Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to add some thoughts on what is a very important day. It is yet another day on which we recognize a budget that further advances what Canadians voted for just under 18 months ago.
What I would like to do is offer a bit of reflection. I think of where we were two years ago. At that time, people were wanting to see change. What they recognized was that the Conservative Party, under Stephen Harper, had lost touch with what Canadians really wanted to see happen. The New Democratic Party, I believe, got it wrong. We saw that in its policy of having a balanced budget. What Canadians wanted to hear from a political entity was what the Liberal Party was talking about. We wanted to see an investment in Canada and in Canadians to deal with the issue of Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be part of it. Time and time again, when I was talking with individuals, what they wanted was a sense of hope and a leader who would speak to them and listen to what they had to say.
The Prime Minister continues to ask members of Parliament to reach into their constituencies and to represent their constituents here in Ottawa, as opposed to representing Ottawa to their constituents. My colleagues in the Liberal caucus take that to heart. They believe that at the end of the day, we are here to represent the interests of our constituents. It is something we take very seriously. We continuously bring those ideas and concerns to our standing committees, to the floor of the House, to our caucus, to the numerous committees and subcommittees established through our caucus, and even to the evening events we attend, because we genuinely believe that the way we can continue to build a healthier and stronger Canada is to reflect the interests and will of the constituents we represent.
I want to provide an overview for the simple reason that if we look at everything that has occurred in the last 18 months, in comparison to the previous Stephen Harper government, there has been a significant amount of progress on a series of files. That can be clearly demonstrated. Canadians wanted real change, and they got real change. We have seen that change implemented in many ways and highlighted through our budgets.
It was literally weeks after the election that we heard about the importance of giving the middle-class tax break. That was one of the first pieces of legislation brought to the House, the tax break for Canada's middle class. We understood that there needed to be a sense of fairness. That is why we saw the1% of Canada's wealthiest taxed a little more and Canada's middle class given a substantial tax break. We understood that there are many individuals who are aspiring to be a part of that middle class and many individuals who needed that helping hand. We saw that in the first budget.
We saw increases in things such as the guaranteed income supplement. That was a substantial increase, to the tune of hundreds of dollars. I believe it is just in excess of $900 for some of the very poorest of Canada's seniors, many of whom actually live within the riding I represent. As I have said on many occasions, that initiative lifted literally tens of thousands, many of whom are from Winnipeg North, out of poverty situations.
We have talked a great deal about the Canada child benefit program, a program that, again, has lifted tens of thousands out of poverty. I am being conservative with those numbers. We could argue that hundreds of thousands of children have actually been lifted out of poverty because of that initiative.
Those are the types of things we are reinforcing and building upon in this budget. Those are the types of initiatives that have allowed Canadians to have more money in their pockets, increasing disposable income. We understand that a healthy middle class is good for all Canadians. The middle class and those aspiring to be part of it cultivate the economy and feed job growth. The more we build on the middle class, the more we will have a robust economy. I believe that the two have been moving forward quite significantly.
About two weeks ago, we heard some of the numbers and some of the trends. I am always a little cautious in regard to the numbers, but there was one that really stuck out: almost 220,000 jobs have been created in a six-month period. That is an incredible amount of growth in jobs, and most were full-time jobs. In fact, we will likely find that it is higher than in any time frame of six months in the previous decade. I believe that is, in good part, proof that things are moving forward.
Canadians understood that we needed to see a tangible investment in our economy, and what is better than to invest in Canada's infrastructure. This budget continues to reinforce what we presented last year, with a record amount of money, an historical amount of money, being invested in our infrastructure.
Just the other day I was reading a release that stated that the Province of Ontario, through infrastructure and transit, literally has about 200 different projects moving forward dealing with transit issues. Last year there was a desire to move quickly because of the Fort McMurray fire and the economy of Alberta.
I applaud the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities who has done a fantastic job of reaching out to the provinces and municipalities to identify the types of projects we can start acting on, all of which are important. Whether it is transit or social infrastructure, it is absolutely critical that we start investing as soon as we can in terms of building Canadian infrastructure. We all benefit when that takes place.
