Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking after the member for Blackstrap because my constituents are thrilled with the budget. The budget represents important investments. If she was actually consulting her constituents, including the families in her constituency that would benefit from the investments in early childhood development, she would know that they too are looking forward to the budget.
The budget builds on a successful record of Liberal budgets. Canada became deficit free for the first time in 30 years in the fiscal year 1997-98. Since then we have had eight consecutive balanced budgets and we have shaved off $61.4 billion from our national debt. That is money that is directly paying down the debt, much like many of us pay down our mortgages. It is a record unmatched over the last 50 years. On top of that we have also had some $100 billion in tax cuts.
In 2004 Canada had the fastest growth in exports in more than seven years and Canadian real GDP advanced at an annual rate of 4.3% in the second quarter making Canada the envy of the G-7. Since the Liberal Party formed the government in 1993, over 3.5 million jobs have been created and some 500,000 of these jobs were created between January 2003 and January 2005.
It is because of the Liberal Party's strong fiscal record that the government has and is continuing to invest in priorities that matter to Canadians. The budget demonstrates those investments in health care, early childhood development, the environment, cities and municipalities, and Canada's role in the world.
Let us look at the announcement on early childhood development. In my constituency, like many constituencies right across the country, the majority of children under the age of six are receiving some form of child care. Yet, only one in five of those children across the country is in a regulated day care space. That number has not changed in the last decade.
If we look at innovative economies, children need to learn easily and quickly when they arrive at school at the age of five, so early childhood development is absolutely imperative to their success.
In fact, my community of Burlington participated in an institute of urban studies initiative where it examined inclusivity, the term usually addressing racism and poverty, but it looked at how Canada could become more inclusive. Cities like Burlington, Saint John, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver were the cities that participated in the first tranche of the study.
One recommendation that came through loud and clear, particularly from the city of Burlington, was the development and support of a high quality national early learning and child care development strategy that is coordinated, universal and transparent. This would make a huge difference to families and ensure that people have the chance to be all that they can be.
The budget that we are discussing today, which we will vote on later this week, responded to this need with the federal government's commitment of $5 billion over five years to build that national framework with different rollouts in each province because of differing needs, but a $5 billion commitment nevertheless. I know in Ontario that money is going to be well spent.
The other thing that is important in the budget, as I mentioned, is predictable, stable funding in the long term infrastructure area, particularly for our municipalities. In terms of the environment, social and economic infrastructure, these things will be very important to our communities.
Revenue raised by the gas tax is one mechanism that the budget commits to ensuring that we have the infrastructure, so that Canada is able to continue to remain competitive and that business and individuals in our communities will benefit. The last budget had the GST rebate for the municipal sector and in my community that was worth some $1 million a year.
The other area that I mentioned provides us an opportunity to talk about Canada's role in the world. Canada is making important contributions to a more secure, equitable and prosperous world that reflects our Canadian values and interests. The proposed increases to official development assistance will go a long way to ensuring that Canada helps and does its share to achieve the millennium development goals, that ambitious agenda that world leaders committed to in the year 2000 to cut global poverty in half by 2015.
The increases will help implement Canada's new international policy statement, the framework that coordinates the three Ds, diplomacy, defence and development, and our trade agenda to make sure that Canadians are at the forefront, that Canadian aid dollars are used in the most effective way, and that we get more coherence. It will be a new platform for Canadians to play a more important and effective role in relieving the plight of the world's poorest people.
Our country's principles and values, our culture, are rooted in the commitment to tolerance, democracy, equality, equity in human rights, peaceful resolution of differences, the opportunities and challenges of the marketplace, social justice, sustainable development and easing poverty. This was witnessed after the recent tsunami disaster. Canadians responded with an unbelievable opening of their wallets, an incredible contribution to ease the suffering and plight of others in that affected area. Some $200 million was raised by individuals and that amount was matched by Canadian government contributions. We go further than that in the budget.
Canada has an important role to play in the fight against global poverty. Our new approach in aid is outlined in the international policy statement. We are concentrating our efforts in five priority sectors: health, education, governance, private sector development and environmental sustainability. Across all of that we are working on gender equality.
Helping women in developing countries will be a theme throughout our work to make sure that we are enhancing inclusivity in many parts of the world, places where we can make a difference. As everyone knows, an educated mother will have children at a later age and will be able to assist in her children's education. We will make those important gains around the world.
Kofi Annan has talked about how we need to do better in the world. Canada is certainly on target in meeting its international commitments, continuing to grow its aid and making sure that its commitments are honoured. In the recent UN report entitled “Threats, Challenges and Change”, he stated, “The threats we face are threats to all of us and they are linked to each other. To address these many threats to human well-being and security, the world needs to share the benefits of trade, to end the debt crisis and to promote more efficient and effective aid”. Canadians are doing just that. In fact, the IPS ensures that we will do just that.
I would like to talk more about our commitment to pursuing greater sectoral focus in CIDA. Our actions in focusing on 25 partner countries will go a long way to easing the plight of those particularly in Africa. Fourteen of the countries, more than half, are in sub-Saharan Africa, countries with some of the lowest income levels on a per capita basis, and that are able to use our aid effectively. We have some history with those countries. It has been a real injustice for some of the opposition members not to recognize that. On top of that there are specific countries for which we have a whole of government approach, areas like the Sudan. The Prime Minister made an increased commitment to helping the individuals in the Darfur region, important investments to ease its problems and make sure there is peace and security for the individuals there.
For Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan we have a whole of government approach so that we can bring about peace and work on development to allow them to have a sustainable economy and that they will be able to continue to trade.
Madam Speaker, you have been involved in many of the initiatives. The public will be interested to know that members of Parliament work with the ministers of international development, trade, defence, and foreign affairs to implement Canada's agenda. It is Canadian members of Parliament who work collaboratively on things like landmines, the creation of the International Criminal Court, bringing awareness of human rights issues to our colleagues around the world and setting an example for good governance. All Canadians can be proud of that accomplishment which is done in the spirit of collegiality and representing all of Canada and not partisan differences.
In this current climate particularly leading up to the vote on Thursday, it is important to remember that we do work together in advancing the situation for others in the world. The world has a lot to gain from Canada.