Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to stand and enter this debate today on Bill C-38. It is a budget implementation act. I appreciate there is a lot of engagement around the House today from members opposite and members on this side of the House. As all members will recall, budget 2012 was tabled on March 29. It launches the next phase of our economic action plan.
The budget was applauded by economists from coast to coast. The member for Markham—Unionville just spoke. As he is a former economist, I was waiting for him to echo some of the economists across Canada, representing the major banks, who applauded the budget.
There is a reason that economists from across the country have applauded our measures in the budget. All over the world, nations are reeling from the chaos of a worldwide economic meltdown that struck in 2008 and worsened through 2009. Even this week, we saw major changes in two countries in Europe. With France and Greece reorganizing new governments and new leaders, political fallout is taking a toll on social stability.
By contrast, Canada has been shaken, but remains stable. The World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Fund, Moody's and Forbes magazine have all applauded Canada's economic performance and predict we are positioned to lead world economies in the next years. The reason economists have embraced our budget is because they recognize the choices made in our economic action plan that keep Canada moving in the right direction.
Phase two of the economic action plan is a plan for jobs, for growth and for long-term prosperity. Budget 2012 takes important steps to address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities of a global economy while ensuring sustainable social programs and sound public finances for future generations. The budget contains reforms that are substantial. They are responsible and they are necessary. They are reforms that will ensure that across government we are focused on sustaining Canada's long-term economic growth.
Just as we did in the first phase of Canada's economic action plan, the focus of this budget is on boosting economic growth and job creation. It is on stimulating innovation, investment, education and skills. Let me just list, in broad strokes, the major initiatives in Bill C-38.
The initiatives would be making major investments of over $1 billion to support science and technology; providing $500 million to spur growth of innovative start-up companies; ensuring responsible resource development by moving to one project one review, with a clearly defined time period for major economic projects while continuing to protect the environment; opening new markets and expanding international trade, bringing Canadian goods to the world; extending the hiring credit for small business for one more year to make it more attractive for small business to grow and to hire more workers; providing $150 million over two years for the new community infrastructure improvement fund; providing $5.2 billion over 11 years to renew the Canadian Coast Guard. That is something that is going to impact communities on both coasts of this great country and in the north. It is essential, and it will serve our communities for many years to come.
We would be focusing on employment insurance and promoting job creation by removing disincentives to work and supporting unemployed Canadians by connecting them more quickly to jobs. We would be providing $275 million over three years to support first nations education and to build and renovate schools on reserve. The measures over the last couple of years, which this initiative builds on, have made a huge difference in first nations in coastal B.C.
I mentioned earlier in a question and comment about a new school in Ahousaht. Some 800 people live in that community with only boat access. The new school is a huge asset in that community and it is going to impact education, which is a priority for the national chief. The Chief of the Assembly of First Nations is from the coast of British Columbia. In addition to that on reserve, some $330 million would be going into upgrading water systems on reserve. It is extremely important for our remote, rural communities.
We would be building a fast and flexible economic immigration system to track immigrants with the skills and experience our economy needs. Our Minister of Immigration has been doing a major overhaul to make sure we attract the kinds of immigrants who are going to contribute to long-term prosperity in Canada, not only for their own families, but for our Canadian economy at the same time.
If we pause and take a look back, it is helpful to remember that after forming government in 2006, this government paid down nearly $40 billion on our national debt.
That positioned us well, inasmuch as in the ensuing recession period we had to run a deficit to provide the much-needed economic stimulus and keep people working.
The economic action plan launched a massive infrastructure investment plan. Yes, we hired more federal employees to ensure the money was well administered and went to projects that would position Canada well, creating economic opportunities that are having a positive impact right now across Canada from coast to coast.
We also launched a work-sharing program. We expanded EI benefits. We launched retraining programs for displaced workers and invested big time in education and science infrastructure. That was through the knowledge infrastructure program. All of this was to keep people working and to prepare for tomorrow's jobs.
The net result of prudent planning is that Canada has emerged as one of the top-performing industrialized countries.
Since the peak of the recession in July 2009, our economy has seen almost 700,000 new jobs, and most of those are full time. Canada is the only G7 country that has come out of the recession with more jobs than we had when we went into it.
Keeping taxes low for Canadians has been a key policy for this government. Since 2006, we have reduced the tax burden of Canadians through some 140 measures. As a result, the average Canadian family of four saves about $3,100 each and every year.
The budget contains measures to create employment. Included are a $1,000 hiring credit for small business and incentives for apprentices of up to $4,000 for tools, tuition and travel expenses. That would be for the Red Seal trades. Improvements to EI and the temporary foreign workers program would help connect Canadians with available jobs, including those seniors who are willing and able to work and who wish to continue working.
I made reference earlier to mega-investments in science, technology and innovation through granting agencies such as Genome Canada and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. In addition, there is $105 million to fund innovation in the forestry sector, which is extremely important to generate value-added production, something that we are very interested in, in coastal British Columbia. Investments in the Coast Guard fleet and helicopter renewal valued at $5.2 billion will be of benefit to coastal communities.
There are huge investments to help improve the living conditions and opportunities for vulnerable people in remote settings. I mentioned the water systems on reserve, but there are big investments in education on reserve. That $275 million across the nation is going to make a difference.
In order to ensure the sustainability of old age security, the age of eligibility would be gradually raised to 67, starting in 2023 and fully implemented in 2029.
In two decades, the number of retirees will double and costs will triple. Meanwhile, by 2030, if the system is unchanged, the number of taxpayers for every senior will be down to two from, currently, about four. In 2010 there were four; when the program was initiated, there were seven.
We have ensured that the changes are made with substantial notice and with an adjustment period. They would not affect current retirees or those close to retirement and would give others plenty of time to adjust to the changes and plan for their retirement.
Overall, in British Columbia we would benefit from $5.6 billion in health, education and social transfers, fulfilling our promise to balance the federal budget without cutting transfers to the provinces.
The budget is focused on jobs and long-term prosperity. As with the previous phase of the economic action plan, it addresses the changing worldwide economic situation and is designed to keep Canada competitive for the benefit of all Canadians.
Let me quote from the president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Berry Vrbanovic. He said:
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, business and economy depend on.
He goes on to say that:
Today's budget continues building a new infrastructure partnership that creates jobs and strengthens Canada's future economic foundations.
Of course, I know that our municipalities in coastal B.C. are very appreciative of that gas tax fund, the $2 billion fund that we increased even during tough economic times. Our great finance minister extended that gas tax fund to $2 billion to ensure municipalities have the funds to move ahead with important projects.