House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was years.

Topics

(Return tabled)

Question No. 549Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

With regard to the Prime Minister’s trip to China that began February 7, 2012: (a) what staff and guests accompanied the Prime Minister and what were (i) their duties on the trip, (ii) the destinations they travelled to, (iii) the total expenses for each person; (b) for all meetings convened or attended by the Prime Minister or his staff and/or guests in connection with the trip, what were the (i) meeting dates and their purpose, (ii) meeting locations, (iii) meeting participants, including full name and position, (iv) costs associated with each meeting; (c) for each of the commitments and commercial deals signed or announced by the Prime Minister or his staff or guests during trip, including but not limited to the “very important deals and the billions of dollars of contracts we signed this week” (statement attributed to the Prime Minister in a Feb. 11, 2012, Globe and Mail article), (i) what is each commitment, agreement, or commercial deal, (ii) who are the specific parties of each commitment, agreement, or deal, (iii) what are the government’s obligations under them, (iv) what is the cost of each commitment, agreement, or deal, (v) by what approximate date (i.e., month/year) will the government fulfill each obligation, (vi) what are the estimated economic benefits to the Canadian economy; (d) what specific actions or negotiating positions were taken that concerned (i) issues of fundamental freedoms and human rights, (ii) the connection between trade and “fundamental national values” (statement by the Prime Minister at a February 10, 2012, business dinner hosted by the Chinese ambassador to Canada), (iii) issues such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of belief and worship; and (e) what information or evidence does the government possess in support of the Prime Minister’s statement about “foreign money and influence that seek to obstruct development in Canada in favour of energy imported from other, less stable parts of the world” (statement by the Prime Minister at a February 10, 2012, business dinner hosted by the Chinese ambassador to Canada)?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from May 8 consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am certainly proud to rise today in support of the budget 2012 implementation act tabled by the hon. Minister of Finance. This budget not only delivers strong results for today's economy; it holds sound promise for the future of all Canadians.

By identifying the economic challenges facing future generations, the government has developed a thorough plan to tackle these challenges and inspire hope in our young people.

Canada's economic action plan 2012 is a plan for jobs, growth and prosperity. It includes many important measures to expand our economy, and it preserves the quality of life for all Canadians.

According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities president Berry Vrbanovic, from my own city of Kitchener, Canada's municipal leaders welcome today's commitment by the federal government to continue working with cities and communities to rebuild the local roads, water systems, community centres and public transit that our families, businesses and economy depend on. Today's budget continues building a new infrastructure partnership that creates jobs and strengthens Canada's future economic foundations.

Let us take a look at some of the new initiatives introduced in this budget, which will deliver future prosperity for all Canadians.

One such measure recognizes the importance of a well-trained, highly educated workforce. In my riding of Kitchener Centre, I have had the opportunity to meet with plenty of youth who are attending our local institutions, Wilfrid Laurier, the University of Waterloo, Conestoga College and others.

In speaking with these bright young minds, I am constantly reminded of how essential it is that these individuals have jobs to look forward to on completing their education. This budget addresses their worries about finding suitable employment opportunities. It offers additional avenues for young people to train for careers in new and exciting fields.

The youth employment strategy began in 2011. It is a program created to reduce barriers to employment faced by some of our young people. It has helped to connect 70,000 young Canadians with job experience and valuable skills training. In particular, one of this program's streams, the skills link program, has had a significant impact in my riding, and I am pleased that our government has committed to deliver an additional $50 million over two years to further enhance the youth employment strategy.

In addition to tackling the challenges of an uncertain job market for young workers generally, we cannot neglect the difficulties disabled Canadians are also facing. Improving labour market opportunities for those living with challenges has always been a key agenda item for this government, and it remains so with this budget.

For example, economic action plan 2012 delivers $30 million over three years to the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities. I know that this fund has provided opportunities to people in my riding, connecting them with valuable work experience. We can never overlook the importance of integrating the skills and experience of every Canadian into our economy.

