Mr. Speaker, it gives me great honour to rise in the House today to express my support for budget 2016.
Over the past three weeks, my office in Burlington has seen over 250 people visit the community volunteer income tax program that we are hosting. The program helps low-income Canadians file their taxes. I was glad to see an additional $4 million in the budget to expand this excellent program, which enables low-income earners to receive the benefits for which they qualify. This might come as surprise to many who often think of Burlington as a wealthy community, and in many ways we are.
We have a beautiful, vibrant, safe community. However, we also have many people who are struggling with the high cost of living. In the year leading up to the election, my team and I knocked on over 44,000 doors. What struck me when I asked the people in my community about issues they cared about most was that, for the majority, it had to do with making ends meet; social issues, such as opportunities for youth, retirement security, affordable housing; the environment, and climate change. Importantly, Canadian values, such as our generosity and inclusiveness and our good international citizenship, were at the top of the list.
In my nomination speech, I spoke of several of the issues that propelled me to seek office and serve my community and my country. These are issues such as affordable and quality child care, affordable housing for seniors and newcomers, efficient and reliable transportation and transit, a focus on fostering an innovative global-oriented economy to ensure dignified jobs, support for sustainable local farming practices, a balanced approach to global affairs, and restoring funding and respect to our research facilities and environmental agencies across the country, particularly in relation to our great lakes and fresh water, as well as having a thoughtful and consensual plan when it comes to managing our natural resources.
I am proud that budget 2016 recognizes each of these issues and demonstrates that this government will be both a partner for provinces, territories, and municipalities, and a true leader for Canadians.
While there are many parts of this budget that I would like to speak to, since I only have 10 minutes, let me focus on five areas that are particularly important for my community of Burlington: seniors, youth, infrastructure, our innovation agenda, and equality.
Let me begin with our deliverables to seniors.
As members may know, my riding of Burlington has a large, vibrant seniors population. We have an active seniors centre with over 3,000 members, which the Prime Minister had the opportunity to visit around this time last year. If there was one issue that I heard at the door, it was with respect to seniors.
In the region of Halton, there are over 4,000 people on the waiting list for affordable housing. Our commitment to renew the subsidies for federal housing, build more affordable rental housing, and provide over $200 million for affordable seniors housing will have a meaningful impact on helping seniors in my community live in dignity.
I have met many seniors who rely on OAS and GIS and who have been struggling to make ends meet. Our increase to the GIS by 10% will have a tangible, positive impact to improve the bottom line and the quality of life for many low-income seniors in Burlington. I am proud that our government has fulfilled its promise to make their lives a little better.
This next issue bridges generations, and I am encouraged to see it highlighted in the budget: enhancing the Canada pension plan. From business leaders to organized labour, seniors groups and youth, I have had many conversations about the importance of pension enhancement. While I encourage all Canadians to save for retirement and encourage organizations to develop pension plans for their employees, sometimes there just is not any money left over to put away. The CPP is a well-managed fund and could make a real impact toward a dignified and secure retirement for all Canadians. I applaud the Minister of Finance for taking on this challenge and working with his provincial and territorial colleagues to provide secure retirements for future generations of Canadians.
This budget also highlights our government's commitment to youth and our desire to build a robust economy that will provide quality opportunities for our young Canadians. After completing high school, many of the young people in my community head off to universities and colleges across Canada. The youth employment strategy and the Canada summer jobs program will help create jobs in Burlington, so that when students come home for the summer, they can find good jobs in their hometown that may lead to opportunities after graduation. A young, vibrant workforce is essential in my riding of Burlington, and many ridings across Canada, to support the aging demographic while also continuing to build for the future.
A good education is fundamental to joining today's workforce. The Canada student grants program is an asset for those embarking on post-secondary studies. It is long overdue that these amounts be raised to reflect the rising costs and to keep debt loads manageable for our young people to get a toe-hold into a successful adult life. This budget is a strong reflection of the issues raised by so many young people I have spoken to in Burlington.
Importantly, budget 2016 recognizes the existential need for physical infrastructure improvements and additions.
In the summer of 2014, Burlington experienced unprecedented levels of rain, which overwhelmed our sewage systems and resulted in a major flood that affected over 4,000 homes. The reality of climate change and increase in extreme weather literally flooded into our homes. I welcome the $2 billion commitment to a new clean water and waste water fund.
My riding, like many in the GTA, is no stranger to congestion. There are solutions, and widening all roads is not the only one. We must invest in and expand our public transit systems. The new public transit infrastructure fund would help shorten commute times and reduce air pollution. Not only will this be better for the environment, but getting people where they need to go in a timely and efficient manner will improve our physical and mental health as well as our collective productivity, which leads me to what is Burlington's best-kept secret: our innovative and varied manufacturing sector.
I have had the distinct honour of touring a number of companies that are thriving and rising to the challenges of a competitive global marketplace. I want to see them grow and continue to prosper. They create good jobs and add value to our local communities. However, they can do more, and this budget aims to support their ambitions and add new successful enterprises to their ranks.
By providing the National Research Council's IRAP with additional funding, this government will help the small and medium-sized companies in my riding innovate and grow. The new high-impact firm initiative will assist firms in furthering their global competitiveness. Our plan to foster a clean growth economy will provide new opportunities to the next generation of entrepreneurs. I am heartened to see the importance placed on all aspects of the manufacturing sector, including the auto sector, in the recent budget.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention two additional items in this budget that are important for me: the increased funding for shelters for victims of violence and the additional funding for status of women.
President Obama recently said that a country should be judged by how it treats its women. While we still have work to do in this country, having a feminist Prime Minister, a gender-balanced cabinet, and a commitment to equality is a good starting point.
Our commitment of $500 million over the next five years toward a national framework for child care and early learning is another important step toward gender equality.
I am proud to support budget 2016, as it responds to many of the issues I heard from my constituents at their doorways. This budget lays out the plan to put our country back on a path toward growth and social inclusion, and it reaffirms the values generations of Canadians have cherished as the foundations of our national identity.
It is clear that these issues are intertwined. Skills, training, and experience develop our young people, but we need to ensure that young people have the opportunities to excel. We will achieve this by fostering a robust environment and economy by providing the infrastructure—social, green, and physical—for all Canadians to thrive at every stage of life in an inclusive society that is based on equality for all. Yes, this sounds like my Canada.
I have met thousands of people in my community and across Canada. The ingenuity, the resilience, and the possibilities the people of our country take hold of every day never cease to amaze me.
Another prime minister by the name of Trudeau once said, “The Canadian ideal which we have tried to live, with varying degrees of success and failure for a hundred years, is really an act of defiance against the history of mankind.” In Canada, we work to overcome our challenges peacefully and to create a fair society. It is my hope that we will continue to defy history.
For the individuals and families, the parents and seniors who have come to our community volunteer income tax clinic, the measures in this budget will make a meaningful impact on their lives.
A fair society is a strong society, and that is good for us all.
Budget 2016 speaks to our present and to our future, a future that is focused on creating the opportunity for all Canadians to reach their full potential. I encourage my colleagues in this place to join me in supporting this budget and the opportunities that lie ahead.