Mr. Speaker, I am here to speak about, and in favour of, Bill C-60, the economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1.
I would first like to discuss Elgin—Middlesex—London and southern Ontario. I will be sharing how this budget relates to and assists the people of Elgin—Middlesex—London.
The area of southern Ontario in which I live is very unique, very beautiful and a very hard-working part of this country. It includes 80 miles of Canada's south coast, the shore of Lake Erie, only 50 miles across to where Cleveland sits, and miles and miles of great farmland. The 401 Highway, the most travelled transportation route through southern Ontario, cuts through the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London. Large manufacturers cluster along this highway, as goods come and go, into the United States and from the United States. In our area, almost everything we make, almost everything we service, almost everything we assemble, is either sold to a United States customer or shipped there for further processing.
It has certainly meant that since the United States has slowed, its economy sputtering, our area has also felt the decline, not the demise but a decline. The decline in manufacturing in our area has led to even more innovation, more entrepreneurship, more vision and more desire to succeed.
Let me share some of the great ideas that have happened. First of all, we have seen the gathering of Canadian businesses. As I shared, most of our economy in that area of southern Ontario used to have a real north-south edge to it. The economy was southern Ontario to the United States, and the United States to southern Ontario. Since the decline in the United States, we have had to go looking for other customers. We found them right here in Canada. Western Canada is flourishing, for those members across the way who have not noticed.
Recently, and thanks to the member for Edmonton—Leduc—I wish he was here so I could thank him in person—we had a large group of Canadian oil producers from the west come to southern Ontario, into small communities in southern Ontario like St. Thomas, put together by the economic development officers in southern Ontario and the oil producers from the west.
They came looking for stuff; gaskets, gauges, pipe, steel. Just about everything we make in southern Ontario that used to be made for the auto industry fits perfectly in the oil industry too. They brought their order books, and they came to southern Ontario. We matched Canadian company with Canadian company, and we are moving forward with this process and continue to do so. It is entrepreneurism at its best.
We have other auto-related companies in southern Ontario that are currently converting or have converted through the recession to products that are not always auto-related. Some are now making solar panels or brackets for solar panels. Some are making blades for windmills or parts for the wind energy industry. This is the innovation of the manufacturing community of southern Ontario.
What else do we do? We have food. We are great farmers. We have a fantastic growing area in southern Ontario. What else have we done from an innovative point of view? We have started to process the stuff we grow, right there at home. It is phenomenal. We have great producers of corn and dairy and whatever else we can grow in Canada.
Dr. Oetker is building a very large frozen pizza factory right there in the south part of London in the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London. It is under construction right now, but will be opening soon. The company will buy wheat for flour cheese made out of dairy from our farmers and produce for toppings on those pizzas, all grown right there in southern Ontario. That is the productivity of the farmers and the food distribution piece.
We continue to look at food distribution. Most of the food grown in southern Ontario gets shipped to Toronto where it is sent to the food terminal, bought by people in southern Ontario and brought back. That does not make sense to most people, so why not put a food terminal right there in southern Ontario? That is what we are working on.
I think I spoke about this House. It is very unique. Right there, enclosed in farmland in southern Middlesex County is a tilapia farm. Aquaculture right there in southern Ontario, not on the lake but inland. A great entrepreneur realized there was millions of dollars of tilapia being sold in the Toronto market from the United States, and said that we could do that in Canada, right there in southern Ontario.
What else have we asked for?
We have heard speeches in the House this morning about tourism in southern Ontario and how it is thriving and newer than it used to be. We knew we lived in a beautiful place, and now we are telling other people about it. We are okay if tourists come to visit and take up some of our space. The 80 miles of Lake Erie shoreline, ports and beaches are fantastic.
If one goes to the beach at Port Burwell along Lake Erie, one will now find a 300-foot submarine. The HMCS Ojibwa has been landed and will open on the long weekend in May for tourists. I have been through it, so anyone can fit. This is the type of entrepreneurship that is happening in tourism in southern Ontario.
Here is another piece we are doing that was never thought of before. Rural Canada has always had the issue of its youth, after high school, having to go somewhere else for post-secondary education. They always went someplace bigger—not always better, just someplace bigger. However, we now have a branch of Algoma University right here in St. Thomas, Ontario, teaching undergraduate studies in what used to be a historic old schoolhouse. Also, Fanshawe College, a community college branch in St. Thomas, is there to teach skilled trades in the new skills program. It teaches people the skilled trades that will be needed to move Canada forward. We will keep our youth at home. Not only will our youth stay at home to go to school; others will come. We are attracting dollars into our community by people coming here for post-secondary education.
We cannot talk about entrepreneurs without talking about those in southern Ontario. Sure, it has had its troubles in manufacturing, but to many who would see a problem, thousands have seen opportunities from an entrepreneurial point of view; they have seen this as a time to move forward and open a small business.
With John and his people at the Elgin Business Resource Centre and their business incubator program, the community futures program and the mentorship programs they are developing, we are returning jobs to southern Ontario. It may be two, three, five, ten or twenty jobs at a time, but they are returning to southern Ontario. The great economic development teams of Elgin County, Middlesex County and the City of St. Thomas are all doing the same thing and attracting small and medium-sized businesses.
How does the budget help all this?
Each of the things I have mentioned has a piece in the budget that has helped move these things forward. I am sure I will not have a chance to cover them all unless the Speaker forgets what the clock looks like, but I will talk about some.
How about creating the Canada jobs grant for training skills for the needs of youth and employers?
As both a small business person, and my business is small, and volunteer president of the Youth Employment Counselling Centre for some 10 years before politics, I have recognized the need to ensure that youth are available and trained for the jobs of today and tomorrow. It seems like a no-brainer, but including employers in that mix of the Canada jobs grant program means that employers will be sharing their needs, and not just today's needs but tomorrow's needs too, so that the training programs for youth will be there and will be the right ones to create the jobs.
For years, we have talked about apprenticeships as an area of concern, certainly in southern Ontario's manufacturing belt, and the skilled trades workers. I remember having a conversation with a principal of a community college some 15 years ago. I asked him how many millwrights would be trained this year. He said that there would be 41. I said, “Wow, that's fantastic. How did you come up with that number? Did you talk to the local manufacturing association? Did you talk to the schools to see how many people were graduating?” He said, “No, that's how many seats there are in the classroom.”
That is how we used to determine how many skilled tradespeople we used to train. How about getting out and talking to employers about their needs? How about getting out and talking to the schools and finding the youth who want to move into those careers? We can merge the two and make it so that employers have enough people to hire.
Also, there are opportunities for those with disabilities. My friend, the member for Brant, has a great private member's motion coming up that will help move forward opportunities for people with disabilities.
I wish I had a great deal more time to talk about other things such as options and what we are doing for infrastructure. I am sure during questions I will be able to talk about some of those.