We should also commend the government for its commitment to helping to expand small businesses. In my riding of Kitchener Centre, I am consistently amazed by many small business owners and their willingness to find innovative ways of doing things. This progressive spirit confirms to me why small businesses can and will be prepared to compete in an increasingly competitive global economy.

To illustrate this government's commitment to small business, I will start by noting that budget 2012 extends the temporary hiring credit for small business by one year, an investment of $205 million. An investment like this not only reduces payroll costs but it helps small businesses to retain more of their earnings for expansion. It permits them to create new jobs.

Building on this dedication to expand small and medium-sized businesses, we have also proposed an additional $95 million over three years to make the Canadian innovation commercialization program permanent. This program has shown exceptional results. It connects small and medium-sized companies with federal departments and agencies. It builds their capacity.

In supporting programs like this, we are providing a solid foundation for these companies to compete in the marketplace. We position them to further create high-value jobs and long-term economic prosperity.

In addition to our commitment to building the private sector and helping small businesses, budget 2012 offers much more. In keeping with our promise to ensure prosperity for years to come, we have also upgraded our social programs to ensure future generations have a secure retirement to look forward to.

We have given more than 10 years' notice of a gradual increase in the age of eligibility for old age security, not starting until April 2023. We are also allowing for the voluntary deferral of the basic OAS for up to five years, starting July 1, 2013. These important changes would ensure that the cost of the old age supplement remains balanced and proportionate for many years to come. Moreover, following a triennial review by Canada's finance ministers of the Canada pension plan, we have confirmed that the plan will remain sustainable for at least the next 75 years, giving our young people an assured sense of future financial security.

By making responsible decisions like these, we are able to make considerable investments in skills training. We can support our science and technology sectors, creating an optimal environment for high-value jobs. As financial situations change, older business practices are continually being superseded at a rapid pace in a knowledge-based economy. Following an extensive review conducted by an expert panel in the fall of 2011, a number of recommendations were made on how the government could improve our support for innovative businesses. Canadian businesses spoke and the government listened.

We knew that we needed a new approach to directly support innovation in Canada, and this budget delivers. Economic action plan 2012 contributes $1.1 billion over five years for direct research and development support. It also makes $500 million available for venture capital. This funding would go toward research collaborations, new procurement opportunities and applied research financing. Innovation leads to success, and I have seen many examples of this in my riding of Kitchener Centre.

Of course, a driving premise behind this budget and every Conservative budget to date has been keeping taxes low so that hard-working Canadian families can continue to thrive in challenging global economic times. Unfortunately, our friends across the aisle still seem not to understand the importance of this low-tax agenda. They believe that raising taxes will somehow magically create prosperity. I cannot stress enough the savings this low-tax approach will deliver for Canadians.

Our government paid down more than $37 billion in debt between the years 2006 and 2008, before the global recession, and that maintained Canada's low net debt position throughout the recession. Even still, we were able to implement a remarkable stimulus phase included in Canada's economic action plan. Even in times of global economic fragility, the Canadian government is continuing to focus on the drivers of job creation and growth. Learning from the international landscape has shown us the importance of taking action now rather than delaying. We are prudent; we are far-sighted; we are planning for the future.

I am reminded of a comment made by one of Canada's great prime ministers, Wilfrid Laurier. “In 1908, Canada has become a star to which is directed the gaze of the whole civilized world. That is what we have done”, he declared. Today, more than 100 years later, we can once again say that Canada has become a star to which is directed the gaze of the whole civilized world. That is what the government has done with our economic action plan, and that work continues with this bill. I am proud to support a government that will continue to support and put a priority on a balanced budget and building a strong economy for all Canadians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, very deep down in the bowels of Bill C-38 is a clause that hardly anybody even noticed. It abolishes, it repeals the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act for federally regulated construction projects.

Why would anyone want to abolish something called the “fair wages and hours of work” act? I will tell the House why, and I would like my colleague's comments.

