Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to rise in the House in support of this budget, which would do so much good for so many people right across the country, from coast to coast to coast. It is indeed a privilege to speak about some of the benefits it would bestow, in particular, upon vulnerable populations of this country, populations that for a long time have been ignored. I say that because tax cuts, quite frankly, are not the only way to help these people, which seems to be all that we heard over the last 10 years.
In particular, I want to talk about the support that has been provided to families, specifically low-income families, with the child tax benefit. This motion in front of the House today tries specifically to lock in that support even further, not just this year but in the years going forward, to support those families as they seek to join the middle class or cement their places in the middle class.
Most important is that the House has managed to listen and understand that not every piece of legislation is letter perfect and that when suggestions or improvements are put on the table, we respond in kind by embracing those ideas and making them better, because better is always possible. I am speaking specifically about indexing.
I would be remiss if I did not tell the Chair that I will be splitting my time with the member for Vancouver Centre. I neglected to say that off the top.
The second component is pensions and the guaranteed income supplement. We know that the most vulnerable people in our society are quite often women who, later in life, through no fault of their own, have found themselves in a position where they have not fully contributed to CPP and thus are not able to fully realize the benefits this country has bestowed on others, or where their partners have passed on and they are in very vulnerable situations.
The boost to the guaranteed income supplement is fundamental to lifting seniors and, in particular, elderly women out of poverty and into positions where their security, health, and their enjoyment of their later years of life are guaranteed by the additional support provided by this budget. These are two very specific groups, young families and single seniors, who quite often find themselves in the most marginalized of economic situations. This budget would address them directly.
Another group looking to this government for help is students. Support for students comes in many forms, but there are two specific measures contained within this budget document. One is the support provided to help students get into universities or colleges by providing support for tuition. These measures are taken specifically to reduce the cost burden of entry into post-secondary institutions, which give people the platform to succeed, thrive, and support themselves in this new economy.
The second is the support that would be provided through the doubling of the Canada summer jobs program. Additional measures contained in this budget would not only provide support for them to get into university but also keep young people in universities with access to good, quality summer jobs often related to their fields of study. That is good social policy that supports people with real work experience as they seek to get the skills they need to compete and thrive in the new economy as we embrace a new century.
The other component is EI reform. We know that not all cylinders in every economy fire at the same time and in the right way. We know that there are downturns in sectors from time to time, whether in the film and digital media sector in the city I represent, or folks in the oil patch out west, or folks on the coast who might be in the fishing industry. We know that EI has to be modelled around those employee groups to support them. We have taken steps in this budget to compress the time for the application of benefits and to make sure that benefits reach parts of the country that are most vulnerable, so that while help is on the way and being delivered, families do not go without, support exists, and is targeted for those sectors in a way that is very specific.
It is not a substitute for economic growth and it certainly is not a substitute for jobs, but we know that when Canadians fall on hard times, other Canadians need to support them. This bill would seek to change some of the dynamics around EI to make sure that folks who face that situation are not left behind as the economy moves forward in other parts of the country.
Also embedded in this budget are tax cuts and a series of tax reforms to make taxation fair. I think it was Richard Nixon who once said that taxes will never be popular, but they should be fair. This budget seeks to do just that, to make taxation a fairer proposition for Canadians so they are confident that the dollars sent to Ottawa are not being sent by one group at the expense of another, but that the tax burden is being shared based on the ability to pay. That is why taxes are focused on the top 1% and would provide tax relief measures to the middle class.
If we go through the budget document that is tabled in front of us, there are also measures being taken to tighten up the tax code, so that loopholes that used to be there are narrowed, if not eliminated. Doing so, again, would make the paying of taxes fair. It would give all Canadians confidence that those who have the ability to pay are being taxed fairly. It would give confidence that those who do not have the ability to pay and are in need of support are being taxed appropriately, if at all, and that supports are there for the unique circumstances across a broad range of issues that I have just discussed.
