Madam Speaker, I am pleased and honoured to speak today to what I consider to be one of the most important budget documents, not only our country but for every citizen.
Canadians across the nation contribute so much during their lives. Moms and dads go to their jobs each and every day and yet still find the energy to raise healthy and happy families. We have seniors who have given so much to our communities and still do to this day. We have men and women in the armed forces who make tremendous sacrifices each and every day. In my riding, I have the Trenton Canadian Forces base and we have seen, sadly, the damage that can happen and the enormous sacrifices that are made on behalf of freedom. We all recognize that so many times over the years freedom is not free.
We have farmers who rise early every morning and who many times do not finish working until long after the sun goes down.
We have entrepreneurs, like our friends in the gallery here today, whose hopes, dreams and hard labour are invested in their shops and stores.
Canada is made up of hundreds of thousands of decent, honest people and a multitude of communities doing their best day after day. The one thing I believe they share is the belief that their hard work and dedication should be rewarded with a secure and worry free future.
There is an old African proverb that says, “For tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for today”. I think most people in this House from both sides would agree with that philosophy.
I am confident that Bill C-38 is the bill that addresses Canada's needs not only for today but, more important, for tomorrow and certainly over the long run.
However, we must recognize the reality that the world economy is still fragile, particularly in Europe and in the United States. I can assure members that we are not unaware of the dangers that this fragility poses. However, through measures that we have already taken, we can proudly say that we have helped to protect Canada from the worst of this global recession.
Prudently and proactively, from 2006 to 2008, our government paid down over $37 billion in debt. That brought our debt to its lowest level in a quarter of a century. Just under 700,000 jobs have been created since July 2009 in the workforce, which is the strongest job growth record in the G7. Canada's economy has expanded for nine of the last ten quarters. Our unemployment rate is well below that of the United States and that is the first time that has happened in more than three decades.
The World Economic Forum ranked Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world. There are nearly 200 countries in the world but we are ranked number one, which is most enviable. We have maintained that ranking for four consecutive years.
Forbes magazine ranked Canada number one in the world for opportunity and for businesses to locate, grow and create jobs. I think there is no doubt that Canada is in a strong and enviable position going forward.
It is crucial to understand what the budget would not do.
First, we are not raising taxes. I will quote John F. Kennedy from his annual budget message to Congress in 1963 where he said:
Lower rates of taxation will stimulate economic activity and so raise the levels of personal and corporate income as to yield within a few years an increased — not a reduced — flow of revenues to the federal government.
There is a clear consensus that higher taxes kill jobs and create less income. That is a reckless idea that only the opposition parties blissfully and blindly follow. Our policy of lower taxes has and will continue to make us more competitive and prosperous.
The second “not” is that we are not balancing our government's books by cutting transfers to seniors or other levels of government for health, education and social programs like the previous government. We will not balance our budget on the backs of the provinces and municipalities that would force taxes back onto the regular everyday taxpayers. There is only one taxpayer.
Regrettably, I only have a few minutes, so I will not have the opportunity to fully elaborate on all the things we are doing to strengthen the financial security of workers, businesses and families. However, I will take my remaining time to highlight just a few of the bold and significant steps we have taken in Bill C-38, which lays the foundation that focuses on the things that matter most to Canadians, increasing jobs and, certainly, maintaining economic growth.
How are we doing it? We are encouraging ownership, innovation and world-class research with over $1.1 billion in significant investments for research and development, over $500 million for venture capital, and support for increased public and private research collaborations. There are measures in this budget to improve conditions for business investments by continuing to keep taxes low, measures such as extending the hiring credit for small business for an additional year, and I can tell members that in much of rural Canada this is a most welcome initiative.
We are investing in training and infrastructure and opportunity for Canadians by investing in programs that will help our youth, our Canadians with disabilities, aboriginals and workers over 50 get back into the workforce. We are reforming the EI system to promote the creation of jobs and remove the disincentive to work.
We are helping families and communities by assisting victims of crime, with a clear focus on the victim. We are improving water quality for first nations communities, investing $150 million to support repairs and improvements to existing community facilities and, of course, improving the registered disability savings plan to help ensure the long-term security of children with severe disabilities.
We are looking ahead. We are ensuring that vital social programs and services are there for Canadians by making gradual and responsible adjustments to the old age security. I know a number of my colleagues on the other side bemoan our activities, but they are denying the facts. As an example, the average life expectancy of Canadians is on the rise. Baby boomers are already close to or at retirement. Meanwhile the birth rate has decreased. Clearly there are four working, taxpaying Canadians for every senior on a current basis. In 20 years, that will be down to two.
It has been estimated that the cost of old age security will grow by around $70 billion in just under 20 years, if we take no action. That is why preventive measures are imperative. Our government will work to protect the retirements of current and future seniors by increasing the eligibility age of OAS from 65 to 67.
We are being proactive, as the change will not come into effect until 2023, and even then it will be phased in gradually. Of course, Canadians currently 54 years of age or older as of March 31, 2012, will not be affected at all by this change. This is timely, considered and responsible action that is needed to sustain OAS for future generations of seniors.
We are also bringing pension plans for public sector employees and parliamentarians back into line with those of Canadians who work in the private sector. We are supporting our seniors by continuing to invest in the new horizons for seniors program. This is a program that supports projects led or inspired by the seniors themselves who make a difference in the lives of others and in their communities.
I know in my riding of Prince Edward—Hastings, from one end to the other, seniors have embraced these opportunities to stay engaged, to stay active and of course to stay healthy.
We are looking after our environment by investing, as just one example, $50 million alone for the protection of Canada's species at risk. We are creating more parks and new parks, the most ever in the history of our country. We are supporting the health of our lakes, by providing extended tax relief for clean energy generation equipment and, of course, by following through on our commitment to Cancun.
Economic action plan 2012 also demonstrates our government's strong support for my province of Ontario through record federal transfers, support for health care and education and other critical services. Totalling $19.5 billion in 2012-13, the transfer support represents an increase of nearly $8.4 billion or a 77% increase from the former Liberal government.
Yes, we are investing, but we are also saving. Our government's prudent plan to return to balanced budgets over the medium term is on track. Over the past two years, we have put in place targeted spending restraint measures and have reviewed government administrative and overhead costs. These actions have already delivered over $0.5 billion in new savings, which are ongoing.
This budget is a balanced approach, and it is the pattern that I have commented briefly on today for long-term success, success for seniors as well as future retirees.
It is clear that the government is planning for tomorrow, and we are doing it today.