It is a striking coincidence that now, in federally regulated projects like pipelines, a contractor can now post a job as follows: “Wanted: carpenters, $10 an hour”. Nobody is going to apply. Now, by this legislation, it will be perfectly okay to do so, and working for 70 hours a week with no overtime will be perfectly okay. No Canadian is going to apply, but guess what? The government has opened the door for temporary foreign workers, with a 10-day waiting period. No fair contractor in this country will ever win another job, because the government has eliminated the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act by virtue of this legislation.

Does the hon. member think it is fair for a budget bill to eradicate and destabilize the entire construction industry by eliminating the fair wages act?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question and for keeping his language clean and his tone high. We always appreciate that when it occurs in the House.

I want to specifically thank the hon. member for raising the issue of construction, because it gives me an opportunity to tell the House what the Canadian Construction Association president, Michael Atkinson, had to say about this bill.

He said:

The reforms promised by the budget to the environmental assessment process and immigration will ensure the country is well placed to take advantage of the more than $500 billion in major economic projects expected in Canada over the next ten years.

I know the hon. member opposite is not that concerned about creating jobs and prosperity for Canadians, but the government is. That is why the construction association president is praising our budget.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Kitchener Centre spoke about the Conservative government's having paid down debt from 2006 to 2008, before the recession began.

I know why the hon. member said that. In 2006, the government inherited a budget that was in large surplus, which it had inherited from the previous Liberal government.

Why did the hon. member end his period in 2008? It is because his Conservative government put the federal budget into deficit. As he said, that was before the recession began.

It is funny how government members can spin facts to make them sound good, when what they really do is explain how the government has mismanaged the fiscal matters of this country.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comment, although it proves to me once again that there is sometimes a need for the opposition members to train themselves how to listen.

What I actually said was that we had paid down the debt before the recession, and that as a result, we were able to maintain our low net debt to GDP ratio through the recession.

I suppose we should be honoured that the hon. member thinks it is our government that caused the recession, but I have to ask him to go back and reread his history. He will see that it was actually a global economic phenomenon and that our government did not cause the recession and did not cause the deficit. It was necessary—

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but I would like to ask for a little bit of order in the House.

The hon. member for Kitchener Centre has the floor. If he would like to complete his comments, we will resume debate.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the fact of the matter is that Canada has come out of that recession more quickly and in a better and stronger position than any other member of the G7, and that is thanks to our government.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Madam Speaker, I want to ask my colleague his thoughts on how the NDP is handling this issue of the budget before Parliament.

What I have seen is that NDP members are asking for more time, yet they are frittering away the time they have with procedural tactics, as we saw yesterday. As well, one of their members ended up talking for 13 hours. In my books, that works out to about 50 time slots that NDP MPs could have used to actually debate the budget.

Could my colleague share his thoughts on that?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a very astute observation that the NDP members refuse to actually debate what is in the budget. All they want to talk about is process, and that is because what is in the budget is really beyond debate. It has been so well received across Canada that there is nothing they can say to criticize it.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, I am happy to add my voice to the debate on the omnibus budget implementation act, Bill C-38. The budget is being described as a Trojan Horse, and for good reason. It is yet another omnibus bill from a government that favours broad, sweeping legislation that defies appropriate scrutiny and oversight. It is another attempt to baffle Canadians with a huge bill that does too much.

To top it off, we have time allocation on it, which is no longer a surprise from a government that seems to consider closure as a normal feature of the parliamentary cycle. That is why we say it is a Trojan Horse, and it is on a fast track to boot.

However, as the official opposition we have given the government the opportunity to appear to be a little more democratic and have proposed a solution to make Bill C-38 better match the way that Parliament is supposed to work. In fact, New Democrats are really just calling for respect for Parliament and long-standing tradition when we say that the budget should be split into five separate, manageable pieces of legislation.

