Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank the chief government whip for sharing her time with me.
As the member for Ottawa—Orléans, it is a privilege for me to have the opportunity today to speak on behalf of my constituents on the recent budget tabled by our government.
More specifically, I want to elaborate on the highlights of the budget and the provisions that apply more to the challenges faced by several Canadian communities, such as Ottawa—Orléans, which are in full growth.
In my opinion, we have a solid, balanced and responsible budget. It is a budget of vision, audacity and fiscal prudence. In keeping its promises, our government is ensuring our economic and social future by providing a realistic strategic framework applicable over a 10-year period.
Budget 2005 proposes an equitable and competitive tax system without endangering our productivity and economic growth. Under the measures set out in the budget, the amount of income that Canadians may earn without paying federal income tax will increase to $10,000, which means that 860,000 taxpayers will be removed from the tax rolls, including 240,000 seniors.
RRSP annual contribution limits will also be increased to $22,000. The corporate surtax will be eliminated and the 21% general corporate income tax will be reduced to 19%, maintaining our tax rate advantage relative to the United States.
These measures that have been taken are by no means small. We must recognize that our government is working hard at prudently paving the way toward the reduction of the Canadian fiscal burden.
I also consider the budget as a green budget. The preservation of our environment is an important issue for all of us, and especially for the people Ottawa--Orléans. In order to address climate change and ensure a sustainable environment, I am pleased that the government is making a major investment of more than $5 billion over the next five years for initiatives such as the clean fund, the wind power production incentive and the green municipal funds.
I believe that an initiative such as the green municipal funds perfectly illustrates the strong partnership that has been established between our government and the municipalities. Indeed, we trust that the municipalities are more qualified in identifying and developing projects that will help keep our cities clean and green. It is a fact and we took steps to recognize it.
In the same vein, I was also pleased to note in the budget that our government demonstrates that we have a people's agenda we intend to follow. Several commitments have been made in this regard.
Our government, for instance, has always been committed to health. It represents the one social policy Canadians constantly identify as their number one priority. Accordingly, under the Liberal government's 10 year plan to strengthen health care, Ontario will receive $16 billion in additional health care funding. Of this amount, $13.9 billion will be for core health programs, $194 million for medical equipment and $2.1 billion for reducing waiting times. I must admit that such commitments to strengthen and secure Canada's social foundation make me proud to be part of this government.
What social foundation could be more important than our children? Our government rightly recognized that high quality child care and early learning opportunities are essential to support children's physical, emotional, social, linguistic and intellectual development. In that regard, the budget is granting $5 billion over five years to start building, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, a framework for an early learning and child care initiative.
This is quite an achievement. Imagine that every dollar spent in this program could save up to $7 in the long term. As a trained educator, I believe this is an important way of supporting young parents of Ottawa--Orléans in the care of their children.
This budget also includes good news for our seniors. Guaranteed income supplement benefits for low income seniors will be increased by $2.7 billion over five years. Funding for the new horizons program for seniors will also be increased from $10 million to $25 million a year to promote voluntary sector activities by and in support of seniors. There is little doubt in my mind that our community will benefit from this, Ottawa--Orléans being considered by many as a wonderful community in which to retire.
As for our many welcome and appreciated newcomers, budget 2005 provides an increase of $298 million over five years for settlement and integration programs for immigrants. Ontario alone will receive approximately 60% of this funding.
Ottawa—Orléans is a bustling community. It boasts a high level of skill, dynamism and leadership and benefits from broad cultural and linguistic diversity, which is not only one of the true jewels of the Ottawa Valley but a gemstone of our Canadian mosaic.
However, like so many other Canadian communities, Ottawa—Orléans is currently in a context of rapid growth and change and must face many challenges. That is why, with the participation of my provincial and municipal counterparts—whom I wish to thank—we have set up a public partnership so that the different levels of government can work together.
That concept is behind team Ottawa—Orléans, a joint initiative that—I am proud to say—was launched with great success a little over a week ago. I know this type of innovative partnership will benefit from the programs and initiatives available in this budget.
We have shown clearly that we are listening to the needs expressed by the cities and communities. We know they need additional funding. We need simply to recall that in the 2004 budget, we adopted important measures to give the municipalities $7 billion over the next few years in the form of a full GST rebate.
I applaud the fact that Ontario will receive $1.9 billion over the next five years as a result of our decision to transfer a portion of the federal gas tax revenue to municipalities. By year five, Ontario will receive $746 million per year in stable and predictable funding representing 5¢ per litre. This means better roads, an improved transit system and more sustainable infrastructure.
Although Ottawa--Orléans is more than ready to assume its rightful place in the national capital region and at the federal level, I strongly believe that it is still far from having reached its full potential. The incredible population growth the region has been facing for the past 20 years has created enormous economic, social and cultural needs that must be addressed.
As previously mentioned, I am more than pleased by the government's budget commitment toward Canadians and especially toward their communities. I think it is a faithful reflection of our election promises, both nationally and locally.
I can be counted on to work hard so that the rural parts of Ottawa--Orléans may eventually benefit from the municipal rural infrastructure program. I also hope that a portion of the funds allocated to the municipality through Canada's strategic infrastructure program will be reserved for social infrastructure. For instance, in Ottawa--Orléans such an investment could be used for the creation of an arts and culture centre, an athletic complex and a multi-service centre for seniors.
I was also pleased to note that the Canadian Forces will benefit from a $12 billion investment over five years, the largest increase in a five year period in the last 20 years. Another $1 billion over five years will be delivered in support of key national security initiatives. In addition, the government is committed to expanding the forces by 5,000 troops and the reserves by 3,000. What a great way to back our troops here and overseas.
In conclusion, I would have liked to see more attention paid to other needs, such as the development of official language communities or post secondary education. However, rest assured, I will defend the next budget.
Although we are all aware that we can do even more in the years to come, I truly believe that the budget presented by the hon. Minister of Finance reflects the integrity and sense of responsibility of our government. You will agree that he has illustrated our determination to meet our commitments while maintaining a balanced budget.
As the member of Parliament for Ottawa--Orléans, I am proud and feel privileged to represent and serve my constituents. Under the leadership of our Prime Minister, we are more than ever dedicated to improving the well-being of all Canadians. I strongly believe that this budget is a step further in the right direction. Therefore it has my full support and I congratulate the Minister of Finance on a job well done.