Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak about Bill C-29, which implements a number of important elements of the 2016 budget. I proudly support this budget, because it represents the best that this country has to offer its citizens.
I have been following Canadian federal politics closely for more than 20 years, especially during the more than seven years that I worked as a constituency assistant, a parliamentary assistant and now as a member of Parliament. As a result, I have seen many budgets and changes, many attempts to try out new ideas, and numerous mistakes.
The bill before us is not just an annual budget intended to stay the course with policies that did not work before, in hopes that they will work this time. On the contrary, it is a budget that focuses on our future. It lays the groundwork for years of even better budgets, investments and innovations.
In the economic update presented a few weeks ago, new investments were announced. As the MP for a very rural riding, I am pleased to see a new $2-billion investment, as a first step, for rural infrastructure priorities.
We need to make up for the decades of negligence the regions have suffered. That money, along with $180 billion for infrastructure in many categories that are not specific to the regions, demonstrates the government's interest and its plans to deliver on that.
Where I come from, high-speed Internet access is a very important issue. As far as we are concerned, all socio-economic issues can be linked to high-speed Internet access. The government allocated $500 million for this in the budget. That money cannot come quickly enough. However, we are not so naive as to believe that this small amount is going to solve the problem of rural Internet access after 20 years of failures in digital communication. That money is merely a first step. I am very proud to finally see a forward-looking budget that focuses on long-term planning after 10 years of mismanagement.
I know the Conservatives will ask me how we can plan anything with such large deficits. It does not surprise me that they keep asking that question. For years, they looked at their own deficits and had no idea what to do about them or where they came from, even as they cut taxes and investment in our economy. They actually increased the national debt by more than $150 billion. Year after year, the Conservatives never stopped to think about how future generations would pay off the debt they accumulated.
The Conservatives eliminated government revenue sources and spent willy-nilly. They did not have an infrastructure plan to build the country and our future. They fixed potholes and built gazebos. They spent, but they did not invest, with the possible exception being economic action plan posters, which sprouted up all over the country like mushrooms.
During this debate, the Conservatives have repeatedly questioned whether paying taxes is the way to go. They do not believe that taxes are society's best tool for sharing common costs. They do not agree that it is the government's responsibility to manage that money and spend it in the country's best interest.
Clearly, our job is to improve the lives of all Canadians. However, I can assure the House that we are not going to change things just by listening to the Conservatives. It will take concrete action by the government, and that means spending money in almost every case.
As far as I am concerned, it is obvious that the government has an important role to play in the economy. As I said during yesterday's debate, taxes allow us to pool our resources in order to pay for the expenses shared by our society. The role of government is to improve citizens' lives and it does that by managing these pooled resources, in short, taxes.
We should be talking more about citizens rather than taxpayers. We often do not consider the goal of the institution we work for and the reason why we are here. When the Conservatives imply that the government has no useful role or function, or that taxes are nothing more than a burden for citizens and business, they have completely missed the point.
I find it amusing that the Conservatives are complaining about the government moving forward with enhancements to the Canada pension plan when they have a parliamentary pension plan. They complain about the fact that the government collects taxes and decides how to spend them to improve people's lives, but they do not turn down their own salaries, benefits, or their parliamentary budget.
They know that, as members of the government and members of Parliament, we have the vital role of managing common resources and expenditures and of debating the best ways to improve the lives of our fellow Canadians.
Accordingly, I believe that, eventually, we should consider the possibility of ensuring that all Canadians have a guaranteed minimum income. This idea has been debated in many countries by many generations and may have been around for as long as the debate on whether to annex Turks and Caicos, a measure that I am also not likely to oppose.
Because so many aspects of our society are becoming automated, one day, there may not be enough work for all Canadians. However, I may be wrong, but I believe that that day is still a long way off.
One of my favourite movies is The Gods Must be Crazy. The beginning of this South African and Botswanan movie from the 1980s explains how society becomes more modernized. We have created technology to simplify our lives, but the more simplified our lives become, the more complex the technology becomes. We need more education to understand our simplified lives, which are in fact becoming more complicated.
To come back to what I was saying, the Canada child benefit, which provides parents with up to $6,400 a year per child, is a type of guaranteed minimum income. We already have a guaranteed minimum income for seniors in the form of the guaranteed income supplement, which we increased by 10% in the budget for those who need it most. The idea is already present in our social structures because one of the shared commitments we made as a society was to take care of those who do not have the means or ability to take care of themselves.
Our budget therefore includes a number of components that focus on improving our future. Investments in infrastructure are essential, but we have to run a deficit to make those investments because our infrastructure is already in a deficit situation.
For example, Internet access in our regions is often so unreliable that it is having a significant harmful effect on our economy. Many of our roads are in disrepair. It is estimated that only 400,000 km of Canada's one million kilometres of roads are paved. The investment needs of indigenous communities are so great that I cannot even begin to describe them here. It costs money to make all of these changes and fix these long-standing problems. However, all these investments will improve the quality of life of Canadians in the short term and strengthen our economy in the long term.
Yes, we must go into debt to get there, but our society is already in debt, whether we are talking about our roads, our communities, or our basic infrastructure. By investing, we are simply quantifying this deficit.
With a stronger economy, improved infrastructure, and essential investments, government revenues will increase without hurting the economy and the deficits will start to go down. We have the record to prove it. There has not been a Liberal Prime Minister since confederation who has not managed to balance at least one budget. The only exception was when no budget was tabled. As for the Conservatives' record, the opposite is true.
The good news about infrastructure in the budget does not stop there. I initially had concerns about the idea of an infrastructure bank that the private sector would contribute to, as I consider myself more left-leaning. However, I now understand how we might benefit from it and I see the tremendous potential. I am by no means an expert on this, but if it is done correctly the possibilities are immense.
Private-public funding of infrastructure gives us the chance to finally address the issue of high-speed Internet access in the regions, seriously address the issue of affordable housing, and build other green, social, and traditional infrastructure where traditionally user-pay models are used, without giving up on the idea that infrastructure should belong to the public sector. It is quite interesting and I look forward to following this project.
I am proud of our budget, Bill C-29 and of our government's plans and I am not afraid to say so.