the presidents of both Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan who appreciated the additional post-secondary funding in budget 2011. Our colleges, universities and students will receive more breaks on tuition costs and funding for innovative research and development efforts which will support our forestry, agriculture and tech sectors.
Local municipalities will also be able to count on more funds targeted for community infrastructure projects and, very important, a permanent gas tax fund that will make long-term infrastructure planning possible.
Moreover, budget 2011 will build on our efforts to protect the financial security of families and individuals, including personal income tax savings of over $3,000 for the average family of four, a $1,200 per year child care benefit and pension income splitting for seniors.
It also renews our commitment to eliminate the federal deficit, which reflects a common theme that I heard on the doorsteps: we have to live within our means. Budget 2011 reiterates our commitment to do so while protecting critical funding to the provinces for health care and social programs. It works for Canadians because the initiatives contained in it are a direct result of the prebudget consultations with ordinary Canadians who, like my constituents in Kelowna—Lake Country, offered sensible, practical solutions for the economy.
By far, one of the biggest concerns for my constituents remains to be the economy and maintaining and creating jobs. We all know that small, medium and large businesses create jobs and that the government creates the economic environment that spurs Canadian companies to create jobs. Our government's incentives for businesses will create the kind of highly skilled labour we want and need in this country.
Many of my colleagues have risen in the House to talk about the numerous positive aspects of budget 2011. I will take some time to share with the House why our economic action plan is so vital to economic growth and illustrate an example of exactly where the growth will come from. I think members will see quite clearly how this government's economic objectives are crucial to attracting the kind of investment we need to help Canadian companies grow.
A local reporter, Steve McNaull of the Kelowna Daily Courier, just yesterday filed a report that shows how innovative the Okanagan Valley has become. Steve writes, “While California's Silicon Valley is legendary as the home of the biggest tech companies in the world, like Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle, the Okanagan's Silicon Vineyard is a burgeoning cluster with firms such as Disney Online's Club Penguin, web interactive video company HuStream and software developers QHR and Windward.
“As such, the smaller Okanagan tech companies are a little intimidated by the California giants. But they should not be, because tech is tech, business is business and California companies can be a great source of investment, mentoring and partnership for Okanagan companies and vice versa”.
Those are the great things happening in our country. For the past three years, a Metabridge conference has been held in Kelowna bringing together Okanagan and California tech types to network and pitch ideas. It is all about creating partnerships, opportunities and investment.
As former Facebook executive, Alison Rosenthal, pointed out:
There's a big talent crunch in the Silicon Valley and Western Canada can supply talent easily. We're in the same time zone and we're just a short flight away.
As Steve McNaull points out, Okanagan companies can look for investment and advice from California firms or angel investors like Ms. Rosenthal.
Companies are working hard in our valley with the support of initiatives, like the newly created Accelerate Okanagan, to help grow and attract investment. That is why our government's commitment to a low corporate tax, along with the willingness to invest in innovation, is so important. It is also why our expansion into new markets is critical, as I have heard over and over again while I had the opportunity to be a member of the international trade committee for the past five and a half years.
I would like to congratulate my hon. friend from Abbotsford on his appointment as the new Minister of International Trade. As he pointed out in the House earlier this week, international trade creates good paying jobs and spurs economic growth. That is why it is fundamentally a kitchen table issue.
Breaking down interprovincial trade barriers is equally important. That is why the Prime Minister is committed to reducing red tape and has taken a regulatory view to make it easier for Canadians to do business within our own country.
One sector that could benefit from this is the wine industry in the Okanagan and across Canada. We need to break down barriers, like the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act. It is very archaic. It dates back to 1928 and prevents Canadian wineries from selling their award-winning wines directly to Canadians who reside outside of their province. It is incredible that today we cannot enjoy the fruits of the land from one province to the other. I do not see why Canadians should not be able to enjoy this wine. It is made in Canada. It is a product that is award winning internationally. That is why I have once again tabled Motion No. 218 to allow the consumer to purchase wine directly from the vintner to help our small wineries grow. I would appreciate the support of all members of this House on that so that we can move forward in working with our provincial partners.
These measures, supporting investment, opening new markets and breaking down barriers, send the message that Canada is open for business, that we have the talent, the skills and the companies needed for success. That is how we are strengthening the economy and helping to create the jobs we need.
There are so many other stories in the Okanagan that reflect this kind of momentum. There is literally no limit to the potential. I strongly believe that the positive energy coming out of the Okanagan is reflective of the positive business-friendly economic strategy put forward by our government.
Opposition members need to get on board. It is unfair to Canadians when they try to suggest that our support for the economic backbone of our country's business is done at the expense of family, seniors and communities. This is so untrue and our record proves it. Not only have we done a great deal for families, seniors and communities since 2006, we have done it without jeopardizing our support for health and social programs. In fact, one can look at this government's record and see that it has not turned its back on anyone.
I come from a riding with one of the highest populations of seniors in the country, which is why I am so supportive of initiatives like increasing the guaranteed income supplement, which builds on the $2.3 billion in annual tax relief our government has provided to seniors and pensioners, including removing our 85,000 seniors from the tax rolls and introducing pension income splitting as a couple of examples. The fact is that we have focused on seniors and provided for them in every budget since 2006.
By electing me, my constituents have handed me the responsibility to ensure their tax dollars are spent wisely and effectively. They have also given me the opportunity to build on what has been accomplished together with our government and our riding working together at all levels of government. After all, there is only one taxpayer. We have had an expansion of Highways 97 and 33. Our help has assisted our fruit growers. We have built a passport office, invested in affordable housing, helped the homeless and youth at risk, local green initiatives, transit expansion, and arts and culture. There are numerous examples. We are keeping our communities safe with crime initiatives like the organized crime task force.
I thank my cabinet colleagues who have taken the time to listen and who have not only understood but acted and delivered for Kelowna--Lake Country. I want to especially acknowledge this government's commitment to partnerships because, as a former municipal councillor for nine years, I know how important it is that what we do at the federal level respects what is done at the provincial and municipal levels. I believe that is why during the recession this government's stimulus funding was so successful.
I do believe that for my constituents in Kelowna--Lake Country and for all Canadians great things are yet to come.