Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for York West, who has done an absolutely amazing job on a caucus committee of bringing to the attention of the government and the Prime Minister how important municipal infrastructure is.
I heard my hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance a few minutes ago. I think that our country is better than members of that party would have us believe. Had he spent time working in countries where misery abounds, he would better appreciate this country, which is sometimes a bit too easy-going to defend its initiatives.
When we consider our country's performance over the past few years, particularly during the past two years when international politics have been extremely troubling, some statistics bear repeating.
Canada had the best growth in 2002 of the G-7 countries, a performance that it is expected to repeat this year. Of the G-7 countries, the wealthiest countries in the world, Canada alone forecast a surplus for 2002-2003. We expect balanced budgets or a surplus for the next two years.
Some 560,000 jobs were created in 2002, the biggest 12-month increase, compared to the 229,000 jobs lost in the United States. The Americans are an important reference for the world. Given our performance, we have reason to be proud.
I am not saying that the budget is perfect. However, the budget has achieved an essential and extremely important balance between budgetary control, as there is still a modest but significant surplus, also forecast for next year, and important social initiatives.
Obviously, the provinces could be less critical. However, what I clearly understand—especially the criticisms from the Bloc Quebecois—and what is of primary interest to my hon. Bloc colleagues, are the transfer payments. Their goal is to get rid of Canada. They want transfer payments for labour force training, which have been provided for the past few years. These amount to $600 million per year.
Before, the Canadian government had a program for manpower training, which was greatly appreciated in all of our ridings. In 1996 we agreed to its transfer, and new programs were created. Emploi Québec was created. Many people have expressed the opinion to me that the federal government's pulling out of manpower training programs was pretty much of a mistake.
Just look at the municipalities, the NGOs, the rural municipalities in Quebec in particular, where the Canadian government had 1,100 employees involved in manpower development. This was thought of as transfers of funds. But the only purpose the Bloc Quebecois representatives had in mind was to get the federal, the Canadian, government, to hand over the funds, with the hidden agenda of eliminating the Canadian government's presence as much as possible.
Obviously, this is not a view I share. This is the pet theory of a Quebecker whose constantly refrain was, “Dump the blame on the feds all the time. Say everything is their fault”.
I recall the situation with health when the Bloc managed to create a consensus with the PQ in Quebec to the effect that “the Canadian government puts in a mere 14¢ on the dollar”. That is absolutely false. It has been said, and it has been written, but the truth needs to be revealed. It is not easy to do so. The reality is that, prior to this last budget, the Canadian government invested 40¢ on the dollar, not 14¢. That was before the announcements in the budget.
All in all, it is important to say that, while not perfect, the Canadian government has brought down a budget on which I congratulate the Minister of Finance, and of course the Prime Minister, who is primarily responsible for all budget decisions. It is important to point that out.
We keep hearing that the budget is doing nothing for the provinces. The fact is that in excess of 50% of budget commitments will go into the provincial treasuries. One can therefore not say that the Canadian government did not make any effort to improve the services provided by the various provincial governments.
For health care, it will be $35 billion. The accord provides for $16 billion over five years for the health care reform that will take place in the provinces and territories and target primary care, home care, which is extremely important, and drugs, whose costs are prohibitive.
Over five years, $9.5 billion will go to increasing cash transfers to the provinces and territories. There will be an immediate investment of $2.5 billion as part of the Canada health and social transfer. We will be providing $1.5 billion over three years to improve access to public diagnostic services; $1.3 billion over five years to support health care programs for the first nations; $600 million to speed up the implementation of a national system of electronic health files; and $500 million for research hospitals, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
In the area of health, the Government of Canada has proven that it is listening to Canadians. It is not the fault of the federal government that some provinces, particularly Quebec, have forced thousands of nurses and specialists into retirement. That is not the fault of the federal government. We are making a massive contribution, covering 40 to 50% of health care costs, not 14% as the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois say.
Our country deserves to be told the truth. We may not be perfect, but we are leading the world in economic performance. We can take some criticism, but such falsehoods cannot be repeated over and over. That is what the latest budget allows us to show. We are doing more, even considering that we were already doing a lot in major areas.
For families, the budget includes an increase of $965 million for the national child benefit supplement; there is $935 million to help the provinces improve access to quality day care services, and $50 million per year in a new benefit for children with disabilities. That is significant.
We do not expect the Government of Quebec to shout this from the rooftops, but these are funds that, for the most part, will be transferred to provincial initiatives. Facts are facts. It is impossible that there is nothing good in the budget.