Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to our Conservative government's economic action plan 2012, jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
In March, the Minister of Finance introduced our government's pragmatic and prudent vision for the future of Canadians, one that looks forward to not only the next few years but also to the next generation.
Since 2006, our government has worked to build a strong economic foundation for Canadians. While the effects of the economic downturn of 2008 were felt in homes and businesses across the country, it was the steady leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, as well as the rest of our Conservative government, that ensured the Canadian economy emerged from the recession well ahead of every major developed economy in the world.
We have delivered for Canadians, and our strong record speaks for itself: the creation of more than 700,000 net new jobs since July 2009; a 3.9% increase in a year-over-year growth in manufacturing output; a reduction for personal income taxes and cuts to the GST; income splitting for seniors' pensions; the creation of the landmark tax free savings account; and lower taxes on Canadian businesses, with Canadians having the lowest tax rate on new business investments among major advanced economies.
Our banking system is regarded as the most stable in the world. Our net to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7. The OECD and IMF predict Canada's economy will be one of the international leaders over the coming years.
When we sift through the partisan rhetoric and inaccurate numbers and figures thrown about by my opposition colleagues, our government's strong economic record is laid bare.
While there is work to be done going forward, Canadians voiced confidence in the direction we have taken when they voted for a strong, stable Conservative majority government in May 2011, ultimately providing us with the mandate to continue our pragmatic economic agenda.
During the election, we committed to remain focused on job creation and economic growth, and with economic action plan 2012 we are doing just that.
We are continuing our job creation agenda and we are focused on the long-term prosperity of the Canadian economy, for all Canadians.
As a country, however, we must remain cognizant of the many challenges and uncertainties that are still confronting the Canadian economy. The recovery is not complete, and too many Canadians are still looking for work.
One only needs to look to the recent elections in Europe to recognize that the global economy still remains fragile. Canada does not want to become the next Greece or Ireland.
Canadian businesses face increasing competition from countries with emerging fast-growth economies, and our aging population will put pressures on public finances and social programs.
Economic action plan 2012 takes important steps to highlight these structural challenges in ensuring that the changing demographics do not harm Canada's public finances and social programs for the future.
My constituents in Simcoe—Grey elected me to be a strong voice here in Ottawa for them, to ensure that I work to bring jobs to our riding; to ensure that our government creates a climate where businesses can thrive without the burden of bureaucratic red tape; to ensure that our seniors are taken care of so they can receive the respect they have earned through their decades of contribution to our country; to ensure that our agricultural sector is supported in the manner that allows it to grow and be profitable; and to ensure that our health care system is protected by continuing our government's stable health care funding to the provinces.
My constituents do not want government handouts or a government that throws money to the creation of more bureaucracy. They want a government that will lower taxes and create a pro-business environment, while continuing to support Canadians by maintaining transfers for health care, education and social programs to the provinces. This is the surest way to create jobs and stimulate economic growth, and these represent the fundamentals of our Conservative economic approach. This is what our government campaigned on. This is the economic agenda I promoted in my riding of Simcoe—Grey. This is what our Conservative government has delivered on in economic action plan 2012.
Our government is committed to sustainable social programs and a secure retirement for all Canadians now and for future generations.
The facts on OAS are clear. The number of Canadians over the age of 65 will increase from 4.7 million to 9.3 million over the next 20 years. The OAS program was built when Canadians were not living the longer, healthier lives they are today.
Consequently, the cost of OAS would increase from $36 billion per year in 2010 to $108 billion in 2030. Meanwhile at 2030, the number of taxpayers for every senior will be down to two, down from seven in the 1970s and from four in 2010. In order to ensure the sustainability of OAS, the age of eligibility will gradually be raised to 67 starting in 2023 and fully implemented in 2029.
We have ensured that the changes that are being made have substantial notice and an adjustment period. These changes would not affect current retirees and those close to retirement. It would give people plenty of time to adjust to the changes and plan for their own retirement. Our changes would ensure OAS is put on a sustainable path so it is there when Canadians need it in the future.
Economic action plan 2012 takes action to create jobs now and provide more opportunities to Canadians. To create jobs, we will extend our one-year hiring credit for small businesses, a practical, proven measure that encourages businesses to hire more workers. For example, Rick and Susan Lloyd, in my riding of Simcoe—Grey, can utilize this program for their small business, Smart's Flowers, and continue to grow their business.
We will make new investments in local infrastructure through the community infrastructure improvement fund. Already our government has made significant investments in infrastructure, particularly in my riding of Simcoe—Grey, where mayors like Mayor Linda Collins and Mayor Sandra Cooper in Collingwood have praised our government for helping create opportunities in their municipalities, and for our constituents in Simcoe—Grey.
Moreover, we will provide more opportunities to Canadians. We will continue to help older workers transition to new jobs and new opportunities. One way we are going to achieve this is through the government support of the ThirdQuarter project, an innovative approach to help employers find experienced workers who are over the age of 50 and who want to utilize their skills in the workforce.
We are increasing funding for skills training and career experiences for young Canadians and for Canadians with disabilities. This is building on investments our government has made already in my riding. For example, most recently, I made an almost $0.5 million announcement for Tracks Employment in Collingwood, where more than 40 students will benefit from an initiative to provide them the skills they need in order to enter into the workforce, supported by the government's youth employment strategy.
Our government is also making improvements to the EI program to ensure it is fair, continues to meet the needs of Canadians and is responsive to local labour market demands, both now and in the future. Our focus is on the long-term prosperity of Canadians.
As we face unprecedented labour shortages, it will be critical that we work directly to help Canadians find available jobs more quickly. We are providing support to Canadians to help them find those jobs through more timely and relevant labour market information, as well as earlier access to skills training and job searches.
With our government's focus on jobs and economic growth, we will also introduce changes on how to calculate EI benefits to better align them with local labour market conditions. Canadians want to return to work. We are enhancing the tools to support them in doing so.
Budget 2012 presents itself as a historical opportunity for Canadians. It allows us to position our country in a way that will protect and strengthen the Canadian economy and continue our job creation agenda. Economic action plan 2012 will help create high-value, good-paying jobs by investing in entrepreneurship, innovation and world-class research. It supports jobs and growth through responsible resource development.
It invests in training, infrastructure and opportunities to create jobs while providing new opportunities to young Canadians, seniors, new immigrants and Canadians with disabilities. These are the types of initiatives our country needs, and they will continue to ensure the long-term prosperity of the Canadian economy.
I am proud to be part of a government that has delivered for Canadians. I would like to commend the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance for tabling this historic budget.