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.