Mr. Speaker, I am happy to stand to speak on economic action plan 2015, the 2015 budget.
When some people imagine budgets, they think about only the numbers and their eyes glaze over. They think budgets might have little impact on everyday people. I would like to point out how this particular budget is very significant for all Canadians and how it makes life better for people in Calgary Centre, whom I am humbled and privileged to represent.
When I spoke on the budget last year, I spoke about how we were planning for a balanced budget and the steps we were taking to lead up to it; this year, we have delivered. A balanced budget is exactly what Calgary residents have told me their number one priority is. We have done it, with a $1.4 billion surplus, despite a precipitous drop in oil prices and an uncertain global economy.
People in Calgary Centre and across Canada are acutely aware that given low oil prices and the state of the global economy, the budget did not balance itself. It happened because of the expert guidance of our Prime Minister, the finance minister, former finance minister Jim Flaherty, and the strong encouragement of our Conservative caucus. The budget is where the rubber hits the road. The budget is the proof of the expert leadership that we getting here in Canada. By balancing the budget, keeping taxes low and delivering more benefits to families, we are keeping Canada the envy of the world.
Last year I spoke about energy being Canada's natural competitive advantage. Every province and territory from coast to coast to coast has benefited from this industry. While the industry is now under considerable pressure, making it more important than ever to diversify our markets to China, to India, and to the EU, this budget includes new environmental measures that will demonstrate to Canadians how we can continue to develop and sustain our resources. Energy and the environment can be nurtured and developed together.
This sets us apart from the NDP, whose leader branded the energy industry as spreading Dutch disease, and the Liberals, whose leader opposes many pipelines and west coast tanker traffic, which we know we need in order to get our product to these markets.
We know that Canadians want to make sure that energy development is safe for the environment, as do we. The natural resources minister has emphasized that projects will not proceed unless they are safe for people and safe for the environment. They have to pass a rigorous scientific and fact-based inquiry by the National Energy Board as well as undergo a complete environmental assessment. This budget includes $80 million over five years for the National Energy Board to do its job and give Canadians that assurance.
It is coupled with a strict new polluter pays bill, Bill C-46, that puts energy firms on the hook for clean-ups, thus giving them extra impetus to make sure they get our resources to market without incident—which, incidentally, they do 99.999% of the time. Canadians can have confidence that our environment will be protected as we develop our competitive advantage in energy.
I would like to talk about another type of competitive advantage that this budget provides, and that is economic freedom.
This year, with a balanced budget, we can maintain and grow funding to important areas in health and education, as my hon. friend just spoke about, and at the same time provide tax cuts and benefits to help Canadians balance their own budgets. Unlike the Liberals, we do not believe that Canadians will spend those returned tax dollars on beer and popcorn. “This is people's own money”, the Prime Minister said. “We want to make sure more of it stays in their pockets and creates jobs and economic growth.”
What are the differences in the way Conservatives and other parties view the money that Canadians earn? Our government believes in economic freedom, and this year Canada was ranked number six in the world by the Economic Freedom of the World report. Economic freedom gives Canadians an opportunity to earn and an opportunity to decide how they wish to spend, rather than having those decisions made by someone else. When there is economic freedom, people have more control over their lives, and yes, government has less control.
In contrast to the other parties' belief that the government should take in as much money as it can, our government is taking less, and we are balancing the budget today so we are not mortgaging our children's futures.
Our latest family tax cut would give 1.7 million families more control over their lives. These tax relief measure would give parents like Sara and Sam an extra $6,640 this year that they could spend as they see fit. This measure would have a considerable impact on the quality of life of all Canadian families.
Retirees like Bill and Ruth would also have more economic freedom under economic action plan 2015. Seniors could put off taking funds out of their tax-protected RRIFs and leave the money there longer until it is needed.
What if I am not like Sara and Sam, or a retired couple like Bill and Ruth? What is there in the budget for me? For many young Canadians, owning a home looked like a distant goal, but we have introduced the first-time home buyers' tax credit of up to $5,000 for those buying their first home.
There are incentives for people who are retired. There are incentives for apprentices who want to take apprenticeship training. There are incentives for students who want to go back to school. The bottom line is that our federal government is giving Canadians more economic freedom by giving them more money in their pockets so they can decide how to use it. We are helping the middle class and those who want to join it.
Now I would like to talk about another of the human sides of enterprise, and that is people in need.
Two years ago, Albertans suddenly found themselves grappling with the largest natural disaster in Canadian history, the 2013 southern Alberta flood. As June approaches again, Calgarians in my riding are looking at the skies and praying that there will not be another once-in-a-hundred-years flood.
I can tell them that as a government, we have been acting. As most know, $2.8 billion in federal funds was set aside for flood recovery costs in Alberta. In addition to those funds, $134 million is currently being put into Environment Canada monitoring networks and satellite warning and forecast systems to better predict major events like the 2013 Alberta flood.
Our government has also committed to investing $200 million over four years into mitigation, which would include money for mapping. This is very important for insurance companies, which need it in order to provide flood insurance in Canada for the first time.
Further, federal infrastructure dollars could now be used for disaster mitigation projects. It is now up to the Province of Alberta to prioritize disaster mitigation on its agenda, and I urge the new premier to do that.
In this budget, our government is continuing the Building Canada plan. This is the largest and longest-running infrastructure program in Canadian history. Cities have never seen the kind of funding they are seeing now from our federal government. The program would see $53 billion invested in infrastructure across Canada over 10 years. Alberta would receive $3.2 billion, with $942 million coming from the new Building Canada fund and an estimated $2.27 billion coming from the federal gas tax fund. That is a lot of zeros.
Calgary has gained $427 million through the federal gas tax fund since 2006. We have invested in such projects as finishing the Calgary ring road and improving Calgary's transit. The city sets these priorities.
Federally, we are also helping to fund some 27 summer festivals, such as Sled Island and GlobalFest. There are things like CIFF, and theatre groups like One Yellow Rabbit and the Calgary Spoken Word Festival. We have provided more than $25 million to the gorgeous new National Music Centre in Calgary, $20 million to the Bella Concert Hall at Mount Royal University, and $25 million to the Agrium Centre at Stampede Park.
We have balanced the budget while maintaining and increasing transfer payments to the provinces for important things like health care.
This is happening not only in Alberta, but all across the country. People's lives are better and richer because of our budget. Albertans' lives are better, New Brunswickers' lives are better, British Columbians' lives are better, and we have balanced our budget. That is what leadership looks like.