Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the people of Red Deer to speak to the federal budget for the next fiscal year. I will be splitting my time with the great member for Newmarket—Aurora.
I offer my congratulations and appreciation to the Minister of Finance and the officials at the Department of Finance for their continued hard work managing Canada's fiscal policy.
I would also like to thank the minister for consulting with Canadians and giving us the opportunity to submit the recommendations of our constituents directly to his office. I am pleased to see that suggestions from the people of Red Deer, which I forwarded to the Minister of Finance, have been heard and included in this budget. I invited constituents to submit their recommendations directly to my office. I also held round table meetings with business owners and operators in my riding. One of the main points that I heard from multiple constituents was the need for a long-term vision for public infrastructure that allows planning at the local level.
Red Deer is one of the fastest growing cities. It is a hub of economic activity and has seen a significant and rapid increase in population over the past decade. This is great for the Red Deer economy but it puts a strain on public infrastructure.
We will remember that in budget 2011, the government indicated that it would develop a new plan to support public infrastructure that would extend beyond the support that we have for the expiry of the 2007 building Canada plan. This was to take place in 2014. We have now come to that point and the government is delivering on its promise with a new building Canada plan beginning next year.
The new building Canada plan responds to the infrastructure needs of our communities and represents the largest investment in job-creating infrastructure in the history of Canada. Investments in Canada's public infrastructure create jobs and economic growth and provide a high quality of life for families in every city and community across the country. Canada's prosperity is supported by a vast and complex network of highways and roads, water and waste water infrastructure, transit systems and recreational and cultural facilities. This network reaches into every community and touches every Canadian.
In central Alberta we have seen the results of this government's investments and its co-operation with the governments of Alberta and its municipalities. The strain on our public infrastructure has been eased with projects such as the Highway 11A interchange, the resurfacing of Highway 2 from Highway 2A to Bowden and the resurfacing of the Cottonwood Road and Range Road 270.
In Red Deer we have upgraded the city's traffic signal control system, the Red Deer water treatment plant and the Red Deer College campus. We have upgrades to the Benalto and Lousana's waste water storage and treatment facilities, the construction of the Penhold Regional Multiplex, the new Innisfail Public Library and the full replacement of the street curbing and all underground municipal infrastructure for 23rd Street and Westview Crescent in Bowden.
These are just some of the results in my riding of this government's commitment to infrastructure investments. We look forward to more co-operation with the Alberta government and our municipalities under the new building Canada plan.
Another recurring component of my consultations with constituents continues to be taxes, whether personal income taxes, the GST or business taxes. My constituents have expressed appreciation for this government's commitment to find savings within the federal government in order to manage the country's deficit rather than raising taxes on hard-working Canadians.
We know that business taxes have a significant effect on job creation. A competitive tax regime attracts businesses, increases investment in the Canadian economy and creates Canadian jobs.
The temporary hiring credit for small businesses has been well received in my riding. I heard many times through my consultations with small business owners that it was something that employers felt should be continued. I am pleased that economic action plan 2013 proposed to expand and extend the temporary hiring credit for small businesses for one more year. What I have heard from small business owners in central Alberta is that this allows them to grow their operations and hire more workers.
The result of our government's broad-based tax reductions are jobs, plain and simple. We have created an environment where businesses can hire employees. We are proud to say that Canada now boasts the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7.
The biggest challenge facing employers in Canada is no longer crippling taxes but a shortage of skilled tradespeople, and this is especially evident in Alberta. We recognize the importance of apprentices to Canada's economy and the benefits of providing financial support to tradespeople and the employers that hire them.
Our previous budgets have offered unprecedented support to the trades with the apprenticeship incentive grant, the apprenticeship completion grant, the tradesperson's tools deduction, the apprenticeship job creation tax credit and the extension of the tuition tax credit for occupational exam fees. There has never been a better time for Canadians to learn a skilled trade. The job market is thriving and support from this government is unwavering for Canadians, whether they are continuing to refine their skills and further their careers or they are looking to get into the exciting field of trades.
Economic action plan 2013 delivers our support for skilled trades. We want to reduce barriers to accreditation in the skilled trades and to do this we have committed funding to harmonize requirements for apprentices and to examine the methods of assessment in targeted skilled trades. This will ensure that more apprentices complete their training and it will encourage mobility.
In addition, we are changing our approach to procurement by introducing measures to support the use of apprentices in federal construction and maintenance contracts. The government will ensure that funds transferred to provinces and territories support the use of apprentices in infrastructure projects receiving federal funding.
We are introducing the Canada job grant, which will help Canadians get the skills they need for in-demand jobs.
I have experience in the registered apprenticeship program in Alberta. I was a work experience coordinator and saw first-hand the benefits of supporting apprentices. It is a labour sector that requires an integrated approach to education and job placement with on-the-job training. I am proud to be part of a government that is supporting apprentices and addressing the labour shortage of skilled tradespeople. Our approach is a win-win solution for workers, employers and the economy as a whole.
Our government also recognizes the contributions that people with disabilities make to our economy, work that provides them with a sense of dignity and independence. Last year, we announced the panel on labour market opportunities to identify private sector successes and best practices with regard to the labour market participation of persons with disabilities.
The panel consulted widely with Canadian firms of all sizes in a broad range of sectors across the country. In its report released in January of this year, “Rethinking disAbility in the private sector”, we found that many Canadians continue to have challenges regarding gainful employment. We are committed to working with provincial and territorial governments, employers and disability organizations to connect Canadians with available jobs.
In economic action plan 2013 the government has committed to introduce a new generation of labour market agreements for persons with disabilities by 2014 with an investment of $222 million per year. The reformed agreements will be designed to better meet the employment needs of Canadian businesses and to improve employment prospects.
We will also maintain the ongoing funding of $40 million per year for the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities and provide additional funding for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to support research relating to labour market participation. We believe that Canadians with disabilities have skills and we are committed to improving their employment possibilities.
As a former high school teacher I know that it is important for all Canadians to have access to information on a variety of careers in order to make informed choices about their education early in life. Good choices early on can help to ensure that young Canadians obtain the skills and experience necessary to avoid unnecessary debt and to get a better start to their careers.
We want to communicate with young Canadians and provide them with the information they need to know which occupations are in high demand. We will promote education in high demand fields, including the skilled trades, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We also know that the transition to a first job can be challenging, so this budget provides funding for an extra 5,000 paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates.
It is no surprise that this government's support for education has received praise from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. I was in Olds College on the weekend celebrating its 100th anniversary and I heard the same thing from folks there, that we are on the mark with our targeted funding for research, post-secondary support and skilled trades initiatives.
It seems that every credible organization has lauded this federal budget. We are creating jobs, protecting health and social transfers and keeping taxes low, all while managing to reduce the federal deficit. We are doing this by finding savings within the government rather than shifting the burden onto Canadians.
This is a Conservative budget and I am proud to stand here on behalf of central Albertans and support this responsible spending planned by our government.