Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the budget implementation bill.
This budget and the act we are discussing today clearly reveal the government's overall plan and priorities. Today, I would like to highlight some of those priorities of particular relevance to B.C.: jobs and growth, resources, the environment, seniors' concerns, and health and fitness for all Canadians.
The recent budget reiterated that the government is committed to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Our government is committed to expanding avenues of trade while responsibly developing our natural resources. Our government is committed to all Canadians, to aboriginal peoples, families, seniors, youth, immigrants and entrepreneurs, from coast to coast to coast.
When Conservatives formed the government in 2006, the focus turned to the strengthening of the Canadian economy, creating employment opportunities and laying the foundations for sustained growth. As a result, our nation has weathered the storms of recession in the past few years better than virtually any developed, democratic country in the world. Many nations look to Canada as the model for creating and maintaining a high degree of financial security. The stable course was set years ago. The current act reflects our Prime Minister's firm, steady hand on the wheel for the next leg of the journey.
For the people of B.C., this budget means jobs. In the coming 12 months, the budget proposes to invest $67 million in B.C. for labour market training, part of the continuing commitment the government made to Canadians in 2008 to provide new funding every year.
In the riding I represent, the whole North Shore and hundreds of workers at Seaspan Marine Corporation welcomed the news that the company had won an $8 billion contract to build non-combat vessels for the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard. This budget supports such forward-thinking programs for continuous growth. Thanks to the act, those hundreds of workers at Seaspan will soon be joined by hundreds of more skilled tradespeople who will enjoy the guarantee of employment and the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution for many years to come.
Jobs do not materialize out of thin air. They come from plans such as those featured in this act, committed, targeted investments in post-secondary education for our youth, improving access to training for those with disabilities or people returning to the workforce, and adapting our immigration system to keep pace with the speed of business.
This budget lays out ways in which our economy may advance, unfettered by labour shortages or narrow business plans.
In the riding I represent, we appreciate innovative approaches such as the international education strategy receiving ongoing support after its introduction in the 2011 and 2012 budgets. This plan will benefit Quest University, Capilano University, Vancouver Island University and other schools to attract more international students and researchers, translating into a broader knowledge base necessary to compete in the world market.
The act reflects the priority of the government to expand Canada's trade potential by pursuing new markets worldwide. Having negotiated several trade agreements in a few short years, our government is committed to pursuing the Canada-Europe trade agreement which presents abundant opportunities to Canadian business.
We are also committed to the Pacific Rim, led by our dynamic Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway. We are increasing the flow of trade and investment traffic across the Pacific. The riding I represent includes a very active group of Canadians of Asian background, some of whom produced an extraordinary celebration of Asian New Year earlier this year. They highlight the importance of our government and our parliamentarians' relationships with Pacific Rim communities.
For British Columbians, one of the most important aspects of this act is the commitment to develop our abundant resources while maintaining a respectful balance between economic aspirations and environmental stewardship. With a proposed $54 million over two years towards the major projects management office initiative, significant natural resource projects will unfold with greater efficiency, providing the foundation for employment, not only at the primary but also at the secondary and tertiary levels of the economy.
This is good news for the fisheries advisory group in the riding I come from, where Dave Brown and the group work with me to protect and sustain our marvellous fisheries resource.
The act also puts emphasis on sustaining our environment. There is $35.7 million proposed over the next two years to further improve the safety regimen for oil tankers and pipelines, to support ongoing environmental studies and to better prepare for emergencies.
This act also proposes an additional $13.5 million over two years to support the work of the National Energy Board that we may further reduce any risk, with more oil and gas pipeline inspections, moving from 100 to 150 per year, and double the number of annual audits designed to discover and resolve potential issues before they become a concern for Canadians.
These unparalleled safety precautions for oil tankers were recently the subject of an excellent series by the North Shore Outlook, a community newspaper serving a region of the riding I represent. Outlook's in-depth coverage highlights the great importance of secure transportation for such resources, from both an economic perspective and an environmental perspective. This government's investment in safety reflects a sharing of that priority.
The riding I represent in B.C. is not unlike many others across Canada in that our people are aging as a demographic. Though we appreciate the beauty and wisdom of our seniors, our nation is coming to understand how this fact is affecting our economy, our health care system and our social fabric. That is why the budget and the act take a visionary, necessary step in a potentially controversial direction. The very gradual rise in the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 initially to 67 is a plan for long-term security. This slow and steady change to the OAS program takes some of the fear out of the future, because this change would mean we could enjoy financial support for generations to come. Some day our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren will thank us.
As the founder of the 2010 parliamentary fitness initiative, it literally does my heart good, as well as the hearts of millions of Canadians, to know that in this budget and act, our government continues to support important programs such as Participaction. In response to the budget, my friend and fitness advocate Rick Hansen said, “The Government of Canada has been a critical partner in my 25 year journey towards a healthier and more inclusive world, and we are extremely grateful for their continued support.”
Health and fitness experts from as far abroad as The New York Times, like writers Gretchen Reynolds, to North Shore News contributor Shaun Karp, all agree that daily physical activity improves our general level of health and reduces our chances of developing chronic or debilitating disease.
Ms. Reynolds in her recent book, The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer, encourages movement as opposed to exercise, any kind of movement, and she did not even know about the 2010 parliamentary fitness initiative. She stresses that the road to good health is not competitive, strenuous exercise. One does not need to run for miles or work out for hours. One simply needs to move, garden, stroll, take the stairs or park further away from the mall entrance.
For parliamentarians, we should take the opportunity to run or walk on Tuesday mornings and swim on Thursday mornings with our colleagues. In keeping with the government's encouragement of healthier living, I have created two special days here on the Hill. The Inaugural Bike Day on Parliament Hill will be held tomorrow, May 9, and National Life Jacket and Swim Day will occur the following Wednesday, May 16.
Beyond the Hill, the first ever National Health and Fitness Day will happen on the first Saturday in June, June 2. All 12 of the local governments in the riding I represent have resolved to mark National Health and Fitness Day by opening their municipal recreation and sports facilities for free or at a reduced cost to introduce first-time users to the opportunities in their midst and to foster healthier habits for long-term benefits.
Our very active Minister of State for Sport stated recently:
National Health and Fitness Day is a perfect opportunity to remind Canadians of all ages about the importance of physical activity and sport. Whether it's riding your bike, running around a track, or playing on a house league soccer team, the options for maintaining an active lifestyle are endless. As Minister of State for Sport, I encourage all Canadians to join in and celebrate this special day that highlights the importance of physical fitness and healthier, happier communities.
In the final analysis, that is what we are all about: a healthy economy, a healthy climate for jobs and growth, healthy international relationships with many free trade agreements under negotiation, and a healthy stewardship of our environment and our economy for this generation and generations to come. That is why I am proud to support this act. I look forward to the questions of my colleagues.