Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to say that the budget is probably the most important instrument that the government can present every year. I am very disappointed that we were not able to hear the Minister of Finance give his speech. The following week, many of my constituents told me how much they deplored missing the opportunity to hear the speech. Therefore, I would like to clarify a few things for Canadians today and for the people of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook.
My presentation on the budget today touches on a number of themes. The first one, of course, is veterans, followed by seniors, youth, housing—which is extremely important—and black Canadians. I will also, of course, make reference to my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook.
With regard to veterans, we have made some big changes, and they are really important to note.
The first part is about transition. Transition has been a challenge for all governments. The objective is to make it as seamless as possible. We have expanded the coverage and support in the transition formula to non-injured veterans. Previously, it was only for injured veterans, but now it includes non-injured veterans. We have also established a guide that will help veterans to follow the process in their My VAC Account, which is extremely important. This is one piece.
We have also expanded education and training benefits, which is another important aspect. We have expanded this to included the reservists. This is important, because it is something veterans have been talking about.
We have also invested monies for the recognition and commemoration of Métis veterans. I am on the veterans affairs committee. I had the opportunity to go across Canada to speak to many Métis veterans who fought for our great country, which is extremely important.
Finally, I have advocated personally in the last couple of years to ensure that we have what some call a new survivor fund for veterans' families for when a veteran passes. I do not know if members are aware of this, but if a veteran marries after age 60 and passes, his family does not have access to a percentage of his pension or to benefits. This is something our government has put into the bill. It is really important and would be much appreciated by many of my colleagues.
Let us now talk about youth, the young people of Canada. What we brought forward for them in this budget is quite impressive.
Two years ago, we talked about the idea that they would not have to pay back their student loans until they made $25,000 a year or more. That was a big help, and young people have mentioned it several times to me.
Now we have also taken out the interest rate for the first six months so that they do not have to pay it for six months after they graduate, which is crucial. In addition, after six months, instead of having to pay prime plus 2.5%, they will pay prime.
I would like to note that I am sharing my time with the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
What is also very important for young people is the first-time homebuyers' tax credit. This provides an opportunity for young people to get into the housing market. It is quite impressive. When young people buy a house for $400,000 and they put 5% down, that is $20,000. However, there would be a shared equity investment for another 10%, which equals $40,000. Therefore, a house for which they would have had a mortgage of $380,000 only needs a mortgage of $340,000. What does that represent? That represents a savings of $228 per month for 25 years. That is very important.
We have made some great investments as well in the construction of new rental units. We will have 84,000 new units.
Let us talk about seniors. Between 2011 and 2016, my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook had the greatest increase in the number of seniors in Nova Scotia. It is extremely important that we do more to support our seniors. We have the new horizons program, which supports community-based projects. Seniors can submit an application for investment support for equipment, programs and transportation. There are all kinds of great opportunities around that.
One of the most important things that many seniors ask about is how can they keep more money in their pockets. Some seniors work part time; that is a good thing, because the economy needs more people in the workforce, but they may make $100 on the one hand but lose $100 on the other hand. Our government made some major changes to the GIS. Before now, there was 100% exemption on earnings up to $3,500; now that exemption would go up to $5,000. There is also a 50% exemption on the next $10,000. Seniors are seeing a $6,500 differential. They will get to keep more money in their pockets, and that is what it is all about.
Let us talk about health. Health is the number one priority in Nova Scotia. Up to 26% of Nova Scotians have underlined clearly that health is their first and most important priority. In the health accord, our government not only increased funding but added funding for mental health and home care, which allows seniors to remain longer in their homes if that is what they wish to do. That is very important.
As well, we are building the foundation for a national pharmacare program. We have created a Canadian drug agency that will be responsible for negotiating better prices for drugs in all provinces and territories. This should save up to $3 billion a year, which is quite impressive.
We have a national strategy for rare diseases. Many Canadians face health challenges with rare diseases, and the cost is extremely high. We are going to increase coverage to support those individuals and their families in paying for their extremely expensive drugs.
Our government is investing some money into a national strategy for dementia. It is not that the disease is getting worse, but rather that more Canadians are living longer and are therefore facing challenges, including dementia challenges.
The last piece is about Ready, Willing and Able, an organization in Nova Scotia that supports individuals with intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder. It is looking to get into partnership co-op programs. These individuals do some great work and contribute to the economy, which is important. Companies like Air Canada, Costco and Shoppers Drug Mart hire many of these individuals.
I have already talked about housing, but let me mention that for first-time homebuyers there is an increase in the permitted RRSP withdrawal from $25,000 to $35,000. That is very important.
We have invested in the construction of rental units. With the Speaker of the Nova Scotia legislature, Kevin Murphy—who is a former student of mine—I announced 13 units a couple of weeks ago in Porters Lake, Nova Scotia. I am waiting for many more announcements to be made in Nova Scotia and in my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook.
To conclude, our government has invested in black Canadians. I have in my riding the biggest indigenous black community in Canada. I also have in my riding the biggest black cultural centre in Canada. We are leaders. We have received investments and capital assistance for various projects and we also have community-based projects that will come forward on anti-racism.
Budget 2019 is a great budget. I am very proud of it, and the community of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, my province of Nova Scotia and in fact all of Canada will benefit from it.