Mr. Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport for his sage remarks and establishing some global context for what we are trying to do in Canada with our economic action plan 2012.
Economic action plan 2012 positions Canada for economic growth, job creation and long-term fiscal health. It is based on creating a climate for private sector investment, innovation and opportunity.
With this economic strength, Canada can give families and communities all the support they need. This means developing sustainable social programs and secure retirements.
Underpinning all of this is getting the federal government's house in order by returning to balanced budgets. This enables Canada to keep taxes low and leaves more money in the pockets of Canadians. It also means Canada will not kick the fiscal can down the road and will not leave large debts for future generations.
Canada's economy has expanded for nine of the last ten quarters. It has created over 610,000 net new jobs since July 2009, which is the strongest job growth in the entire G7.
Fitch ratings, Moody's and Standard & Poors have all renewed Canada's triple A credit rating, keeping Canada's borrowing costs manageable.
For the fourth straight year, the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system the soundest in the world. Canada has the lowest overall tax rate on new business invested in the G7, which gives us a distinct competitive advantage.
The reason that venerable Canadian institution, Tim Horton's, moved its headquarters from Delaware to Ontario recently was to take advantage of our low corporate taxes.
Canada's net debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7 by far. The influential Forbes magazine ranked Canada number one in the world for business to grow and create jobs.
However, our Conservative government cannot take anything for granted. Advanced economies around the world are struggling to create jobs and to balance their books. Last week, Spain, whose economy is about the size of Canada's, announced that it would cut government spending by 23 billion euros. In addition, it would increase taxes by about four billion euros. The result has been general strikes and a chill on private sector investment.
The United States, our largest trading partner, struggles with trillion dollar deficits and legislative gridlock to fix its situation.
The global economy remains fragile, which is why our government is taking reasonable, careful measures to respond to the challenges we face. Investment and innovation are the keys to long-term prosperity.
The Government of Canada is making significant investments in scientific research, but we can and must do more to encourage private sector investments in innovation and commercialization. These activities create high value-added jobs that generate productivity and prosperity.
That is why economic action plan 2012 proposes, among other things, $400 million to help increase private sector investments and early stage risk capital; $100 million to the Business Development Bank of Canada to support its venture capital activities; $110 million per year to the National Research Council to double support to manufacturers and other entrepreneurs through the industrial research assistance program; and $95 million over three years starting in 2013 and $40 million per year thereafter to make the Canadian innovation commercialization program permanent and to add a military procurement component.
While I am here I would like to note the contribution of some members of the NDP and the Liberal Party who studied the question of the commercialization program, notably the member of Parliament for Louis-Hébert and the member of Parliament for Markham—Unionville. We all agree that this has been a very good program, which is why we have recommended that it be continued.
Another requirement for investment is to streamline the process for regulatory reviews. As we know, over 75% of the world's mining companies are based in Canada, with the greatest number of those based in my city of Toronto. The Canadian government is proposing legislation to realize the objective of one project one review within a clearly defined time period. That is good for jobs and good for the economy.
Via the major projects management office initiative, we have shortened the average review time for major natural resource projects from 4 years to just 22 months, while improving accountability by monitoring the performance of federal regulatory departments. These measures would create economic activity and job opportunities.
In economic action plan 2012, we propose extending the hiring credit for small business to reduce employers' EI costs by $205 million. The opposition always says that it likes small business, until they become successful and become big business, then it is against them.
Economic action plan 2012 proposes enhancing a youth employment strategy to help connect young Canadians with jobs in areas that are in high demand.
Finally, economic action plan 2012 includes enhancements to the opportunities fund to enable more Canadians with disabilities to obtain work experience with small and medium size businesses.
I would like to talk about how economic action plan 2012 helps support families and communities.
The budget contains many measures to strengthen Canadian and Ontario families. Highlights for Ontario include: ongoing support through major federal transfers, which will total more than $19 billion in 2012-13, and almost $11.4 billion of that is through the Canada health transfer, which is an increase, I should mention, of $3.7 billion since 2005-06, and $97 million of that is for the wait times reduction funds as part of the 10-year plan to strengthen health care; over $4.6 billion will be transferred to Ontario through the Canada social transfer; and $197 million will be transferred to Ontario for labour market training. I should also mention that $3.3 billion will be transferred to Ontario through equalization, which is a situation that we Ontarians hope to rectify. Hopefully, we will be transferring money to other provinces in the future.
Of particular note is the plan to provide fair compensation for employers of Canada's reservists. Economic action plan 2012 commits to providing financial support to employers of reservists to offset costs, such as the hiring and training of replacement workers or increased overtime when reservists serve their country in deployments. This is good news for reserve regiments like the Toronto Scottish Regiment, which is based in my riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore. It has had soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and other parts of the world.
I will now talk about some of the sustainable social programs and how economic action plan 2012 provides a long-term stable retirement future for Canadians.
The budget takes action to ensure the retirement security of all Canadians now and into the future. As we all know, the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS will be gradually increased from 65 to 67 starting in the year 2023, with full implementation by 2029. This gives plenty of assurances to seniors who are about to retire that their OAS will remain intact and it gives plenty of time for those who are looking at retirement in the future to plan their retirement accordingly.
This builds on the measures our government has taken to improve the economic security of seniors. We have removed 380,000 seniors from the tax rolls. We introduced pension income splitting. We increased the age credit amount and doubled the pension income credit. We increased the age limit for RRSPs to RRIF conversion from 69 to 71. We also established the tax free savings account.
In economic action plan 2012, we are announcing measures to improve employment insurance to make it sustainable for the long term.
Notably, our government proposes to ensure stability in the EI premium rate by limiting rate increases to five cents each year until the EI operating account is balanced.
Economic action plan 2012 will invest funds to improve efforts to connect EI claimants with the necessary skills and with available jobs in their communities. The budget proposes to invest in a new national EI pilot project that will ensure claimants are not discouraged from accepting work while receiving EI benefits, by cutting the current earnings clawback rate in half.
Let me talk about balanced budgets.
Our government has reduced the tax burden on Canadians to the lowest level in nearly 50 years, that is, since the 1960s.
To get our fiscal situation on track after the global economic downturn, our government proposes to reduce spending after careful analysis and study. We have the lowest net to GDP ratio in the entire G7, and we intend to enhance our competitive situation even further.
While the NDP and Liberals want to engage in a reckless spending spree, our Conservative government is committed to getting back to balanced budgets. We are refocusing government, making it easier to deal with and streamlining back-office administration to achieve $5.2 billion in ongoing savings to taxpayers. About 70% of the savings will come from eliminating inefficiencies in the internal operations of government, making it leaner and more effective.
Unlike the NDP and Liberals, our Conservative government will not take the easy route by raising taxes, and unlike the previous Liberal government we will not slash transfers to the provinces for health care, education or support for seniors. Our Conservative government will provide the stable, responsible government that Canadians elected to protect our country's future now and for the long term.