It is the right thing to do. At the very least, it would allow for proper scrutiny by this House and from the appropriate committees. Sadly, we know that the government feels the need to rush this bill past Canadian eyes and will not consent to the reasonable oversight that is the job of Parliament and parliamentarians. In that respect, we are not being allowed to do our job, and that is a shame.

Before I go any further, there is something I would like to address right away, and that is how the Conservatives apply their own logic to NDP decisions. I am sure there will come a day when the Conservatives will point out the few useful measures in this budget and criticize the NDP for not supporting them.

However, I would like to point out that we absolutely cannot support the budget because this is really an omnibus bill—and it is therefore impossible to study it thoroughly—and because blind environmental deregulation is the dominant theme.

I hope the Conservatives will remember this before they engage in their revisionist history, but I might as well believe in the goose that lays the golden eggs; there are so many other things that I would rather see and hope for. The NDP understands that this budget does not at all reflect Canadians' priorities.

New Democrats are listening, and we know that Canadians do not want their environment gutted in the name of economic expediency. Canadian families do not want regulations tossed aside because they are not convenient for big oil and foreign investors who only want to export Canada's resources with a minimum benefit to Canadians, but that is what the budget does.

Canadians do not believe there should be a time limit on processes designed to protect our environment. That speaks to a mindset that does not appreciate nature's delicate balance. I am reminded of the phrase “fools rush in”; those words are not the lyrics of a song, but an age-old maxim that speaks to the wisdom that time and perspective allow for. When we are dealing with things as sensitive as the great salmon and steelhead rivers that are part of the constituency represented by my friend the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, there can be no such thing as taking too much time to make the right decision, and I am sure that the majority of Canadians feel the same as we do in the official opposition feel.

New Democrats know that Canadians do not want to gamble with our children's future, but that is what a full one-third of this budget does.

New Democrats get it. They get it that Canadians do not want power concentrated more and more at the cabinet level, but that is what this budget would do by allowing the cabinet to overturn National Energy Board rulings that it does not like. These are not the priorities of Canadian families, who want their environment to be protected; they are the priorities of investment bankers, who want to win at any cost, and that is not the Canadian way.

We are being asked to gut environmental regulations and legislation that other Parliaments have carefully considered. We are being asked to undo years and decades of work in just one week of debate. How is that reasonable? It is not, and Canadians will not be fooled.

Over these past few weeks we have watched the Minister of Natural Resources rushing about, claiming that the sky will fall if Parliament does not fast-track the budget and that somehow our energy reserves—the ones that the government cannot get out of Canada quickly enough—will be cast aside as undesirable by big oil and international investors if we do not move fast.

However, that is not the case at all. The only thing that will happen if we do not swiftly gut our environmental regulations and rig the deck for big oil is that Canadians will pay attention to what the government is up to and rain down a chorus of disapproval.

It shows us how the government is worried that downloading federal environmental responsibilities and dumping those costs onto the provinces, territories and future generations will come under the watchful eye of most Canadians who actually care about the environment, and that what is left of their support will disappear.

The government is worried that anglers will figure out what is happening to the Fisheries Act and that cottagers and campers will start to wonder if their lake is next. I know this much: Canadians did not want protection of fish habitat removed from the Fisheries Act and replaced with market-based language. Canadians get it. They understand that fish live in ecosystems that are complex webs of food items and interdependencies.

This is knowledge shared by elementary school students who study basic science, but it is ignored by a government keen to remove all barriers to development so that it can please its friends who want to fast-track a pipeline through some of the most pristine parts of British Columbia.

It is a bit much to see the changes to the Fisheries Act. They came just days after I received an update from the Bright Lake Association celebrating the fact that the water in the lake was so pure that it could sustain a population of northern redhorse suckers, a fish that can be considered an indicator species for excellent waterway health, much like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Those suckers will not receive any protection under the amended Fisheries Act; the preoccupation of the act is now commercial and sport fisheries, not habitat and systems.

