Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to discuss budget 2012 on this, our 2,298th day as the servants of our constituents.
In the 41st general election we all acknowledged that the economy was still the main issue for Canadians. Citizens decided to re-elect a government that had proven itself in this area, with a plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
It was also the first time in the history of parliamentary democracies that a government won an election following a deep recession. I voted against holding that unnecessary election. Those on the other side, who voted for the dissolution of the 40th Parliament, remind me of the turkeys who vote for an early Christmas.
The opposition knew about the global economic downturn, and they gambled that Canadians would punish this government for it. Governments are not always rewarded for good economic news, but they are always punished when a recession rears its ugly head.
Except this time. The more the opposition talk down Canada's economy, the more Canadians solidify their support for their government and for their Prime Minister. Canadians increased their support for this government not only in spite of our economic challenges, but because of them.
With more than $63 billion in targeted stimulus measures, the economic action plan has helped to protect Canada through the worst moments of the last global recession.
Canada has posted economic growth in nine of the last 10 quarters. Our great country has seen nearly 700,000 net new jobs created since July 2009, the strongest employment growth of all the G7 countries.
At the local level, nearly 33,000 jobs were created in Ottawa from October 2010 to March 2012, lowering the unemployment rate from 6.9% to 6.2%.
After the budget was tabled, The Wall Street Journal had the following to say in the April 3 edition: “Canada shows how mistakes can be reversed with sound policies”.
Canada's economic action plan 2012 is full of measures that will help Canada stay in the driver's seat of the world's economies.
The budget we are debating today strongly supports world-class innovation and research. This government believes in innovation. Two weeks ago, I was pleased to announce that nearly $1 million would be allocated for an IT professional mentoring program to encourage primary and secondary school students in Ottawa to take an interest in science and innovation.
This type of program is entirely consistent with this government’s philosophy and vision.
The people of Ottawa--Orléans know of my unfailing support for scientific research and development. In this budget the Minister of Finance has taken action on the Jenkins report and is investing $1.1 billion in direct support for R and D and $500 million in venture capital.
With my meticulous support, the government is committed to granting $110 million a year to the National Research Council to double support for small businesses through the NRC's industrial research assistance program. Improvements will be made to services offered to businesses by industrial technology advisers. I see this measure as a great opportunity for the NRC, located at the doorstep of Ottawa--Orléans.
Families are the heart and soul of Ottawa–Orléans. I regularly meet them when shopping on St. Joseph Boulevard, at mass at Divine Infant Church, and during the many community activities to which their servant is invited.
Families have not been overlooked in economic action plan 2012.
Under the budget, the registered disability savings plan will be improved to help guarantee long-term financial security for children with serious disabilities.
There are some 300 community organizations in Ottawa–Orléans. They will have access to $150 million for repairs and improvements to existing community facilities.
This government also wants to promote more active lifestyles, to improve funding for victims and to increase travellers' exemptions. That is not to mention the measures we have introduced since 2006, such as 140 tax breaks, including income tax cuts for taxpayers in the lowest brackets and many others.
These are all measures that will help families, the backbone of Canada.
With regard to families, the government has not forgotten seniors, who represent our country's memory. Health investments are one of the biggest priorities for the seniors I met this morning at the Roy Hobbs centre and at senior centres such as the Portobello Manor and the Royal Garden, which, by the way, was not named after me.
In 2012, federal support for the provinces and territories reached a record high, and it will continue to rise.
In 2012-13, Ontario will receive record support through major federal transfers, most of which are earmarked for health. These transfers will provide this province with $19.2 billion. This investment represents a 77% increase in transfers relative to those made by the previous government. Of that amount, Ontario will receive $3.2 billion from the equalization program, $11.4 billion through the Canada health transfer and $4.6 billion through the Canada social transfer.
With this major investment in health, Ontario no longer has to make painful choices.
Between 1965 and 1995, the federal contribution to health care was 50 cents on the dollar. In 1996 the previous government reduced this amount, in one fell swoop, to 14 cents on the dollar. The provincial government of the day had to close 44 hospitals in Ontario, including the Riverside and the Grace, and had to merge 14 others.
Only one hospital on the list of facilities targeted by those cutbacks just barely avoided the knife, Montfort Hospital, as a result of unprecedented mobilization by the francophone and francophile community of eastern Ontario.
Since this government came to power, health transfers have increased to 30 cents per dollar invested in health.
Of course, health is not the only concern for seniors. Since 2006 we have taken nearly 400,000 seniors off the tax rolls, at a time when the number of citizens in this age group is rising sharply. We have introduced pension income splitting and raised the age limit for converting RRSPs to registered retirement income funds from 69 to 71.
To the many measures taken since 2006, economic action plan 2012 has added the third quarter project, which will receive $6 million. This innovative online initiative is designed to help employers find experienced workers over 50 who want to stay active in the labour market.
Since the unemployment rate in Ottawa is relatively low, finding skilled employees can be a real a challenge for employers.
Budget 2012-13 offers improved flexibility and choice for older workers. Those wishing to work longer will be able to postpone payment of their old age security benefits starting in July 2013. Those who do so will receive a higher adjusted annual pension.
Eliminating the penny is another initiative that reflects the government's pragmatic approach. Last Friday, the Royal Canadian Mint struck its last penny. This initiative may seem trivial in a budget of $276 billion; my response is that this is proof of the serious approach the government has taken to managing public funds.
In his editorial of May 5, 2012, columnist Pierre Jury of Le Droit wrote that “cost-cutting on any scale is not wasted, and it was time to make this decision.”
Madam Speaker, how much time do I have left?