Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to tell the story of budget 2023 as it pertains to my constituents in the Yukon. This budget is one that aptly reflects the unique circumstances we are living in today. Given the present tough times Canadians face, the budget is restrained while at the same time ambitiously setting the tone for the years and decades to come.
After ensuring that we were there to support Canadians through the COVID–19 pandemic, directing unprecedented levels of fiscal and social supports to Canadians for the last few years, our government now must refocus its efforts for the future. Our planet is facing a series of challenges, from climate change to geopolitical instability. Canada must rise to meet these crises head-on and boldly go where Canada has not gone before.
Affordability, accessible health care and clean energy are the three themes of this budget, and I will, in these few minutes, spend a bit of time on each of these areas.
In this budget, we are making sure that our country responds effectively to the climate crisis while continuing to support Canadians through the difficult times brought on by the high cost of groceries or limited access to family doctors.
These measures are a direct investment in maintaining our leadership in a rapidly changing world.
While I recognize that it may be little consolation to a Yukoner struggling to pay rent or buy sufficient food to feed the family this month, it is important to note Canada’s relative economic position in the world and recognize the indicators of a strong overall economy. Because we did the right thing to support Canadians through the pandemic, we are poised for a strong recovery.
Helping those who are feeling the pain of high prices the most is a government priority. I am grateful, therefore, that the House unanimously approved last week, in addition to the Canada health transfer top-up, the new grocery rebate, which will help over 9,000 Yukoners.
While we take care of those with the greatest needs, as we have always done with this government, we are laying the foundation for the new economy, one that finally pushes us beyond our dependance on fossil fuels and plants us firmly in the green energy future.
Another aspect of this budget, one important to note for those who, like me, were disappointed not to see everything they were hoping for, is that budget 2023 is another chapter in a series of budgets, not just in the 44th Parliament but since 2015, when our work of rebuilding a Canadian economy that works for all Canadians began, and more chapters will follow.
Our government has been working progressively to insulate Canadians from financial hardship. For example, the affordable child care program announced between Canada and Yukon just over two years ago is creating new regulated early learning and child care spaces for Yukon families to access for $10 a day. The grocery rebate builds on the previous GST rebate extension and the one-time rental subsidy introduced in the fall. Continuing to build our assistance to students, we are proposing a 40% increase in the Canada student grants, which follows on the interest forgiveness for Canada student loans this past year.
In the meantime, we are continuing with the expansion of the rapid housing initiative announced in last year's budget, the tens of billions of dollars announced in 2021 and 2022 for a host of programs to advance reconciliation, and other programs, like the green and inclusive community buildings program.
Now let us take a look at health care. As a physician working in northern and rural communities for much of the past 30 years, including 13 years as the chief medical officer of health in the Yukon, I saw first-hand how our already stressed health care systems strained to meet the added burden placed upon them by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic highlighted and exacerbated long-standing issues within our health care systems, including access to a family doctor, recruitment and retention of our health care workforce, data collection and sharing, access to care in rural communities, service gaps in mental health care and measures to address substance use and addictions, and a lack of investment in prevention.
As an advocate for better health care for Canadians, I was pleased to see our government’s almost $200-billion commitment to begin addressing these critical issues. For Yukon, this means $380 million over 10 years, including $195 million in new funding. An important part of territorial health funding is a commitment of $100 million for the Yukon over 10 years to support medical travel and health care innovation through the territorial health investment fund. We also see commitments made to meet health care priorities in the Yukon, including improving access to primary care, modernizing the health care system, and addressing the mental health and the toxic drug crises.
Also of note in this budget is $810 million to support medical travel under the non-insured health benefits program for first nations, and $359 million to support a renewed Canadian drugs and substances strategy, including $144 million toward the SUAP, or substance use and addictions program.
Canadians will also benefit from the new dental care plan, which will provide dental insurance to Canadians with family income of less than $90,000. Once the plan is fully phased in, it will help thousands of Canadians and complement the new program that is already up and running in the Yukon. At last, my constituents and millions of other Canadians will receive the dental care they need to avoid costly complications and health problems down the road.
Underpinning the health of Canadians is a healthy economy, an economy that includes and supports all Canadians. To that end, I am pleased to highlight from this budget the investments we are making in order to transition to a cleaner and greener economy.
As many know, Yukon has a proud mining heritage, one that is not only integral to the Yukon’s colourful history, but also key to our future economic prosperity. The days of the gold rush may be past, but renewed interest and investment in critical minerals are just getting started. Canada has an opportunity to become a world leader in this field if we grow and develop critical mining assets in a manner that is responsible, sustainable, efficient, and in lockstep with indigenous partners and communities.
The Yukon is home to 25 of the 31 critical minerals in Canada’s inventory, most notably copper, nickel, tungsten and zinc. Budget 2023’s introduction of a 30% clean technology manufacturing tax credit would help companies invest in the technology and equipment to responsibly extract these key critical minerals.
Canada will need to pick up the pace and increase its presence at every stage of mining, from exploration to processing, in order to provide the materials we need to fuel our green energy future, as well as to provide rewarding and sustainable jobs for Canadians for generations to come.
Mines need power, and so does a growing population, and that power must be clean. I am pleased to see the 15% tax credit for clean electricity investment in this budget, as this and other clean electricity measures would help communities across the north support the transition away from fossil fuels and toward achieving our emissions goals. There are a number of projects currently under way or in the planning stages that I hope will be able to take advantage of these new credits, such as the Atlin hydro expansion project, a partnership among Yukon, B.C. and first nations in both jurisdictions.
Other projects in the north could use the new clean hydrogen investment tax credit and other support measures that have also been announced under the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
As the IPCC's latest report warns us, we are in the last few years of having a chance to turn the climate crisis around. In the Yukon, we are increasingly familiar with the costs of climate change. Just two weeks ago, Whitehorse had to close one of its two routes into the city due to a landslide from heavy snow burden and highly saturated ground. Buildings, roads and runways around the Yukon buckle and bend under melting permafrost in a landscape that is warming at three times the rate of the rest of Canada.
Some of our colleagues across the way believe that fighting climate change is just too much to spend.
Yes, it is costly to invest in building our community's resilience to climate change. It is also costly to transition the economy and drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. That said, the cost of the damage associated with climate change in Canada will be much higher.
In addition, if we make the necessary investments within the next decade, Canada could see a net economic benefit of over $465 billion over the next 10 years.
While Conservatives may take, well, a conservative approach, I prefer to be part of a government that acts to prevent costly disasters and invests in measures that will grow our economy in the future.
Since 2015, we have committed and remain committed to the journey toward reconciliation. An important step on that journey was made by this budget in the urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy, which saw a $4-billion commitment, which, over the next seven years, will complement the three existing distinctions-based housing strategies with the CMHC. This new budget commitment will add to previously announced initiatives already under way to continue our ambitious yet much-needed housing strategy.
Affordable housing, accessible health care and investments in clean energy are all making life better for Canadians today, tomorrow and for decades to come. We are living difficult days, and there are more to come.
However, making significant and smart investments today will help us reap the benefits of a greener, fairer, healthier and more prosperous future.
This budget is yet another chapter in building a better Canada.