Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the chief government whip.
I rose this morning, before rising here, thinking about how grateful I am to be in this wonderful institution in this amazing country of ours, how grateful I am just to be standing here, and what an honour it is to represent the people of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country and to be with colleagues who champion the interests of Canadians day by day.
It is also my honour to express support for a bill that keeps Canada on track. I am speaking of economic action plan 2014, tabled by our Minister of Finance.
Our government has charted a course for this nation that has led us through uncharted waters, namely the fragility of the global market. However, despite this uncertainty, there is no doubt that we have emerged triumphant, as our nation's economy continues to thrive.
This is not a coincidence. Our government has, since 2006, relentlessly pursued job creation and economic growth with the full intention of creating a stable, sustainable, and prosperous Canada.
In my remarks today I will focus on four aspects of budget 2014, which illustrate this focus and commitment. I will be drawing direct ties to the people of my constituency who brought their interests to me and to this Parliament through me.
Canada's economic success manifests a vision set forth by our Prime Minister. We cannot witness the transition from a multi-billion dollar deficit to a predicted multi-billion dollar surplus next year without first acknowledging the efforts of this Conservative government.
With the elimination of our deficit, Canadians can anticipate lower taxes, a higher standard of living, greater opportunities for job creation, and a significantly smaller financial burden on our children and grandchildren.
Canada has already leapt from number six to number two in Bloomberg's annual ranking of the most attractive countries for doing business in the world, just behind Hong Kong. A reduced deficit will continue to attract investment and signal our nation's stability on the global stage.
What I see in front of us is a budget that reflects the priorities of our citizens. I know for a fact that this budget addresses four key areas that interest my constituents and other Canadians: the environment, the economy, health and fitness, and search and rescue. I am equally confident that it will reflect the concerns of Canadians from coast to coast.
We have seen a growing number of Canadians voice their concerns regarding our environment. Today I am proud to tell these Canadians that their government has listened. It is my long-held belief that the economy and the environment are inherently entwined. In fact, in my speech to this House last year, entitled “The environment is the economy”, I relayed the concerns of The Future of Howe Sound Society and other constituents that we must embrace the two in tandem.
Economic action plan 2014 follows the lead of innovative Canadians who continually find ways to stimulate the economy while protecting our natural resources. The economy and the environment are not at war, so the advancement of one should not prejudice the other. This is evident in B.C., where a great number of people, including constituents of mine like CaroleAnn Leishman, have expressed their concerns over proposed pipeline projects, despite their potential economic rewards.
This budget will fund the National Energy Board to review pipeline projects so that Canada's economic pursuits can be reconciled with the protection of its natural resources. Our government will not commit to specific energy transportation projects, but will sustain dialogue with the aim of reconciling economic potential with environmental restraint.
As our Minister of Natural Resources recently declared:
No project will be approved unless it is safe for Canadians and safe for the environment.
Energy exports will continue to grow and create many great jobs for Canadians, but the government remains committed to ensuring safe and responsible resource development.
Economic action plan 2014 will also invest in environmental sustainability by protecting Canada's recreational fisheries, so brilliantly championed by organizations in my riding such as the Sea to Sky Fisheries Roundtable, the West Vancouver Streamkeepers, the Squamish Streamkeepers Society, and the Squamish River Watershed Society.
Last year, the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program received $10 million, and this year the government is renewing its commitment to environmental sustainability, another demonstration of our government's ability to balance both economic and environmental goals.
The recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program commenced last year at the urging of organizations like the ones I mentioned and people around the country who care about the recreational fishery.
I congratulate the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette for his championing of this program. This is a strong encouragement to show our government has listened to and acknowledged the voices of people who are passionate about salmon and other fisheries in B.C. and throughout the country.
Increasing financial support for another great organization, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, responds effectively to advocacy by fellow Conservative B.C. members. I am proud to have championed the PSP cause along with them. It is another great aspect of budget 2014.
With our government's devotion to environmental sustainability in mind, Canadians can anticipate more economic progress without great cost to the environment. My constituents in Powell River and the Sunshine Coast and the mayors who have been so powerful in advocating for new jobs, like Wayne Rowe in Gibsons, John Henderson in Sechelt, and Dave Formosa in Powell River, can look forward to adding more jobs in their areas as Canada's economy continues to strengthen.
More than one million net new jobs have been created since the recession. When compared with other G7 nations, Canada's economic performance is among the best, leading the pack in job growth.
In this budget, the government has re-emphasized its desire to find employment for every Canadian and reduce job vacancies.
Internationally, I commend our government for securing free trade agreements with other countries. When our government came into power, Canada had three established FTAs. This number has now grown to 44, including the recent Canada-Korea trade agreement—to which the Speaker has contributed—our nation's first official trade agreement in Asia.
Under our government's leadership, Canada will continue to bolster its economy by trading with other nations in a way that is mutually beneficial.
Within our borders, our government also commits to the future employment of our youth, through its youth employment strategy. This program aims to provide young Canadians with real-life work experience that aligns with the evolving realities of the job market. We need to ensure that young Canadians can access employment in high-demand fields, like science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and trades. The government has recognized this need and proposed a $40-million investment to support 3,000 full-time internships, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. Allowing our youth to gain work experience is a worthy investment and a proactive step toward reducing future unemployment and strengthening our economy.
I am also excited to see how our government has recognized health and fitness as a priority in its 2014 economic action plan, a priority I have championed, to reflect the emphasis on this area shown by my constituents in the Olympic riding.
I applaud the government's initiative to increase the rate of excise duty on tobacco products as a viable method of increasing federal tax revenue. This measure illustrates our government's desire for fiscal responsibility and, more important, for a healthy Canadian population.
This budget also addresses prescription drug abuse, another concern shared by my many Canadians, including West Vancouver police chief Pete Lepine, who has worked closely with me to bring about a national prescription drug drop-off day, which will occur this year on May 10.
The new economic action plan proposes to invest $44.9 million, over five years, to expand the focus of the national anti-drug strategy, so we can also address this emerging health and safety concern. This investment would serve a diverse Canadian population, by enhancing education on the safe use, storage, and disposal of prescription drugs, among other things.
Having watched our Olympians and Paralympians demonstrate the ultimate in health and fitness in Sochi, I am delighted to see our government's continued desire to support Canadian athletes of all levels. Sport promotes leadership. It plays a vital role in our culture, both as an expression of our national identity and as a means of inspiring more Canadians to become active and healthy. This budget would maintain our government's record level of investment for athletes without leaving anyone behind.
While our Olympians are supported through initiatives like own the podium, our government supports Paralympians, amateurs, and Special Olympics athletes, as well.
The last provision upon which I would like to touch is the search and rescue tax credit. This commemorates Tim Jones, the amazing revered volunteer who led the North Shore rescue team for 26 years and who participated in over 1,600 rescue operations. The search and rescue tax credit would recognize the important role played by volunteers who put themselves at risk for the sole purpose of serving their communities.
In conclusion, I see Canada's 2014 economic action plan as another step in the right direction.
Today, I have highlighted four of the many aspects of budget 2014 that are particularly relevant, not only to my constituency but to the whole country: environmental sustainability, economic prosperity, health and fitness, and the recognition of our nation's search and rescue volunteers.
The return to a balanced budget is the fulfillment of a long-term goal. The proposals I have mentioned are examples of our government's commitment to Canadians. It is a good time to be a Canadian. This budget would help ensure good health for our people, our environment, and our economy.