Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House this afternoon and speak to the important investments and reforms our government is making in budget 2012. Economic action plan 2012 is squarely focused on what matters to Albertans and all Canadians: valuable new jobs and sustainable economic prosperity.
We are moving forward with a stable plan to encourage long-term economic growth and job creation by maintaining our focus on supporting entrepreneurs, business innovators and world-class researchers.
Alberta understands the importance of business innovation. Alberta's cities and rural communities are home to some of the world's most innovative companies and research institutions.
Our government is committed to fostering an economic climate that encourages business innovation. Business innovation is increasingly vital to maintaining our international competitiveness and our excellent standard of living.
Economic action plan 2012 contains over $1.1 billion in significant investments for research and development and $500 million for venture capital and for increased public and private research collaboration.
This direct investment will support private sector business projects that will develop new and innovative technologies demanded in the global market.
Our government will help increase the number of persons employed in high paying research and development fields and will ensure long-term growth by enabling innovative Canadian companies to thrive in an increasingly competitive and global business environment.
In addition to strategic investments, our government is also committed to improving conditions for business investment. Our government will bring forward legislation to implement across the board changes to achieve the goal of one project, one review in a clearly defined time period.
This includes system-wide legislative improvements to the review process for major economic projects, which will establish clear timelines, reduce duplication and regulatory burdens and focus resources on large projects where the potential environmental impacts are the greatest.
In addition, Western Economic Diversification Canada will be launching the western innovation program, which is a new program that provides support to innovative small and medium-sized enterprises in western Canada.
This budget also places a renewed emphasis on cutting red tape and making it easier to do business in Alberta and the rest of Canada. Reducing red tape helps businesses to better compete; it represents a low-cost way to enable economic growth and to boost productivity as Canada emerges from the global recession.
That is why our government will propose new legislation to modernize and streamline its regulatory system.
In addition, economic action plan 2012 proposes $54 million over two years to continue to support effective project approvals through the major projects management office initiative, which has helped to transform and streamline the approval process for major natural resource projects.
Budget 2012's measures build on a strong foundation of investment and support for research and innovation in Edmonton, Alberta and all of Canada. For example, in May 2009, the Government of Canada committed $195 million to the Government of Alberta as part of Canada's economic action plan through the knowledge infrastructure program. These funds facilitated the enhancement of the science degree program at Grant MacEwan University with the building of new and renovated high quality science labs. They helped to build innovative facilities, like the Alternative Energy Centre at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and helped to upgrade the fume-hood exhaust systems in the chemistry and biological sciences building at the University of Alberta. These upgrades will improve the use and utility of high quality research space, ensuring that students and researchers have the best possible space to learn and conduct their work.
Since 2006, we have provided nearly $8 billion in new funding for initiatives to support science, technology and the growth of innovative firms. With economic action plan 2012, our government would continue to invest in research and innovation in Canada.
Budget 2012 proposes to invest $400 million to help increase private sector investments in early stage risk capital and to support the creation of large scale venture capital funds. Facebook, Google and Research in Motion were all at one time start-up companies financed by venture capital, and we want to help launch the next Canadian business success story.
The western innovation program is another proposal from budget 2012. Western Economic Diversification will soon launch this program to provide financial support to innovative small and medium-sized enterprises in western Canada. Budget 2012 also proposes further supporting advanced research at universities and other leading institutions. Our government plans to invest $500 million over five years to the Canada Foundation for Innovation to support new competitions, including the college industry innovation fund which we will begin funding in 2014.
These commitments demonstrate in concrete ways our government's commitment to following a new approach to supporting advancements in research and innovation by pursuing active, business-led initiatives that focus resources on better addressing the needs of the private sector.
However, we must remember what the lifeblood of our economic engine is. In the Alberta economy, as well as in the rest of Canada, our natural resources have given us a tremendously high quality of life.
These resources have also given jobs to hundreds of thousands of Canadians, which, in the current economic climate, is an extremely important asset. The oil sands in Alberta are merely one of myriad examples of natural resources that have helped to drive the Canadian economy forward with benefits to all provinces and territories.
In this global economy, we need to make full use of all of the assets at our disposal and, in this great country of ours, our natural resources are certainly one of those. In 2010, the natural resources sectors of our economy employed more than 760,000 Canadians in communities across the country. In the next 10 years, there will be more than 500 new major economic projects totalling $500 million in new investments. The oil sands industry currently employs over 130,000 Canadians and generates wealth that benefits the entire country.
A recent study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute estimates that, over the next 25 years, growth of the oil sands industry will support approximately 480,000 jobs and will add $2.3 trillion to Canada's gross domestic product. In addition to all of this, the increasing global demand for resources, particularly from emerging economies, will create new economic and job opportunities from which all Canadians will benefit.
However, our economy and our people will only benefit from these demands if investments are made by the most important driver in our economy and that is the private sector. We need the private sector, with all of its drive and innovation, to bring these natural resources to market.
Recently, however, those wanting to invest in our resources have faced an increasingly large and tangled web of bureaucratic rules and reviews before being able to bring these resources to market. Such obstacles can add costly delays, deter investors and undermine the economic viability of major projects.
In order to achieve the greatest value possible from our natural resources, Canada needs a regulatory system that reviews projects in a timely and transparent manner while at the same time effectively protecting our environment. We will adopt a balanced and responsible approach to protecting our environment that makes a significant tangible difference but does not transfer Canadian jobs overseas.
That is why in economic action plan 2012 our government proposes to streamline and modernize the review process for major economic projects. As part of our plan, major projects will have fixed timelines, panel reviews will be limited to 24 months, National Energy Board hearings will be limited to 18 months and standard environmental assessments will be held to 12 months in length. This will create clear, certain and predictable timelines for businesses that will lead to quality, well-paying and skilled jobs for Canadians. These measures will reduce duplication and burdensome regulations while focusing resources instead on large projects where the potential environmental impacts are the greatest.
These improvements to the regulatory and approval process will benefit Alberta’s economy and, therefore, Canada’s and will position us competitively for long-term growth and future prosperity.
Canada is a great nation and we are in an excellent fiscal position. Budget 2012 keeps us on track to balance the budget, keep taxes low and create jobs and economic prosperity in the long term.
Many governments around the world would envy this budget and, if they were in the economic position of Canada, they might be content to rest on their laurels. Not us, not this government. We will not rest. We will continue to work hard to ensure that Canadian businesses, the industrial and educational sectors, are pushing the envelope in each of their respective domains. We will continue to ensure they have the resources and the environment they need to succeed and create jobs, deliver products to market, develop the next cutting edge technological innovation or make revolutionary scientific discoveries.
We will keep working hard as if it all depended on us, and, frankly, it does. Through all of our work, we will keep in mind the model of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which clearly sums up our goals as a government and the economic circumstances we have come through in the past four years: per aspera ad astra, which means “through adversity to the stars”, and if our history and emergence from past adversities is any indication of our future prosperity, Canada's future is very bright indeed.