Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today in this House to speak about economic action plan 2014.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia.
Among the many initiatives and announcements in our budget, I would like to focus specifically on the aspects affecting my riding of Pickering—Scarborough East and the people who live there.
Rouge Park contains unique and highly significant natural and cultural heritage resources. It also offers an extraordinary opportunity to expose a huge number of Canadians to their heritage, as 20% of the country's population resides in close proximity to the park.
Accordingly, the Government of Canada became an early advocate of the park in the Rouge Valley, beginning in 1988 when it pledged $10 million towards the creation of a heritage park.
A national urban park in the Rouge Valley is a unique concept in Canada. There are currently no comparable places, so this park requires a new and innovative conservation and management approach to respond to its unique urban context.
Aligned with the Parks Canada mandate, it will include conservation of the park's rich natural and cultural heritage resources, opportunities for outreach, and a range of visitor experience opportunities. The specific attributes of this urban context will also require consideration of mixed land uses, including the promotion of sustainable agriculture.
As indicated in budget 2012 and confirmed in budget 2014, the government will take action on the creation of Canada's first national urban park in the Rouge Valley in Ontario. It announced funding on May 25, 2012, of $143 million over 10 years for park development and interim operations and of $7.6 million per year thereafter for its continuing operations.
I cannot stress enough the benefits to both our community and the surrounding area that are provided by green spaces such as the Rouge River urban park.
That is why I was particularly excited to see our government's commitment in economic action plan 2014 to protect the health and well-being of Canadians by promoting a safe and clean environment. This is a fantastic government priority that all Canadians can get behind.
Since 2006, our government has taken significant action to protect our natural areas, including taking steps to add more than 160,000 square kilometres to the Canadian federal parks and marine conservation system, a more than 58% increase, and securing almost 4,000 square kilometres of ecologically sensitive private lands.
Economic action plan 2014 invests in measures to protect and preserve Canada's rich natural heritage by investing in Canada's national parks, conserving recreational fisheries, encouraging additional donations under Canada's ecological gifts program, expanding recreation trails, supporting family-oriented conservation, and expanding tax support for clean energy generation.
Our plan proposes investments of over $400 million in this area, including allocating $391.5 million over five years on a cash basis to the Parks Canada Agency to make improvements to highways, bridges, and dams located in our national parks and along our historic canals; allocating $15 million over two years to extend the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program; encouraging additional donations of ecologically sensitive land by doubling for income tax purposes the carry-forward period for donations of such land; providing $10 million over two years to improve and expand snowmobile and recreational trails across the country; and providing $3 million over three years to support the Earth Rangers Foundation to expand its existing family-oriented conservation and biodiversity programming.
I am proud to see that our government is investing in protecting Canada's natural beauty and heritage. Hopefully many more Canadians will be able to experience first-hand the benefits that our natural space can provide.
While we are on the topic of natural beauty, Canada's north holds a very special place in my heart. During my time in the Canadian Armed Forces, I was fortunate enough to have visited the beautiful territory of Nunavut while on a military exercise. In fact, while there, I helped build the playground in Gjoa Haven, the hometown of the Minister of the Environment.
Building on the government's vision for a new north, economic action plan 2014 is taking action to ensure that the north realizes its full potential by exercising our northern sovereignty, promoting economic prosperity, and supporting the health of northerners.
Economic action plan 2014 proposes to provide $40 million over two years, starting in 2014-15, to renew strategic investments in the northern economic development program delivered by the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.
Canada's northern territories have enormous economic development potential. To help unlock this potential, the Government of Canada will work with territorial governments and local municipalities to develop transportation infrastructure in the north.
Economic action plan 2014 proposes to provide $70 million over three years for a new targeted and time-limited fund to increase health services in the three territories in priority health areas and to reduce the reliance on outside health care systems and medical travel.
As the House may know, I have the Pickering nuclear power plan in my riding. For that reason, issues concerning nuclear power and plants in general are important not only to me but to my constituents. I was particularly pleased to see that our government is committed to investing $117 million in AECL to maintain safe and reliable operations at the Chalk River Laboratories, ensuring a secure supply of medical isotopes.
In a past life, before I was elected to Parliament, I served as both a professional engineer and a military engineer. I would like to conclude today's speech by talking about what economic action plan 2014 promises for our science and research sectors, as well as for our veterans and persons with disabilities.
Our government has committed to investing $15 million in the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo to carry out leading-edge research in quantum technologies, such as cryptography and medical diagnostics. This is especially close to my heart, as I am an engineering physics graduate. We are also dedicated to increasing Canada's prestige on the international stage by creating the Canada first research excellence fund through investing $1.5 billion to position post-secondary institutions across Canada to compete internationally.
Other areas that our government would invest in include providing $46 million to the granting councils in support of advanced research and scientific discoveries of Canada's leading universities and colleges, providing $8 million to train more graduates and post-doctoral fellows in becoming the next generation of innovators and researchers, providing $10 million to support research in colleges and polytechnics focusing on education, and integration of vulnerable Canadians, and community development.
I am proud to be part of a government that would support the youngest and brightest minds across the country through these wonderful investments. I am also extremely proud of what we have done and what we intend to do for our veterans, to whom we owe the greatest gratitude for keeping Canada strong and free.
We would honour our veterans by providing over $100 million to expand the funeral and burial program to ensure that veterans of modest means have access to a dignified funeral and burial. We would increase access to veterans services by providing $2 million to enable veterans and their families access to engage the Department of Veterans Affairs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Finally, my constituents are particularly pleased with the attention our government dedicates to persons with disabilities. Budget 2014 specifically outlines plans to provide $222 million to create new labour market agreements for persons with disabilities to better help Canadians with disabilities get the skills they need to fill available jobs. It would also provide $15 million to the ready, willing, and able initiative and $11.4 million to CommunityWorks to help persons with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorders to participate in the workforce.
This is why I very strongly support economic action plan 2014. I invite the opposition to do the same.