Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Durham and I are both veterans and I am delighted to be serving with him in the House now.
I am pleased for the opportunity to speak to our government's economic action plan 2013. I would like to thank the Minister of Finance for all of his hard work to present his eighth budget. Since 2006, he has presented budgets that have laid the foundation for creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for hard-working Canadian families. He is truly the best and most respected finance minister in the world.
When the global recession hit in 2009, our government acted quickly and took decisive steps to ensure our economic recovery. As a result, Canada created over 950,000 net new jobs since July 2009, which is the strongest job-creation record in the entire G7. Both the independent International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are projecting that Canada will have among the strongest growth in the G7 in years ahead. Canada even has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7. For the fifth straight year, the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system the soundest in the world. All the major credit rating agencies have affirmed Canada's rock solid triple A rating as well.
Canada's unemployment rate is at its lowest level in four years and it is significantly lower than that of the U.S., a phenomenon that has not been seen in nearly three decades. What a testament that is to the economic stewardship of the minister and this government. These past seven years have, indeed, belonged to Canada.
Economic action plan 2013 benefits all parts of the country, but I would like to highlight what this budget has in store for my riding of Etobicoke Centre.
Experts have continually pointed out that Canada faces a skills shortage. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has identified the skills shortages as the number one obstacle to the success of its members. Our government has acted decisively by taking bold, innovative action and introduced the Canada job grant.
The Canada job grant will transform skills training by providing up to $15,000 per person to help people get the skills they need for in-demand jobs. That $15,000 will be funded by the federal government up to $5,000, with matching funds from the provinces and employers making the job offers. Once fully implemented, this grant will help nearly 130,000 Canadians access training at eligible institutions, like community colleges and trade union training centres each year.
The Association of Canadian Community Colleges had only praise for this initiative and stated:
Federal commitments in Budget 2013 will encourage a reduction in barriers to Canada’s economic success, while maximizing the talents and advanced skills of Canadians.... ACCC congratulates the government for making investments designed to address Canada’s skills gap. Budget 2013 acknowledges the role colleges and institutes play in ensuring that Canadian industry is prepared with the technology and skilled employees necessary to compete in the global economy.
For the first time, the Canada job grant will take skills training choices out of the hands of the government and put them where they belong: in the hands of employers with unfilled jobs and Canadians who want to work. The new grant will result in one essential thing for unemployed or underemployed Canadians, a new and better job.
Another initiative included in the budget that will create jobs is creating opportunities for apprentices. This will support the use of apprentices in federal construction and maintenance contracts in Ontario. Construction season will soon be upon us and in full force. It is encouraging that our government has a plan for apprentices to get more hands-on experience.
Another component of getting hands-on experience is internships. In support of more internships for recent post-secondary graduates, we will invest $70 million and an additional 5,000 paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates in Ontario and across Canada. Recent graduates have spoken to me in my riding about this and our government has listened. Our finance minister has also consulted with high school students. These kids will all be graduates in the next five to six years and we are helping to shape the job environment for them today. We are not waiting.
In order to fill the skills gap that we face in our country, we need students to undertake education in high-demand fields, including the skilled trades, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Promoting education in high-demand fields aims to do just that. I am working hard to help people in my riding look for these opportunities for their future careers.
While it is important to get unemployed Canadians into the workforce, it is just as important to ensure that we support our seniors. They are the ones who helped build and make our country great. Our seniors have laid the foundations that we all tread upon today, strong and lasting foundations, and we owe them a debt of gratitude.
Since 2006, over $2.7 billion in annual tax relief has been provided to seniors and pensioners, including introducing pension income splitting; increasing the age credit amount by $2,000; doubling the pension income credit to $2,000; and increasing what GIS recipients can earn through employment without any reduction to their benefits from $500 to $3,500. A single pensioner, for example, earning $3,500 or more will now be able to keep up to an additional $1,500 in annual benefits. We have also increased the age limit for RRSP to RRIF from 69 to 71; established the landmark tax-free savings account, which is particularly beneficial for seniors; introduced the largest GIS increase over 25 years, which gave eligible low-income seniors additional benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples, helping more than 680,000 seniors across Canada, and, of course, removing 380,000 seniors from the tax rolls.
This government values our seniors. Etobicoke Centre has one of the highest populations of seniors in Canada. That is why economic action plan 2013 introduces new measures to improve the quality of life for Canadian seniors. That includes expanding tax relief for home care services to include personal care services for those, who due to age, infirmity or disability, require assistance at home; and better protecting seniors using financial services by working with banks and other financial institutions to ensure they develop and distribute clear information about powers of attorney and bank services targeted to the needs of seniors. We are also supporting palliative care services by providing the Pallium Foundation of Canada with $3 million over the next three years to support training for front-line health care providers; encouraging the timely implementation of pooled registered pension plans by working with the provinces to expand their availability across Canada; and assisting the construction and renovation of accessible community facilities by investing $15 million a year in the enabling accessibility fund.
This action would build upon our government's strong record of supporting Canada's seniors since taking office in 2006, and I believe that is an enviable record.
Economic action plan 2013 would take care of our veterans as well. These brave men and women have served our country valiantly and fought to defend the freedoms and the values that we as Canadians believe in. They deserve to be properly recognized. It pleases me greatly to see that this budget would enhance the funeral and burial program by simplifying it and more than doubling the current funeral services reimbursement rate, from $3,600 to $7,376. This would go a long way in helping ease the burden of funeral costs for families of veterans. We have heard these veterans, including those of us in the House with previous service. I am delighted that this issue has been addressed by our government. This government honours our veterans.
I would like to also bring to the attention of this House that economic action plan 2013 would include $8 million in funding for venerable Massey Hall to help support its restoration and revitalization. This is an important cultural institution in the heart of Toronto.
It is an exciting time for Toronto, as it gears up to host the Pan Am Games and the Parapan Am Games in July 2015. Our government has already invested significantly in these games, including renovations in the Etobicoke Olympian facility in my riding. I hope to see many youth be inspired by the athletes who attend those games.
Our government is making it easier for kids to get active and healthy. Economic action plan 2013 would eliminate tariffs on sporting goods and athletic equipment. By taking this action, our government fully expects wholesalers and distributors and retailers to pass these savings on to consumers.
The $33 billion building Canada plan launched by our government supported over 12,000 infrastructure projects across Canada. Economic action plan 2013 would continue to deliver, with a new building Canada plan. This would provide over $53 billion in predictable infrastructure funding for the next 10 years. This would be the largest and longest federal investment job in creating infrastructure in Canadian history.
I hope that the opposition will support creating jobs, support funding for infrastructure, support our seniors, support our veterans and support our students and apprentices getting practical hands-on experience.
This government is committed to balancing the budget in 2015. I call upon the members of the opposite side to support economic action plan 2013.