If we ask someone who fly-fishes about how fish habitat works, that person will tell us about bugs that grow under rocks and mate in trees. They will tell us about prey fish, like sculpin and stickleback, that will lose protection if the Fisheries Act is changed to discard the protection of fish habitat. The government claims it is only helping farmers who have been hamstrung by the Fisheries Act, but the government is not acknowledging that there are other ways to fix those problems. It claims it is stopping the Fisheries Act from protecting unnatural habitats; we know that the government knows all about unnatural waterways and fake lakes.

We also know that the government has spent more hard-earned tax money for self-promotion in the past few years than it has for protecting the Great Lakes. I and my colleague from Thunder Bay—Rainy River and many communities across northern Ontario know that the government has actually cut funding for the Lake Superior Binational Forum, and we are extremely concerned.

It had no end of cash to tell us what a great job it was doing to build that infamous fake lake. I say Great Lakes over fake lakes every time, and the government should get back to protecting fish habitat in Canada or the anglers of this country will be casting for something in the next election that the Conservatives will not like at all.

What is obvious is that the budget marks a crossroads in Canada. It attempts to put an end to publicly scrutinized development of resources and puts blind faith in private sector self-regulations and regulators. It marks the end of a national vision and the ascent of a mindset that sees Canada as a corporation.

We now have two very distinct political parties in Canada. One believes in science-based, carefully considered regulatory practices and reporting. It is a party that sees the benefit of careful consideration and long-term planning for our natural resources. It cherishes the treasure we have inherited and must carefully steward and ultimately deliver to future generations.

The other party wants to rig the deck for its corporate friends. It guts our environmental legislative and regulatory framework. It wraps itself in small, divisive issues, but it sets to work on great sweeping changes that cut to the heart of the Canada most of us cherish.

The Conservatives see only opportunity and blind themselves to negative outcomes while they deafen themselves to dissenting opinion. They have little regard for things like endangered species, and are well on the way to becoming as--

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I was pleased to hear my NDP colleague refer to the two approaches. She was clearly referring to the Liberal Party of Canada when she was talking about the party that stands for a thoughtful, careful science-based approach to resource development and environmental protection, because that is what the Liberal Party has shown over many generations.

My question for the member is on rural economic development. I am concerned about the budget of the Canadian Tourism Commission being cut 20%. The commission promotes tourism, which is important to our rural areas. The economic development agencies are being slashed, WED out west is losing $30 million and EI payroll taxes are going up.

Could my colleague comment on how the budget would impact small and medium-sized enterprises and tourism?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, I certainly was not referring to the Liberals. While the Liberals signed and ratified the Kyoto protocol, they did nothing to try to reduce our emissions until it was too late. They voted in favour of previous budgets, which began the Conservative government's work of unravelling environmental protection in Canada. They supported measures that rolled back navigable waters protection and weakened environmental assessment by exempting hundreds of projects. I certainly was not talking about them.

I am concerned with respect to the impact that this bill would have on small businesses and on the economy as a whole. The government is putting people out of work and it is telling us that its goal is jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. I do not know how it can do that.

I would add that we have a lot of concerns with respect to business, which is extremely important in northern Ontario especially.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, just for the purpose of historical accuracy, it should be noted that there were good climate plans put in place, although late in the day, by the previous Liberal government, that were cancelled by the current government.

My question for my colleague relates to the Fisheries Act. I am so thrilled to hear someone in the House talk about suckers and sculpins because they would not be protected by this new approach to fisheries.

The bill, probably unintentionally, would create an incentive for the mining industry to drain a lake, remove all the fish, destroy the habitat and to then have a dry hole into which it can place tailings rather than go through an approval process to add tailings to an existing lake. That is the kind of bad consequence that happens from a rushed piece of legislation.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, coming from Elliot Lake, I know a lot about tailings.

