Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to offer a few comments today on legislation that will implement many of the commitments made in budget 2018.
While there are many things I would love to touch on that have been canvassed during the course of this debate, I will restrict my comments to two key themes. The first is the measures that seek to ensure that all Canadians have a shot at success in Canada in the 21st century. The second is that budget 2018, in my mind, is a budget for Atlantic Canadians.
The first theme, if I can boil down the general thesis of this government to a single idea, is that we need to create a society and an economy that works for everyone. The opportunity to succeed or to experience happiness in Canada should not depend on whether someone's family comes from money, but should accrue to a person by virtue of being Canadian.
If I look at some of the first measures we adopted, there is a consistent theme that carries through to the legislation we are debating today. The very first measure we adopted as a government was to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% of Canadians and cut taxes for the middle class. We followed up on that initiative by introducing the Canada child benefit, which puts more money in the pockets of nine out of 10 Canadian families, and we stopped sending child care cheques to millionaires. Incredibly, this program has cut childhood poverty for 300,000 children.
Anecdotally in my own experience, I have spoken to families that have told me this benefit has allowed them to enrol their children in swimming lessons. I had a single mother tell me that, for the first time, she was able to afford new clothes for her children on the first day of school because of the new income from the Canada child benefit.
We love to cash things in with respect to economic growth and in GDP development, which is very important, but we cannot forget there are very human experiences behind those numbers. Talking to the families in my riding and hearing them tell me that their kids are better off because of this policy, lets me know we are on the right track.
We built upon these investments by investing in a national housing strategy. I would like to thank the member for Spadina—Fort York for his work on this important file. We continue to invest in measures that will improve the lives of Canadian families.
When I look at the budget implementation act, I can point to measures like the Canada workers benefit. This benefit is more generous and replaces the very valuable working income tax benefit. It is kind of complicated to understand for a lot of people who do not dig into tax policy, so I hope my colleagues will allow me just a moment to explain in very basic terms what this does.
This policy was designed to help people who were working hard in our communities but could not seem to get ahead. Now we talk a lot, admittedly, about the middle class and those working hard to join it. This policy is designed specifically for those working hard to join it. People who are earning $15,000 a year and are working hard will see a benefit of about $2,300 through this new policy, which accrues to them automatically. That is $500 more than they earn today, and $500 for a person earning $15,000 a year makes a significant difference in the quality of that person's life.
If I look at other measures, like indexing the Canada child benefit, I know we are doing the right thing. If we have measures that are designed to help with the cost of living, those measures need to continue to increase as the cost of living increases. The value of benefit today needs to adjust as the cost of living goes up. It is one thing if that single mom is able to afford a new outfit for her kids on the first day of school this year. However, I want to ensure this program stays intact so that family can continue to afford those basics in life, which so many of us take for granted, 10 or 20 years from now and that her grandchildren can enjoy those kinds of benefits in perpetuity.
I will change gears a bit and talk about some of the measures I saw in budget 2018 that are designed for Atlantic Canada. This is an issue that is very near and dear to my heart. One of the reasons I got involved in politics was the fact that so many people from my region had a hard time staying in Atlantic Canada, despite the fact they want nothing more than to do that.
I was a young person who gained an education. After eight years in university, I realized I had to pay down some pretty serious student loans and quickly found myself moving west to Calgary to find work. I was able to move back home. I looked at what my family was doing and I saw that a great number of my family members had to move to find work. I have five sisters, two who moved to Ontario for work when I was thinking about running for office. I had to move to Calgary to find a job. I had two sisters, with two university degrees, who became teachers. One moved out of the province and another had her husband flying in and out of the Middle East to work in the energy sector. My youngest sister finished her education and moved to Halifax from our rural community so she could find work.
My family is not unique. My family and my community could be replaced with any other family or community in Atlantic Canada and the same story would be true. We need to do more to ensure there are opportunities for families and people to stay in their communities if that is what they want to do.
When I look at some of the measures we have adopted, we have an economic growth strategy designed specifically for Atlantic Canada. This strategy has seen a new immigration pilot introduced for our region to ensure our communities, which are getting older, have an influx of people to fill our labour market needs, and also build stronger, more vibrant communities.
I see measures to increase innovation in Atlantic Canada, like the ocean supercluster, which will help us tap into the strategic resource, the Atlantic Ocean.
I see opportunities from the infrastructure spending we have seen. My riding alone has seen projects like the Trades and Innovation Centre at the Nova Scotia Community College Pictou campus. It put about 120 people to work for a while, but it also leaves the community with a strategic asset that will educate our skilled workers for generations.
I have seen investments at St. Francis Xavier University in the new institute of government and the Centre for Innovation in Health.
I see our municipalities being able to afford water and waste water treatment facilities. I see our small craft harbours being built, which creates jobs in the short term but provides economic security for our rural communities by providing our fishermen with a safe place to fish going forward for years.
It is important to me that we are making these kinds of investments. However, when I look at budget 2018, I see this trend is continuing. This is not some flippant theme we had in the first few years of our government. This is a long-term commitment. We have seen, after a significant advocacy from my Atlantic caucus colleagues, $250 million put into small craft harbours to ensure these wharves continue to be repaired and our harbour infrastructure continues to support our fishing communities.
We see measures like the investment to protect against the threat posed by the spruce budworm, which was seriously threatening the forestry sector in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We have seen our forests decimated in different parts of the country and in our region at different times in our history. However, to know we are putting $75 million to protect these strategic resources, our forests, to help people work in our natural resources sector is incredibly important to me.
In addition, our regional development agency, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, has seen an increased investment to the tune of $48 million in budget 2018. This will help ensure our communities can tap into economic development opportunities when they present themselves. This is very serious. In Atlantic Canada, we depend on this agency to help build more vibrant communities and to support businesses scale up and hire more people.
As long as I hold this position, I will not give up on supporting those who need our help to ensure that whether people come from money or come from nothing, the Government of Canada will be behind them. I will continue to be an advocate for the economy in Atlantic Canada so our families can succeed and call Atlantic Canada home for generations into the future.