Mr. Speaker, as the member and representative for the riding of Ottawa—Orléans, it is a privilege and an honour for me to address Bill C-48 this evening, on behalf of my fellow citizens.
This bill will allow us to make new investments that will add even more to a budget which, in everyone's opinion, is a strong, balanced and responsible budget. It has been called visionary. Indeed, this is a budget that provides a direction to Canadians for the next 10 years.
A large number of us, and a majority of Canadians, firmly believe in this budget. Given the initiatives included in the original budget to promote, among other things, more affordable child care services, a stronger economy, the protection of our environment, thriving cities and communities, there is no doubt in my mind that this is definitely a budget prepared with the priorities of Canadians in mind.
We are in the process of accomplishing great things which, in turn, will make Canada a stronger nation.
However, no one ever said that this was a perfect budget. Of course, we in this House are always striving for perfection. There is an old saying in French which says that what is good always strives for the better. So, there was room for improvement. I myself was the first one to deplore, here in this House, that the original budget did not give the pressing needs of official language communities and post-secondary education, for example, the attention that these issues deserve.
I was more than pleased when we recently announced a further investment which included $1.6 billion for affordable housing and $1.5 billion to enhance access to post-secondary education and support training. As a former assistant deputy minister of education in Ontario, I applaud that investment in knowledge economy.
There is an extra $900 million for the environment, including assisting public transit and a low income housing energy retrofit program, and $500 million in foreign aid.
These new measures flow from our throne speech and budget 2005, and as the Minister of Finance previously said, they build on our government's effort to increase federal financial support for the priorities of Canadians in key areas but in a fiscally responsible manner.
The opposition members have been critical of these spending announcements, and especially of our deal with the NDP saying that it is fiscally irresponsible. I do not understand that because the funding for those initiatives stems directly from the budget which the opposition indicated it supported the day it was introduced. These initiatives have been announced because of sound fiscal management of the Liberal government. This is why we are able to invest further dollars in the priorities of Canadians without going into deficit.
The government has never strayed from its stance of fiscal prudence. In fact, new spending in recent announcements totals $9 billion spread over five years. The fact is that most of the past week's announcements have already been announced or accounted for in budget 2005 and are obviously not new spending. They are also contingent upon maintaining budgetary surpluses over that period.
The Prime Minister has been clear on this. The budget deal with the NDP represents an overall increase in spending of about 1% and it has been explicitly declared that we will not return to a deficit.
I want, instead, to come back to the investments set out in Bill C-48: $1.6 billion for affordable housing. More specifically, this agreement provides $602 million over the next four years to increase affordable housing units in Ontario alone.
This is clearly a giant step, because it will enable us to provide more affordable housing in communities throughout Ontario. Thousands of people, particularly those with mental health problems, victims of domestic violence and low-income families, will have a real place to call home as a result. It is very hard for me to understand why the opposition would oppose investments for such vulnerable individuals.
In more concrete terms, some 20,000 Ontario households will benefit from this agreement, including 5,000 low-income households that will benefit from subsidized housing.
The Liberal government currently spends approximately $2 billion per year, through CMHC, to fund 636,000 affordable housing units. By 2006-07, we will have invested an additional $2 billion to fight homelessness and increase the number of affordable housing units.
And what about the $1.5 billion to improve access to post-secondary education and training? As I mentioned, as a former educator, I was admittedly delighted to hear this news. As I said earlier, I have been fighting for a long time for this level of government to play a greater role. I have always believed that success starts with learning and innovation. Access to quality education is therefore vital to Canada's future, prosperity, competitiveness and productivity.
Furthermore, I applaud the fact that Bill C-48 will allocate another $900 million for the environment, including assistance for public transit and a low income housing energy retrofit program, making this budget an even greener budget.
The preservation of our environment is an important issue for all of us. I can say without a doubt that public transportation is an issue that especially concerns the people of Ottawa--Orléans and the National Capital Region. Indeed, we are avidly awaiting the completion of the north-south O-Train transit system corridor, and finally, we hope, the beginning of the next phase that would interest me as the representative for Ottawa--Orléans, the east-west corridor, hopefully in a few years from now, stemming from these investments.
The Government of Canada will provide public transit investment of up to $800 million over the next two years. These funds are in addition to the $5 billion over five years in gas tax money announced last February.
As we know, the Liberal government is strongly committed to supporting public transit infrastructure. This investment will thus further help cities and communities to meet the growing demand for better public transit while also enhancing the new deals for the ability of cities and communities to address national environmental objectives.
Indeed, these funds will enable cities and communities to immediately increase their infrastructure and public transit capacities, reduce congestion and limit air pollution and greenhouse gases.
In closing, I also want to mention that our government is committed, with Bill C-48, to injecting $500 million into foreign aid. Of that amount, several million dollars, roughly $198 million, will be used to fund peace initiatives and international humanitarian relief efforts in the Sudan.
Last week, I had the opportunity to welcome Senator Roméo Dallaire to my riding. He was supporting an initiative by the Jeanne Sauvé school to sponsor a school in the Sudan in order to support that community during this difficult time.
For the people of Ottawa—Orléans, this additional aid to developing countries is certainly a positive measure.
To conclude, I want to reiterate that we have here a very important bill that, in my opinion, has to be passed in its entirety. It would be too bad, if not shameful, to obstruct measures for further completing and improving a budget whose importance and fiscal discipline was something all Canadians could agree on.
The behaviour of the official opposition and, in some ways, of the Bloc, especially in committee, is deplorable. Their tactics and hard line attitude have done nothing to improve the lot of Canadians. It is clear that in their quest for power they are prepared to go as far as putting their own interests before the interests of the people they claim to represent.
Bill C-48 reflects not only the Liberal government's determination to keep its promises and maintain a balanced budget, but also its openness and willingness to adopt new measures that will contribute to the well-being of Canadian and international communities.
As the member of Parliament for Ottawa—Orléans, I can never say enough about how proud I am and how privileged I feel to represent and serve my constituents. Under the leadership of our Prime Minister, we are more dedicated than ever to the improvement of the well-being of all Canadians. I strongly believe that this bill represents a further step in the right direction. Therefore, it has my full support. I sincerely hope that reason will prevail and that this budget will be unanimously approved by all parties.