Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to address the House this afternoon about the merits of economic action plan 2013.
I would like to especially thank the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister for La Francophonie for his kind words at the beginning of his speech.
Although the worst of the economic crisis seems to be behind us, the government's priority must continue to be the economy and job creation. In that regard, economic action plan 2013 is right on the mark.
When the recession struck the best country in the world in 2008, the government responded with a bold plan to invest in our infrastructure. The city of Ottawa and the district of Ottawa—Orléans have benefited greatly from this economic stimulus program.
We need only consider the construction of an east-west light rail in Ottawa, a total investment of $2.1 billion, $785 million of which is from the federal taxpayers through the building Canada plan and the federal gas tax fund.
What is more, this capital investment, which is the top and only priority of the City of Ottawa, will create 20,000 jobs a year until 2018.
I would like to take this opportunity to salute the member for Ottawa West—Nepean and Mayor Jim Watson and councillors Rainer Bloess, Bob Monette, Stephen Blais and Tim Tierney for their leadership in advancing this file.
We can also point to the investment of nearly $25 million for the first two phases of the Ottawa River action plan and of $6.7 million for the extension of the Hunt Club Road to Highway 417.
Thanks to the infrastructure improvement fund announced in January 2009 to help kick-start the Canadian economy, the people of Ottawa—Orléans have seen the delivery of 11 projects that directly affect them, at a value of over $11 million.
With an economic recovery that was lagging due to economic instability in other countries, the government understood that it had to meet the demands of municipalities and move ahead with another plan for long-term investment in Canada's infrastructure.
What economic action plan 2013 is proposing is $53 billion over 10 years.
Even though construction of Ottawa's light rail began only last week, elected officials and employees are already working on plans to expand it—even as far as the eastern end of Orléans.
This important project is close to my heart, and it could be supported by the building Canada plan and the community infrastructure improvement fund.
As you all know, linguistic duality is one of the values of this country that I cherish the most.
The French and English languages are integral to our history, our identity and our future. They are a treasure that must be defended.
This is a value dear to the hearts of the wise electors of Ottawa—Orléans, where about 30% of the population is French-speaking.
That is not to say that this value is not also important to the English-speaking residents of Ottawa—Orléans. When they come to settle there, they know that one of their immediate neighbours is going to be French-speaking and they regard this as an asset. They regard linguistic duality as an asset.
The government shares this way of thinking. In addition to supporting the spirit of Bill C-419, the language skills act sponsored by the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, the government has slightly increased the envelope of the roadmap for official languages, which stands at over $1.1 billion for 2013-18. This represents the most far-reaching investment in official languages in our history—an increase of 40% over the previous government's plan.
The new road map will continue to support the learning of English and French as second languages and will continue its support for minority school systems so as to foster the development of citizens and communities.
In an interview with L'Express, Ottawa's French-language weekly newspaper, Marie-France Kenny, the president of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes du Canada, said:
We are happy; this will provide important leverage. For us, it's a real feat for the communities, the minister and the Prime Minister to have managed to maintain funding under the roadmap. For us, it is proof of the importance attributed to linguistic duality and the hard work that has been done in our communities for a year and a half to make our priorities known.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage promised to listen to Canadians before renewing the road map. He toured the country, organizing 23 round tables, in two of which I participated. He delivered the goods.
A little earlier, I was saying that job creation had to continue to be the government's priority. Small and medium-size enterprises are the engine of the Canadian economy. SMEs are the backbone of the Ottawa—Orléans economy. Businesses such as SURE Print, Lacroix Source for Sports in Orléans, the Massage and Treatment Clinic and Cuisine & Passion have come to set up shop.
It is my pleasure to recognize André Lacroix, who has owned Lacroix Source for Sports for 40 years. A terrific businessman, he is equally effective at giving back to the community, and he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
These companies are very well represented by the Orléans Chamber of Commerce and its dynamic team, with its president, Dan Levesque, its board of directors and its executive director, Jamie Kwong.
In addition to reducing income taxes and cutting red tape, the economic action plan is proposing to expand and extend the hiring credit for small business for one year.
This measure, which has proven its worth in recent years, should benefit 560,000 SMEs.
Furthermore, we are going to increase the lifetime capital gains exemption from $750,000 to $800,000, and then we will index it. This positive measure will improve the return on investment in small businesses by making things easier for entrepreneurs who want to pass on the family business to the next generation of Canadians.
The fate of our soldiers and veterans is very important to me. These brave people have sacrificed so much that our country can enjoy the benefits of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We owe our freedom to them. I see them often, especially when I go to my weekly Saturday breakfast at the Royal Canadian Legion in Orléans.
Economic action plan 2013 contains measures to support these important people.
We are suggesting an investment of $1.9 billion over seven years to ensure that our disabled, ill or aging veterans and their families receive the support they need.
We are also proposing to double the reimbursement ceiling for the funeral and burial program. It is the least we can do to offer dignified funeral services for those who have lost their lives defending our country.
Families and communities are not being left behind. We are proposing to invest $1.9 billion over five years to create more affordable housing and to combat the unfortunate phenomenon of homelessness. We would also like to support families who want to adopt a child by granting them tax relief.
Economic action plan 2013 is a reasonable plan that will help our country prosper in spite of these uncertain times.