Mr. Speaker, those of us in the Harper government are immensely proud of economic action plan 2014, and for good reason.
Once again, our government has delivered for Canadians while making plans to return to a balanced budget in the short term. Under our Conservative government's financial stewardship, Canada has seen the strongest job growth rate among G7 countries. Canada is the only G7 country to receive a triple-A credit rating from all major reporting agencies, thanks to our government's sound economic policies. Canada's net debt to GDP ratio is, by far, the strongest among the G7 countries.
In short, our Conservative government has steered Canada through a worldwide economic storm and come out on the other side stronger and better equipped for the future than any other nation.
It should come as no surprise that economic action plan 2014 delivers for Canada's aboriginal community, a segment of the population that, for obvious reasons, is very close to my heart.
A quality education is more important than ever in today's global marketplace. Economic action plan 2014 allocates $1.9 billion to first nations education. In addition, new funding of $500 million for building and renovating schools on first nations, set to begin in 2015-16, is confirmed in our new education infrastructure fund.
These investments in learning will manifest themselves not only in new schools and improved staffing, but also in building a stronger future for first nations communities and Canada itself. With quality education, first nations members will participate more fully in the world economy, providing benefits to all segments of our nation's population. Improving first nations education improves Canada.
Canada's national disaster mitigation program has been funded, to the tune of $200 million. This fund allows our government to mitigate the effects of catastrophic situations affecting Canadian communities through the assessment of risks and the implementation of measures to eliminate those risks.
These disaster elimination protocols are vigorously applied on Canada's first nations, but an additional $40 million has been set aside for on-reserve emergency management. Those of us living in northern Saskatchewan are too familiar with the disasters that can affect first nations, such as floods, fires, severe weather, and power outages. The on-reserve emergency management framework for Canada provides crisis funding to assist in combatting the effects of these disasters, including search and rescue efforts, and action to reduce the impact of community infrastructure failures such as bridge collapses.
The funding agreements between Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and Canada's provincial governments ensure that first nations communities have comparable emergency services to non-aboriginal communities in the same province.This system provides assurance to provincial governments that Aboriginal Affairs will provide funds to cover emergency costs, ensuring rapid responses from provincial authorities. First nations deserve the same level of care as all other communities, and measures such as the on-reserve emergency management framework for Canada are helping to make this a reality.
With a young and vibrant populace, Canada's first nations members are entering the workforce in record numbers. Our Conservative government's job creation strategy has been wildly successful, with more than one million jobs created since 2009.
Education programs targeted at aboriginal Canadians are helping place first nations members in high-paying, high-demand jobs. With so many bright, young first nations members entering the workforce with skills in high-demand fields, we are growing that workforce at a record rate. We are reversing the near criminal neglect of a valuable segment of our workforce by helping aboriginal Canadians get the education and skills necessary to compete in the global economy.
For too long, we have recklessly squandered the talents of our first nations citizens, and our government is now taking concrete steps to address this shameful situation, allowing first nations citizens to fulfill their potential.
A healthy Canada is one in which we recognize and reward the skills of its citizens. Now that first nations members are finally getting a toehold in the workforce, there is no holding us back. By forging strong ties to our aboriginal communities, our Conservative government is now showing that working together makes us all stronger.
Violence against women is a concern for all segments of our Canadian society.
Often living in remote areas, traditionally without much in the way of support or protection, aboriginal women and girls will benefit from the renewal of our government's addressing violence against aboriginal women and girls program. This effort continues our government's mission to address the alarmingly high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. This initiative has made possible the creation of the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains.
Enhancements to our government's victims fund will ensure that aboriginal victims and their families as well as missing first nation members and their families have access to culturally appropriate services.
Perhaps most important, our government has materially supported the development of community-based awareness initiatives and safety plans to promote the safety of aboriginal women and girls.
With a disproportionate rate of incarceration as well as victimization, a plan is necessary to allow Canada's first nation members to emerge from this crippling situation.
Economic action plan 2014 proposes $22.2 million for the continuation of the aboriginal justice strategy. The initiative, which is showing very positive results, has allowed aboriginal people to take a larger role in the administration of justice in their communities while giving victims of crime a strong voice. By allowing first nation communities a stake in the judicial system, we are demonstrating a desire for justice rather than punishment.
Community-based justice for non-violent crimes gives aboriginal communities a say in the administration of punishment with regard to crimes affecting their neighbourhoods. It also demonstrates to the accused the impact of their crimes on the region and eliminates any suggestion of bias on the part of those administering the punishment.
Community-based justice is working, and I am proud of the part the government has played in its implementation.
More than $323 million has been earmarked for the purpose of continuing the first nation water and waste water action plan. Since 2006, our government has invested more than $3 billion in assisting first nations in the construction, maintenance, and operation of their water and waste water systems. This investment was sorely needed and has resulted in a vast improvement in water quality for first nations.
These communities have also been made safer through the enhancement of waste water management systems. Clean drinking water and the safe handling of waste water are essential to the health of any community. Through our government's investments in water on first nations, we have made them safer places to live. Insurance for these investments is provided through the disaster mitigation protocols I spoke of earlier.
A particular point of pride for me with regard to the economic action plan concerns the support provided to first nation fishing enterprises. Great progress has been made in the integration of first nation fishing enterprises with existing fishing operations since our government instituted the supporting first nation fishing enterprises initiative.
With an investment of more than $66 million over the next two years, our government is taking concrete action to improve the overall management of fishing on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. This program will continue to create new jobs and opportunities for first nation fishers.
Many aboriginal communities will also benefit from our government's improving access to broadband in rural and northern communities proposal. Social networks and the worldwide web are helping to bring people together, not only on a personal level but for the purposes of business networking and promotion as well.
Canadians in rural areas are demanding faster access to the Internet, and our government is responding. We are proposing more than $300 million over five years to improve access to broadband Internet connections for 280,000 households, with a target of five megabits per second. This would represent near-universal access to broadband for Canadians.
By improving Internet access for first nations, we will increase the ability of aboriginal businesses to compete globally.
As members can see, our government understands that the things that make Canada's aboriginal communities better make Canada better. By continuing to improve the already strong relationship between the aboriginal people of Canada and our Conservative government, we build a stronger Canada.
The healthy bond that the government has forged with the aboriginal peoples of Canada is reflected in the budget, and I am proud to stand today in support of our government's economic action plan 2014.