Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak in the House today in support of the government’s economic action plan 2012.
It is an excellent budget that keeps taxes low, creates jobs and ensures growth and long-term prosperity. It is a solid plan that will help my constituents to benefit from a firm economic foundation for Canada and to prosper from low tax and deficit eliminating policies that will benefit our country.
What are we trying to accomplish through our budget? We are focusing on strengthening our Canadian economy, on creating jobs, on streamlining government operations and on ending wasteful spending in order to move Canada to balanced budgets, all without raising taxes and without cutting important transfers to the provinces. I simply must emphasize that we are the only party in the House that advocates for lower taxes and that defends lower taxes.
The economic action plan is important for Canadians, as it is for the people of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell who gave the government a clear mandate to focus on the important issues: jobs and economic growth.
I have assured the people of my constituency that our strong, stable Conservative majority government will not rest until it has led Canada onto the road to certain economic prosperity, and when that has been done, there will still be much more to do.
I therefore hope that the NDP members will join me in supporting the budget this year, a budget that, I have to say, Canadians are satisfied with.
In terms of specifics, our economic budget is one that will bring back the hiring credit for small business. I know how important that is to the business owners in my riding. This hiring credit will help them create jobs and hire new employees, skilled people who will move their businesses to increased prosperity. This and other job creation initiatives will allow businesses to take advantage of economic and market opportunities when they present themselves. Our latest budget extends this valuable hiring credit for another year.
It is also heartening to see the return of the youth employment strategy in this year's budget. This program, which enables businesses to hire skilled youth over the summer, will allow our youth access to mentorship in their own communities, and the skills they help develop within our youth will have long-lasting value.
It is clear to me that federal employment initiatives like this one produce good results in the communities and benefit both students and businesses.
The government will also make a generous $30 million investment over three years in the opportunities fund and will create a special group on job opportunities for persons with disabilities.
These are excellent employment strategies and, again, they will contribute to job creation. These strategies will ensure that persons with disabilities, who sometimes have considerable difficulty finding jobs, will not be left by the wayside.
Our economic action plan does not end here. In fact, there is more.
For example, we have studied employment insurance carefully and we are committed to improving this program so that it better serves Canadians. Our budget, therefore, includes important measures to connect unemployed Canadians with available jobs without penalizing them.
Our economic action plan 2012 proposes introducing a new national working while on claim EI pilot project. It is my hope that my colleagues within the opposition parties will have a careful look at this initiative. The proposed initiatives would remove disincentives to work by ensuring that EI claimants benefit from available work, particularly part-time employment, and are not penalized by EI as they seek a full-time position.
I would like to make a few comments on agriculture as agriculture is a crucial sector for my riding and accounts for approximately two million jobs nationwide.
Our budget continues to focus on establishing and strengthening the right conditions for farmers to succeed, and our farmers are succeeding. Agriculture contributes enormously to our country's economy, with nearly $35.5 billion in exports, which makes Canada the world's fifth largest exporter of agriculture and food products.
To be prosperous, farmers have to have access to the resources they need to remain competitive and meet the increased needs and demands placed on them. Our budget demonstrates our ongoing objective of helping farmers to penetrate foreign markets.
Under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the government has achieved significant victories in this regard, as witnessed by our agriculture sector, which is more vigorous and dynamic as a result of exporting top quality Canadian products around the world.
We have put in place nine free trade agreements already, and we are working on many more. In addition, we are opening markets for our Canadian beef, pork, canola, pulse crops, wheat and the list goes on. Our efforts and our successes have been well recognized by the agricultural sector, by industry and by our opposition colleagues themselves.
Our economic action plan states clearly that we will continue our work to expand market opportunities for our farmers. We will continue to work on their behalf to ensure that people in other countries have access to our high-quality Canadian food.
I would like to say a few words about food safety. Canadians know that the government takes this issue seriously and that here in Canada, food is safe. I know that my opposition colleagues are concerned about food safety. In fact, in both the House and committee, I have heard opposition members ask questions that would suggest that funding for this has been reduced.
I have good news for my opposition colleagues, news that will ensure they do indeed vote for our budget implementation act. The news is that this year's budget includes an additional $51 million for food safety initiatives. I saw some opposition eyebrows raise when I said this, but I invite opposition members to read page 168 of the budget.
I know they secretly support this great initiative, and I would say to them that even if there is not one other thing they can support in this budget, at least vote in favour of increased funding for food safety. It is the right thing to do.
I just do not know how they could possibly vote against food safety, but they will likely find a way.
I know what you are thinking, Mr. Speaker: “Do not despair, have courage; it is increased funding for food safety, which is what they have been asking for”, but let us remember that in the last budget, we increased funding for food safety by $100 million. However, the Liberal and NDP MPs all voted against it. They asked for increased funding for food safety and we gave them increased funding for food safety, but they still voted against it.
Despite this pattern, it is my hope that the opposition will indeed vote in favour of this budget.
Canadians have long awaited the tabling of our economic action plan, and since the budget was tabled it has become apparent that Canadians like our budget and that they support our budget.
Our economic action plan focuses on what is most important to Canadians in these difficult economic times: strengthening our economy, creating new jobs, reducing government expenditures, eliminating waste and eliminating our deficit, all without raising taxes.
I listen to Canadians, as do my Conservative colleagues, and we will be voting for this budget. I sincerely hope that the opposition members, and particularly the New Democrats and Liberals, will also listen to Canadians and vote for this budget, as Canadians want them to do.