Mr. Speaker, as this is my first time standing in the House, I would like to thank the electors of Eglinton—Lawrence for their confidence in electing me as their member of Parliament. Eglinton--Lawrence is a wonderfully diverse riding in the heart of Toronto and a riding that had not elected a Conservative member before. During the next four years, I will represent the interests and reflect the values of all the residents of the riding to the best of my ability.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.
It is fitting that my first address to this chamber is on a topic of great personal interest: fiscal policy and the economy of the country. My career has been devoted to capital markets and securities regulation which provides the relevant perspective both to my role as a member of Parliament and minister of the Crown.
These last years have been a difficult time for Canadians across the country. Jobs have been lost, savings have been depleted and families have had to put off their dreams for a well-earned retirement.
While the global recession did not begin in Canada, Canadians and the people around the world were reminded that we are indeed not an island. What happens in neighbouring countries and distant lands can have a profound effect on our local communities, especially for a great trading country like Canada. This is true now more than ever.
What began as a credit collapse in the United States' housing market quickly grew to an international financial crisis, a deep global recession and a debt crisis in sovereign governments in Europe.
While Canada was not immune, we remained strong while others floundered. The recession began later, cut less deeply and ended sooner in Canada. This was the result of many factors, including the prudent regulation of our banking system, the resilience of our businesses, the resourcefulness of our people and the strong action of our government.
These actions protected our economy by means of one of the larger stimulus programs in the world. Canada's economic action plan invested in our communities with historic infrastructure investments, invested in our people with targeted tax cuts and invested in our most vulnerable with improvements in EI. And it yielded results.
Throughout the recession, Canada fared better than the other G7 countries. The number of Canadians who are employed has increased by nearly 540,000 since July 2009. The economy is growing again, our banks are solid and investment is on the rise.
However, we are not out of the woods. We must continue to focus on the economy and our long-term financial future. The next phase of Canada's economic action plan will provide a framework for the future of Canada's economy, ensuring jobs that are created and growth that continues.
I would like to now focus on how budget 2011 relates to my new portfolio, natural resources.
In a few weeks on the job, my life has consisted of briefings, meetings, announcements, events, planes, trains and automobiles. While hectic, it has also been the start of what is promising to be one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my life.
Budget 2011 builds on the great work of my predecessors at Natural Resources Canada. Under the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, we are supporting Canada's leadership in developing and promoting clean energy technologies.
As part of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, we are supporting Canada's leadership in developing and promoting clean energy technologies. Since 2006, our government has invested roughly $10 billion in clean energy development and green job creation. One of the biggest successes of the past few years has been our eco-energy retrofit-homes program.
Since 2007, this successful initiative has allowed Canadians to benefit from grants to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. It is also an essential economic stimulus for communities across Canada. To date, our government has invested $745 million in this program, allowing for energy efficiency retrofits to half a million Canadian homes.
In the new budget, we are investing $400 million to extend the eco-energy retrofit-homes program in the current fiscal year, which will give Canadian families more time to take advantage of the grants of up to $5,000 to offset the cost of improving the energy efficiency of their homes.
Let me now turn to another pillar of the Canadian economy, the forestry sector. I want to assure the House that we are standing behind workers who depend on the forestry industry in hundreds of Canadian communities.
I want to assure hon. members that we support workers who depend on the forestry industry in hundreds of Canadian communities.
Even at the best of times, these hard-working men and women face many challenges. Now, during the ongoing global difficulties, these challenges are that much greater. We must diversify our markets to ensure the ongoing success of our forestry sector.
In 2010, the IMF projected that advanced economies would grow under 3%, while emerging economies were expected to grow by over 7%. That is why our government is focusing on expanding our free trade network and creating links to developing countries around the world, and we are getting results. Since forming the government, we have seen a 600% increase in softwood lumber exports to China. It is an amazing success story that budget 2011 is building on.
The next phase of Canada's economic action plan invests $60 million to help forestry companies innovate and tap into new opportunities abroad.
Canada's economic action plan has invested $170 million over two years to transform the forestry industry and improve its long-term competitiveness.
This builds on the significant support provided by the government to help the forestry sector in making the transition toward higher-value activities and expanding to new markets. This includes $1 billion for the pulp and paper green transformation program in order to support capital projects in the forestry sector that offer clear benefits to the environment.
These measures will help address the challenges facing the forestry sector and the workers and communities who depend on it. We will continue to implement measures that sharpen Canada's competitiveness, productivity and capacity for innovation.
These are just two of the important initiatives taken to strengthen our energy sector and our natural resource sector. There is much more in the budget, including significant funds to support clean and sustainable energy.
It is the right budget for families, the right budget for our resource sector, the right budget for Canadians. All members of the House should stand up and support this budget.