I will elaborate a bit more on the impact this would have on some of our communities. I have an email from Ian Ross in Elliot Lake with regard to the end of local weather reporting in that community. Mr. Ross told me that he was concerned on a personal level because it was convenient to know what the local conditions were. Now the planes landing in Elliot Lake, which bring workers to Elliot Lake at times, will not know what the weather is like there for them to land. That is extremely concerning. This is another way of seeing how the government's actions are negatively impacting our communities.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, in my opinion, the budget that was presented has a very short-term vision, despite its size. For instance, in terms of the environment, would my colleague agree that this short-term vision will be even more costly in the future?

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, absolutely; we are very concerned about this. I touched on that in my speech. These changes will definitely have a huge impact on future generations. I do not know what they plan to leave for future generations, but we certainly do not want to see it, because we know what is going to happen.

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2012 / 10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Madam Speaker, in advance of March's budget, I had the opportunity earlier this year to discuss creating job opportunities and economic growth in Canada with a wide variety of stakeholders in my riding of Barrie, Ontario. Included in these consultations were a number senior staff in the city of Barrie: cultural leaders, such as real estate brokers, hospital administrators, health care professionals, YMCA executives, outreach staff members, seniors issues advocates, faith leaders, lawyers, tourism representatives, grassroots media and business people from a wide variety of areas, including manufacturing, financial services, transportation, construction and home heating.

Each of those participants provided insightful contributions from different aspects of our city. Many shared the same concerns as all Canadians: ensuring good jobs are available, keeping taxes low, investing in long-term growth and ensuring sustainability for generations of retirees.

With over $63 billion in targeted stimulus, Canada's economic action plan helped protect Canada from the worst of the global recession and the city of Barrie had tremendous support from the federal government during these tough times.

Through the steady leadership of our Prime Minister and our Minister of Finance, we have seen Canada's economy expand for nine of the last ten quarters. We have seen Canada create close to 700,000 net new jobs just since July 2009. Canada's unemployment rate is significantly lower than that of the U.S., a phenomenon that has not been seen in nearly three decades.

Overall, since we have formed government in 2006, over 1.2 million net new jobs have been created. Even better, Canada has had, by far, the best rate of job growth in the entire G7 since 2006.

Canada has the lowest overall tax rate and new business investment in the G7. Our net debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G7 by far and we have the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7. Both the independent International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, forecast that Canada will be ahead of the pack for economic growth in the G7 for the years ahead.

I am particularly proud to say that Canada has maintained its AAA credit rating through the period of economic downturn and uncertainty, something that has rocked nations from around the world.

However, the global recovery remains fragile, especially in Europe and the United States, and too many Canadians are still looking for work. That is why I am so pleased to see that budget 2012 is clearly focused on jobs, economic growth and ensuring Canada's economic advantage remains strong today and into the long term.

One of the most important exercises in ensuring future success is for us to return to balanced budgets. Before the global recession hit, our Conservative government paid down over $37 billion of debt, bringing Canada's debt to its lowest level in an astonishing 25 years. Our fiscal responsibility and aggressive debt reduction plan placed Canada in the best possible position to weather the global recession when the global recession hit. We made a deliberate decision to run a temporary deficit to protect our economy and jobs, and all parties in Parliament agreed.

Reducing debt frees up tax dollars that would otherwise be used to cover interest costs, keep interest rates low and, most important, ensure lower taxes for Canadian families.

Our plan to get back to balanced budgets is working. In the past two years we have already cut the deficit in half.

In 2010, we started down the road to balanced budgets by winding down temporary stimulus spending, putting into place targeted spending restraint measures and reviewing government administrative and overhead costs. In 2011, we continued to return to balanced budgets by delivering over half a billion dollars in new ongoing savings.

In 2012, we are building on our existing efforts by refocussing government, making it easier to deal with and streamlining back-office administration to achieve $5.2 billion in ongoing savings for taxpayers. Almost 70% of the savings will come from eliminating waste in internal operations of government, making it leaner and more efficient. These modest savings, less than 2% of federal program spending, will help ensure that Canada returns to balance over the medium term, while also respecting taxpayer dollars.