I am very proud of the fact that we have a Prime Minister who has recognized the importance of Canada's infrastructure. By recognizing it, he has also added the dollars that are necessary to make a difference. This is part of listening to different stakeholders, in particular the different levels of government. Municipalities were crying for resources. They need the dollars to improve infrastructure. I am glad and very proud of the fact that the government is responding, like no other government, to the need for infrastructure dollars. I see that as very positive.
We talk a lot about budgets and how we are using tax dollars, but it has gone beyond that in the last 18 months. I am very proud of the fact that we have a government, for the first time in many years, that understands that it has a strong national leadership role on important files, files Canadians want us to act on.
I would like to give a few examples. One is the CPP agreement. The CPP is one of those fundamental programs Canadians have grown to love and want to be there for them, whether it is today or in the years ahead. Our government actually moved forward in meeting with different provinces and territories and came to an agreement with our partners, which ultimately saw substantial increases in the CPP. That is about working with other governments. It also recognizes that decisions we make today impact people tomorrow. There will not be any immediate benefit per se, but in the long term, many workers in the workforce today will receive substantial increases when it comes to retirement, because this government made it a priority to change the CPP program and to work with the provinces.
In opposition, I called on the Harper government for years to work with the provinces to try to get an agreement. The Conservatives did not demonstrate any interest in that, and they were not able to ultimately deliver what I believe Canadians wanted to see.
We can talk about the price on pollution. The price on carbon is an interesting issue. When we had the conference on the environment in Paris, the Prime Minister and others attended. The Prime Minister came back indicating that Canada can and needs to play a leadership role. Shortly thereafter, provinces came on side, agreeing on the need to have a price on carbon. I thought it was really interesting that there were premiers of all political stripes, Conservative, New Democrat, and Liberal, and countries around the world that agreed that we needed to have a price on carbon. Only one real voice came out against it, which was the Conservative Party.
I made reference at the beginning of my speech to the Conservatives having lost touch with Canadians. This is a good example that highlights that the Conservatives are again out of touch with what Canadians truly want to see happen.
The price on pollution is needed, and the misinformation the Conservatives might try to convey is most unfortunate. What upsets me, to a certain degree, is that they try to give the impression that Ottawa generates revenue from this. This is, for the national government, revenue neutral. Ottawa is not getting a dime from the price on carbon. In fact, all it demonstrates is that Ottawa and this Prime Minister recognize the need to demonstrate leadership on this file, and that is the reason we have a universal, pan-Canada approach on this issue.
I have made reference in the past to the importance of health care to all Canadians. It is an issue on which Canadians identify themselves as being Canadian. They have a sense of pride in our health care system. As a former health care critic in the province of Manitoba, I think there is a great deal of room for improvement, especially in the management of health care, but what I recognize, and I recognized even back then, is that Ottawa has to play a role. That role goes beyond just handing over dollars. I am so proud of the fact that we have a Minister of Health who recognizes that.
For all Canadians, we now have a health care accord, with the exception of one province. Unfortunately, it is my home province that has not quite signed on, but I applaud all of those involved in making that happen, because I know it is important, not only to this government but to Canadians, and that is why it is important to this government.
We have a minister dealing with trade who is doing a phenomenal job working with his counterparts. We are very optimistic that we will see some sort of agreement on trade. The trade file has been really important to this government. We saw it with the World Trade Organization legislation. It involves dozens of countries around the world, and makes trade that much better for Canada. We saw it with the trade agreement with Ukraine, which was signed off by this Prime Minister. There is the incredible work done by the former minister responsible for international trade in getting CETA across the line. That is so critically important.
The bottom line is that this government has recognized how important trade is to Canada. Canada is a trading nation. We are very dependent on going outside of our borders. What we will find in the 2017 budget are initiatives which, much like in the 2016 budget, promote and encourage our companies to look at exporting to expand opportunities, because the more we engage in trade, the more opportunities there will be for Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be part of it.
Trade equals jobs. This government understands that and is working progressively to deal and to deliver. We have seen many announcements in different regions of our country that will further advance all Canadians.
I am proud to have had the opportunity to represent the constituents of Winnipeg North in speaking to what I believe they would say is a budget that delivers in a very tangible way.