Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to address a key portion of the government's plan for economic growth in our country. Investing in infrastructure was a key pillar of the economic platform we ran on in the 2015 election. I am pleased to see, as part of the budget implementation act that introduces serious investments in infrastructure as well as the concept of the infrastructure bank, that we are making good on this commitment. We are going to achieve economic growth across our country.
Over the course of my remarks, I hope to cover a few themes. For example, why are infrastructure investments important, particularly in the economic context we live in today, and why is an infrastructure bank a wise idea? I also want to cover some of the investments in my community so I can demonstrate through examples how meaningful economic growth can happen with strategic investments in our country's infrastructure.
I will begin with the importance of investing in our infrastructure. The economic context is key to understanding why this is a good time to be making such serious and substantial investments. Right now we live in a time that has historically low interest rates. Money has never been cheaper in the history of currency. At the same time, we are coming out of a period of slow economic growth, culminating with the third quarter of 2015 having us on the border of a recession.
When we are trying to spur economic growth when the private sector is going through a difficult time, and when it is cheap to gain access to capital, it makes sense to be making investments in infrastructure. However, it is also important to invest in certain kinds of infrastructure. We want to make sure that the investments we make create jobs in the short term to kick-start the economy but also set the conditions for long-term economic growth. We cannot simply hire people to dig holes in the ground. We need to be investing in projects that will create prosperity in the long term.
There are a handful of key focus areas for the $180-billion infrastructure plan that have been laid out.
We are investing in public transit, which disproportionately has a positive impact on people living in poverty, people living with disabilities, and seniors, which are key demographics in my riding.
We are investing in social infrastructure, such as housing and child care, to the tune of $11 billion and $7 billion, respectively, because we know that the cost of investing in these key parts of social infrastructure is cheaper than the cost of failing to make investments that are much needed.
We are investing in trade and transport infrastructure, because we know that we are competing in a global marketplace, and getting our goods to the global marketplace in a timely manner is essential if we are going to create good-paying, middle-class jobs across Canada.
We are investing in clean growth and green infrastructure. I have to point out, in light of the flooding in recent days, that I lived in Calgary in 2013 during the massive floods and was evacuated. With investments in flood mitigation infrastructure, we can see economic benefits that do not shut down downtown cores for weeks at a time. With investments in alternative energy, we can become greener, and create good-paying 21st-century jobs at the same time.
The final theme of the infrastructure plan laid out in the budget, which is of key importance to my riding, is an investment in rural Canada. There is $2 billion set aside for rural and northern infrastructure. This does not prejudice the ability of small towns and rural communities to seek investments from the rest of the infrastructure funding envelope. However, to see that there is actually a carve-out for rural infrastructure makes me incredibly proud, because it is something that I and a number of my rural colleagues have been advocating for. To see that recognition says to me that the Government of Canada is interested not just in the biggest urban centres but in the small towns and rural communities that make up the vast majority of our geography.
The great news is that the plan is already starting to work. We have seen, over a six-month period, over a quarter of a million jobs added to the Canadian economy, most of which are full-time. Unemployment has crept down. The plan is starting to work. While the private sector is seeing some improvement, public investments in infrastructure are also paying dividends early on.
I do not want to talk just in generalities. I hope that some examples from my own riding will be illustrative of the difference our investments are going to make.
With 32 Atlantic Canadian MPs on the government side of the House, we have had an opportunity to inform the policy-making process in a manner we have never had before. The government has responded to the advocacy of Atlantic Canadian MPs by coming up with the Atlantic growth strategy, under which infrastructure is one of the key pillars that is going to drive economic growth. There have been investments in infrastructure in my riding that not only play to our strengths but seek to mitigate some of our weaknesses as well.
We saw recently at St. Francis Xavier University, of which I am a proud graduate, as are my five sisters and both of my parents, an investment to the tune of $30 million to establish the institute of government and the centre for innovation in health.
The Brian Mulroney institute of government—Brian Mulroney is also a graduate of this fine institution—is going to focus on things like Canada-U.S. relations and international trade, the politics of environment and climate change, and women in leadership, among other things.
Each of these programs is going to not only contribute to long-term economic growth by promoting women to senior leadership roles and by understanding what policies we can adopt to enhance trade with our largest trading partner but is also going to create 600 jobs, for four years, in my backyard, in a community of only 4,500 people. This is a phenomenal investment in small-town Canada that I am incredibly proud of.
At the same time, another portion of this project is going to the centre for innovation and health. In Nova Scotia we have the highest proportion of seniors of any province in Canada. We need to come up with innovative solutions if we are going to succeed in the 21st century. Investing in a facility that is going to create jobs in the short term and help us solve our long-term demographic problems is essential and smart, and I am very proud of it.
Keeping with the theme of post-secondary education infrastructure, we have seen a tremendous investment, a combined federal and provincial investment of over $15 million, in the Nova Scotia Community College Pictou Campus that is going to see a new trades innovation centre. This educational hub for the skilled trades is what keeps many of our good-paying jobs in our community today. Without an institution that is keeping our machine shops filled with employees, I do not know where my county would be. To know that we are investing to make sure that we are not just protecting the jobs we have now but are educating a workforce for the jobs of the next 10 or 20 years, or more, is something I am incredibly proud of.
When we talk about infrastructure, we often limit ourselves to the envelopes of funding that fall under the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, but in fact, in my community, there is all kinds of infrastructure that matters.
I have two coasts in my riding, the Northumberland Strait and the eastern shore of Nova Scotia. That is why I was so proud to see investments in small craft harbours to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. In my riding alone, to protect the fishery, to provide our fishermen with a safe place to work, we have seen investments to the tune of $10.8 million. A lot of this work is under way or complete today, and fishermen who are achieving an all-time high in terms of the price of lobster are able to know they have a place to bring in their product.
We are seeing investments in major highways, such as the Aerotech connector, which is going to connect some of the residents of my neighbour, the hon. member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, to the key economic hub outside the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, which is the Aerotech business park. This is an innovation hub in the aerotech sector that is key to the future of the Nova Scotia economy.
We are seeing investments in the connect to innovate program that are going to extend access to rural Internet to places that do not have it today. The importance of this investment cannot be overstated. I have talked to business owners who closed their storefront in a tourist community because they did not have reliable access to the Internet and their debit machine worked only 50% of the time. Tourists do not carry cash like they used to, and the owners have to operate their business in a community a little way down the road, where they have a reliable connection.
I have talked to tourism operators who cannot attract people to come to stay at their facilities because these people cannot achieve a wireless connection while they are there. I have talked to property owners who have been on the verge of a sale of their home, and when a person went to make a phone call and could not connect, they backed out of the deal. The investment in connectivity in rural communities is essential, and I look forward to the results. I know that it will serve Nova Scotia well.
I could go on about a number of other municipal infrastructure investments, including long-term commitments to the ferry service, but I want to turn my mind to the infrastructure bank, which is the specific subject of the motion today.
There is a unique opportunity to create more jobs in our communities and improve the strength of our communities. Currently, the global context is perfect for an investment like this. There is approximately $16 trillion in negative yield bonds around the world. What this means is that there is $16 trillion sitting waiting and looking for a better home. We can provide that home by putting up $35 billion of our own to create an infrastructure bank that will attract investments from international companies in Canadian communities to create jobs.
We have an infrastructure deficit in our country of about $1 trillion. We cannot do this solely through public financing if we do not want it to take three generations. The infrastructure bank is going to help cut into that deficit and make a meaningful difference in the communities I represent.
I support the infrastructure bank. It is a great idea. The time is right. I am so pleased to offer a few thoughts on this investment for my community.