Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a privilege to speak with respect to the bill. I think it is important to note that it strikes the right balance with respect to supporting economic growth, job creation, restoring the balance and returning to a deficit reduction plan that would bring us to balance over a number of years.
The economic action plan is really a number of strategies, a number of steps that, taken together, would accomplish a couple of things. First, they would ensure that our economy continues to expand and jobs are preserved and continue to grow.
It is an opportunity for Canadians to enjoy economic prosperity at a time when the economies of the world are experiencing significant pressures and challenges.
The delay tactics on the part of the opposition, the rhetoric, the steps to try to delete all the clauses, are really not improving the legislation; rather they are just tactics to delay for the sake of delaying.
In addition to growing jobs, we can continue to grow our economy by ensuring a number of projects, mining projects, oil and gas recovery programs and indeed responsible resource development take place. When that happens, of course jobs are created and people have the opportunity to advance in their skills and training and to enjoy the economy that follows from that.
Many in the resource sector, including the Saskatchewan Mining Association and others, have concerns regarding the regulatory process for approval of new projects. If a project is delayed because of the regulatory process, needless to say there would be fewer jobs. Streamlining the process would speed up the process, eliminate duplication that results in a lot of time being consumed and of course a lot of money being spent. Overlapping between the provincial and the federal processes has cost both time and money.
Part 3 of the budget 2012 deals exclusively with responsible resource development and the government's plan to modernize Canada's regulatory system. The measures would make regulatory reviews for major projects more predictable and timely. It would reduce the regulatory burden, the duplication, while at the same time strengthening environmental protection.
Time limits are set for assessments. Co-operation with jurisdictions would be enabled through powers to delegate an environmental assessment, or part of it, the substitution of the process, to another jurisdiction or recognition of a provincial process as equivalent for a specific project.
Emerging markets around the world have provided Canada with a tremendous opportunity to responsibly develop our abundant natural resources for the benefit of all Canadians. Much of it is in the northern part of Canada. It is where we find many aboriginal people reside and where they need the employment, the skills training and upgrading.
In 2010 natural resource sectors employed more than 760,000 workers in communities throughout the country. In the next 10 years, more than 500 major economic projects representing over $500 billion in new investments are planned right across Canada. Fixed timelines would create certainty and predictability for business, which would lead to good, well-paying and skilled jobs for Canadians.
In order to ensure our economy continues to grow, we have to be sure we have the human resources. In my travels with the human resource committee, we found that there are labour shortages in high-demand occupations across the country in the skilled trades as well as labour shortages in the lower skilled positions, especially in the service industry, the food industry, the hotel and hospitality industry, in agriculture and aquaculture as well.
We need not only to increase the opportunities to develop our resources but also to ensure that we have the right human resources to meet the national demands of industry.
We have found in all regions of the country, Halifax, St. John's, Sydney, Vancouver, Fort McMurray and my home town of Estevan as well as Weyburn and other areas in Souris—Moose Mountain, that business is finding it difficult to meet their labour needs.
We can all agree that to the extent possible we need to ensure we start early in our schools to emphasize the skills and trades to our youth, to use the regional community colleges to adapt to industry and in partnership with industry, to do the proper programming and training to provide the individuals needed for the job.
There are other additional steps that can be taken, and this budget document does that. First, we have taken steps to improve the employment insurance program. It is one of the single largest labour market programs that we have, providing income replacement to help individuals and their families, as well as training and other labour market supports to help Canadians return to employment. By agreement with the provinces, $1.9 billion would be spent on skills training and upgrading to ensure that Canadians have the skills they need to advance in their positions and to have the jobs that are available. The budget has targeted common sense changes to the EI program to make it more efficient, a program that will promote job creation, remove disincentives to work, support unemployed Canadians and quickly connect Canadians to jobs.
If people are able to improve themselves by finding a job that provides more income than what they can receive on EI, that is, 90% of what they used to make, and is in line with their skills and abilities, then of course they should be able to take that particular job. It may be that if they advance they do not go back to their old job, but that is the nature of how the economy works.
Economic action plan 2012 also proposes $21 million over two years to connect unemployed Canadians with jobs. Matching workers with available jobs is critical to supporting economic growth and productivity. So if money is going to be spent on good labour market information, if we can provide information on what jobs are available and people are able to access them, everybody would win in that situation: the employer, the economy and the worker. The steps taken here certainly aim to ensure that the content and timeliness of job and labour market information provided to Canadians searching for work is up to date, informational and available to them.
Additionally, the steps would ensure that if people do take a job, they would be able to retain their working wage in addition to their EI to a greater extent than before. What this would do is ensure that those who wish to work can work.
Notwithstanding all of that, we find that with the economy going forward as it is, as a result of the steps we have taken in numerous budgets, people are drawn to higher-paying jobs in the mining industry or government sector and are upwardly mobile. That is a good thing.
Employers in the service industry, including in the fast food and hospitality industries, find they have a difficult time getting employees. So we have enhanced the temporary foreign worker program. We have taken steps in this budget to ensure that the process would be more efficient with less paperwork and be more responsive to employers so they can fill those needs. If businesses and communities want to grow, they expect the service industry to be in step with them. This budget would provide the ability to do that.
In addition, notwithstanding anything that is done, notwithstanding the improvements to the EI system and all of the other processes that try to ensure that our labour needs are met within the country, there are certain skill sets that are not met and must be met by immigration. Steps would be taken in this budget to ensure that immigration is streamlined and flexible and that we can get the skilled people that this country needs to grow, as quickly as possible. Any step we can take in that regard is a positive one. We would get the best skilled people who are out there to meet our demands.
In addition, we would take steps to deal with foreign credentials. When those people come to our country, it takes time to have their credentials recognized. We would enhance our programming and our funding to ensure that people in certain categories can have their credentials assessed within one year. We have expanded those categories twice now and would do so again under this particular budget to ensure that the process can happen quickly. We would ensure that there would be funding or loans provided to people so that they could enhance their skills quickly. Everybody would win by that. They would win by having a better job with higher pay, and we would win by the fact that they would be able to provide a service.
All of these steps are to be taken together and are strategic to ensure that our economy continues to go forward and work well, notwithstanding what is happening in the rest of the world. These are all positive actions. We should get behind them and support them.