Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-31, an act that will implement important measures contained in economic action plan 2014.
It is a pleasure to speak to the budget this evening, since the provisions it contains would bring us to our long-term goal of balancing the budget.
Our Conservative government is focused on what matters to Canadians: growing the economy and helping create jobs. Canada has now created over one million net new jobs since the depth of the global recession in July 2009. Since coming to office, our government has had one of the best job creation records in the G7, and we are leading overall in economic growth.
While Canada is doing a better job than our international allies, we are not immune to economic challenges beyond our borders, and indeed, our finance ministers have warned us that the economies are still very fragile. That is why our Conservative government is continuing to work hard at home to ensure our economy stays strong.
Most of the over one million net new jobs that have been created since the recovery began in July 2009 are high-wage, full-time, private-sector jobs. That said, our government acknowledges that imbalances between unemployment and job vacancies persist.
It was highlighted in the Department of Finance's “Jobs Report: The State of the Canadian Labour Market”, that too many Canadians are still out of work or underutilized at a time when skills and labour shortages are re-emerging in certain sectors and regions. A shortage of skilled labour is an impediment to growth, and that is why our government constructed a strategy to address this and to develop a skilled, mobile and productive workforce.
Our government acknowledges how important apprenticeship programs are for those in skills training. Employer surveys have indicated that skilled trades are among the most difficult jobs to fill. Our budget has included measures to encourage the take-up and completion of apprenticeships by providing support to apprentices and the employers that hire them.
In particular, the Red Seal apprentices would be able to apply for interest-free loans of up to $4,000 per period of technical training. Canada's Red Seal program allows qualified tradespeople to practice their trade anywhere in Canada where that trade is designated, without having to write further examinations.
It is expected that at least 26,000 apprentices will apply for the $100 million in loans. This is critical, when we consider the significant costs apprentices can face in the periods of technical training required by their programs. Aiding our apprentices to the completion of their training would directly contribute to the supply of skilled labour across Canada.
Our role does not end there. Even with the appropriate qualifications, it may take time for job seekers to connect with employers. Our government will help Canadians connect to jobs that match their skills.
The economic action plan proposes to launch an enhanced job-matching service to ensure that Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs in their local area. Through this program, job seekers will be provided with modern and reliable tools to find jobs that match their skills, and provide employers with better tools to look for qualified candidates. We want to ensure that Canadians acquire the skills they need for the workforce, and that employers are matched with the skilled labourers that they need.
With that said, our government also acknowledges that immigration plays a significant role in the continued success of our economy. Economic action plan 2014 outlines a plan to launch a new recruitment system, the expression of interest system, to be implemented in January 2015. Fourteen million dollars will be provided over two years, and $4.7 million per year ongoing to Citizenship and Immigration Canada to support the successful implementation of the system.
Under the expression of interest system, candidates would make an online submission to express their interest in coming to Canada and to provide information about their skills and experience. The information would be ranked, sorted and allow the Government of Canada, provinces and territories and employers to actively target highly skilled immigrants. The government would invite only the most highly ranked candidates to apply for permanent residence.
It is a privilege to address Canadians and my constituents with practical measures that would, without a doubt, continue job growth in our country. I am also pleased that our government continues to support and invest in job markets that are, and always have been, major economic drivers in our country.
As Canadians, we are blessed with an abundance of diverse natural resources. Major natural resource projects are an important source of development and job creation in all regions of Canada. We, as Canadians, must be responsible stewards of the land, while utilizing the resources given to us. Our government has done both. Mining, forestry and agriculture represent important contributions to the Canadian economy and create jobs, particularly in many rural areas. In fact, Canada's natural resource sector represents 18% of the economy, over half of our exports, and supports 1.8 million jobs directly and indirectly.
I understand the importance of the government's support in Canada's natural resource sector, and that is why I am glad to see continued incentives in this area. One of the measures in this bill would permanently eliminate the tariffs on mobile offshore drilling units used on offshore oil and gas exploration and development. This would continue to improve the global competitiveness of Canadian energy projects, while increasing the potential for valuable resource discoveries.
Our government is also pleased to support mining and exploration in this budget. Canada is one of the world's leading mining nations. According to the Mining Association of Canada, over 90,000 Canadians are employed in the mineral extraction in mining support activities across the country. That is why we are proposing to extend the 15% mineral exploration tax credit to junior mineral exploration companies for an additional year. Since 2006, the mining exploration tax credit has helped junior mining companies raise over $5 billion for exploration. It is not difficult to see why extending this credit will continue to create jobs and development across the country.
I am also encouraged to see our government's support of the agriculture industry in the economic action plan 2014. The agriculture and agri-food sector plays a significant role in the Canadian economy, accounting for over $100 billion in economic activity and providing employment to over 2.1 million Canadians in 2011.
Agriculture plays a vital role in Canada as a whole, but it also plays a vital role in my riding of Provencher. I spend lots of time listening to my constituents to understand how we can continue to improve the lives of farmers. I know all too well that sudden drops in market prices are a major source of risk for livestock producers. Starting this spring, a new pilot price insurance program will be available to cattle and hog producers in western Canada, offering insurance against unanticipated price declines. This will directly impact the lives of hard-working farmers in my community.
It is with great regret that in this time allotted to me I can only share with members a few important measures that would positively impact my constituents and all Canadians. It is measures such as the ones I have detailed that deliver results for all Canadians.
In fact, according to a recent study, Canada's middle class, after tax income, is the highest in the world. Canadian families in all income groups have seen increases in their take-home pay since we have come into office. There are now 1.4 million fewer Canadians living in poverty than under the previous Liberal government.
Not only that, the Parliamentary Budget Officer recently found that federal tax cuts since 2005, mostly by our government, are saving Canadians roughly $30 billion per year. The Parliamentary Budget Officer also determined that the most significant share of tax savings went to low and middle-income earners, thanks, in part, to our government's 2% cut of the GST.
These results reaffirm our Conservative government's focus on jobs and growth and that it is making a real difference in supporting prosperity for all Canadians.
In our home, my wife Irene and I know the importance of keeping a balanced budget. It is something we take seriously, always bearing in mind that it is not a good practice to spend more than we make. We have seen the consequences of overspending and the rewards of sound budgeting. We make cuts when we need to and we make investments when we can. Budgets are important and I am well aware that budgets do not simply balance themselves.
Likewise, my fellow Canadians value fiscal responsibility. That is why I am proud to represent a government that practices values at the highest level and to speak on the measures tonight.