Unlike what other parties in the House would do if they had the chance, our Conservative government will not raise taxes and, unlike the former Liberal government, we will not slash health, education and support for seniors through provincial transfers.

Economic action plan 2012 demonstrates our Conservative government's strong support for my home province of Ontario through record federal transfer support for hospitals, schools and other critical services. Totalling $19.2 billion in the 2012-13 fiscal year, the transfer support represents an increase of nearly $8.4 billion, or 77%, since the former Liberal government was removed from office by the voters of Canada. We are continuing the long-term stable funding arrangement with the provinces for health care social services that will see transfers reach historic levels of $40 billion by the end of the decade.

As indicated by the recent Canadian Institutes of Health Research information data, federal transfers are projected to grow faster than average provincial spending in health care. We are leading in health care investment.

Federal support for health care will keep growing every year beyond the record levels the federal government already invested since 2006 and in a way that is both predictable and, most important, sustainable. This will help ensure Canada's health care system, including doctors and nurses, will be there when Canadians and their families need them most. This is very good news for all Canadians.

Balancing the budget and reducing debt interest costs help keep interest rates low and instills confidence in the Canadian economy, allowing families and businesses to plan for the future. It will also ensure sustainability of Canada's social programs, like health care, for future generations. I applaud our Minister of Finance for the responsible, realistic and common sense approach contained in this budget.

Another key area of prudent fiscal management is to stop unnecessary spending. There is probably no better example of this than the elimination of the penny. By stopping the production of the penny this fall, our government will do what should have been done years ago. An independent study estimated that the economic cost of maintaining the penny amounted to $150 million. The penny has lost its purchasing power over the years and now most are hoarded, resulting in a useless expense for Canadian taxpayers. In fact, taxpayers pay 1.6¢ for each new penny made. This costs taxpayers $11 million every year.

After hearing strong support from consumers, retailers and small businesses, a recent public study by the Senate committee recommended the elimination of the penny. I am pleased to tell Canadians that this government absolutely concurs. Eliminating the penny is a lot like the penny itself. Producing pennies may not seem like much in the context of the entirety of the federal budget, but every penny makes a difference. However small things may seem, they can certainly add up to something significant over time. Former U.S. president Ronald Reagan once said that government was the people's business and that every man, woman and child becomes a shareholder with the very first penny of tax paid. We have a responsibility to our Canadian shareholders. No amount of cost is insignificant, no amount of waste is acceptable.

Canadian families deserve the cleanest air, water and environment possible. That is why, since 2006, our Conservative government has made major investments to preserve our environment and to protect the health and well-being of Canadian families for today and tomorrow. Economic action plan 2012 builds on our Conservative government's impressive record for supporting a cleaner and more sustainable environment. The budget proposes $50 million over two years for the protection of wildlife species at risk. The Species at Risk Act is one of the government's main conservation tools to protect wildlife species, maintain healthy ecosystems and preserve Canada's natural heritage.

We are also committing to the creation of a new near-urban national park in Rouge Valley, Ontario, only 40 minutes south of beautiful Barrie, Ontario. I am particularly pleased with our commitment to the continued support of Canada's lakes, including Lake Winnipeg and Lake Simcoe. In 2008, the federal government's unprecedented $30 million funding for the Lake Simcoe cleanup was an extremely welcomed initiative for the residents of Simcoe county and Barrie. To see included in this year's budget a commitment to continue the cleanup of Lake Winnipeg and Lake Simcoe is a wonderful thing.

The cleanup of the lake has had dramatic effects. For four decades, phosphorous levels have gone up. High phosphorous levels mean a reduction of marine habitat. It means excessive weed growth. For the last four years, because of this federal funding, we have seen the lake become cleaner. We have seen phosphorous go down for the first time. It is a remarkable achievement in cleaning up our lake.

We are improving conditions for businesses, for environment and for Canadian families.

I want to commend the Minister of Finance for a prudent, responsible budget that I believe protects and enhances the best interests of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.