As we talk about the economic dynamics as a series of metrics, and its people as a series of demographic groups or folks fitting specific dynamics that challenge their economic reality, we also have to understand that the real goal of this budget is to do more than simply deal with the inequities. It is also to create an economy that is actually producing more, delivering more wealth to be redistributed, hiring more people, as the incentives are delivered to the private sector to help us build this country in partnership with the public sector and with the community.
The fundamentally most important part of this budget, from my perspective, is the investment in infrastructure that would deliver real housing to real people in real need right across this country, right across the full spectrum of housing needs that stretch across this country. That is whether they are folks living hard on the street through no fault of their own, who have fallen into chronic homelessness, all the way through to supportive housing and transitional housing, social housing, affordable housing, affordable rental housing. There are new programs to make sure that people gain access to the housing market, have their investments stabilized and protected, right through to the end, luxury and the private market affordability that is delivered to so many people.
The full spectrum of housing needs are spoken to in this budget. Most importantly, from my perspective, is that social and affordable housing are back on the federal agenda. It is back as a focus of interest for the national government. We are currently engaged with provinces and territories, and municipalities in particular, as well as aboriginal first nations, Métis, and Inuit groups, to make sure that housing is delivered right across this country, from coast to coast to coast, in a way that supports people as they seek to support their families.
This is the most important part of the budget from my perspective. It is certainly the reason I came to Ottawa. The reason I left city council and ran federally was to make sure that this housing program was re-established on a national level. I am extraordinarily proud to see the work being done by our ministers on these files. I am extraordinarily proud of the fact that the government is stepping in and stepping up, for the first time in my lifetime, in a way that is truly meaningful and will transition this country back into a situation where housing is no longer seen as a vulnerability, but one of the shining examples of how Canadians can pull together to make sure that all of us are adequately housed, adequately supported, and put in a position to thrive and succeed, despite some of the challenges we are delivered by fate.
The other component of this, which I think is just as important, are the transitions and changes we are making around transit and transportation funding. We have come through an extraordinary period of time, in which transit has not been properly funded by the previous government. We have seen projects picked out of the air, on fishing trips in the case of Toronto, where one project gets the funding, but a whole series of other projects are left behind.
We have seen, for the last two years, the cities of Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Mississauga, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, and St. John's not receive a penny of new infrastructure investment. That was because the previous government liked to announce money, loved handing out the big cheques, but never actually wrote out a cheque to be cashed. It could cut ribbons, but it could not cut cheques. As a result, we lost years of growth in the transit file due to the sort of showmanship that was on display. It certainly was not good urban support or an urban agenda, by any stretch of the imagination.
As a result, lots of cities, lots of communities, and in particular lots of families, were left behind, as trains went by, packed full, unsupported by the federal government, or as buses never arrived because the dollars did not arrive in those cities either.
Not only have we stepped up historically on transit, but we have also done something else which is critically important for cities right across this country. We withdrew the firewall between state of good repair and new projects. In other words, if money arrived or it was promised, if there was any money on the table, it was only for new projects and new services, which quite often generated operational costs for cities and municipalities.
What we have done is we have removed that firewall. We have allowed state of good repair and capital maintenance to be included in the capital repair budget of transit operators across the country, and, in doing that, we are building stronger transit systems while also supporting the growth of transit.
Finally, with regard to the green infrastructure, there is an old saying at city halls right across this country, “If you don't manage the water, the water will manage your town eventually anyways.” The green infrastructure funds around flood protection, clean water, and environmental adaptations to make sure that we embrace the next century with confidence rather than fear as a result of climate change have been made in this budget.
Together, all of those investments create an economy that partners with the private sector to deliver a new society, a new level of infrastructure, new capacity, and new strength in the Canadian economy. This is exactly the platform we intended to create. It is exactly what the budget motion would deliver. In doing so, we are going to create the context for people to succeed in this country. I am proud to support this budget.