Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to make a few comments on the budget, which I reviewed very closely and which I discussed with Canadians across the country.
I made well over 50 calls and talked with well over 200 people about this budget. I want to share some of their views.
Most people felt that it was really a very balanced approach to the finances, to handling or managing if you wish, the finances of the nation. They were pleased with that. Clearly there were some who would have preferred a little more here or a bit more there, but overall I think it was fair and objective. If we look at the newspapers and the people with whom we talked, the report would be an extremely positive one.
I will briefly make the following points, the first one being about the tax reductions. Some people have tried to pooh-pooh them, tried to say that they were too small, too modest. Of course I would like, as I am sure my colleagues would like, to pay fewer taxes. But the truth of the matter is that if one looks at what was done last year, add what was done this year, when all of that is implemented there will be $16 billion plus worth of tax reductions.
I want to share with colleagues a very interesting fact. Let us pretend for a moment that I have the authority to give every individual tax filer a dollar a day tax break. Most people would say that is not a whole lot, and it is not really. However, at the same time there are 15 million taxpayers in the country. If we were to multiply the $15 million a day by 365 days a year, we would find the cost to the federal treasury in lost revenue would be $5.4 billion. That is a whole lot of money. It all depends on from what end we look at the decision.
Some people have tried to suggest that the transfers for health are not terribly significant. Of course that is not true. They are large. They are immense at $11.5 billion over the next five years. That is a lot of money. A lot of people have not talked about the $1.4 billion in research which will permit a number of important initiatives to try to understand better what we get from the $80 billion expenditure in health in Canada on a yearly basis. There are significant investments in health which are seen extremely positively.
The area of science, research and development has not been talked about a whole lot, a group of programs for which I have special responsibility. I want to share with my colleagues some of the comments made with regard to those decisions. I want to make sure they understand that they are not just coming from me. I quote from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada:
The federal government must be congratulated for having made such a commitment to research and for having paved a new way for integrated research in health.
Let us go to another organization, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada:
NSERC welcomes the 1999 budget decisions. We believe that many members of the science and engineering community will want to join me in expressing their appreciation for this vote of public support and confidence in their activities.
Here is another example with regard to the Networks of Centres of Excellences, the NCEs, as they are often called:
We are delighted at the 60% increase in the NCE budget. With this new funding, we will be able to add eight more centres of excellence.
And what did the AUCC have to say? It stated:
We are pleased that the government has made knowledge and innovation a key priority for the future.
We are pleased that the federal government has made knowledge and innovation a key priority for the future.
That is one of the points we must remember. In the budget the government has built upon previous budgets. For example, in the 1997 budget there was a massive investment of $800 million in the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Then the budget of last year added to the granting councils and a number of other initiatives so we would be doing leading edge research, which is what we are talking about when we talk about a knowledge based society and a knowledge based economy.
We are talking about giving Canadians the tools to make sure they can create jobs; to make sure they can create the quality of life we now enjoy; to make sure we can increase that quality of life for all Canadians; and to make sure we keep more of our youngest, our brightest and our best in Canada.
University of Toronto president, Robert Pichard, had this to say:
The University of Toronto is very pleased with the federal budget. This is the third federal budget that has strengthened our cause. We are very grateful for the new support.
We applaud the federal government's will to increase its investments in all areas of research.
The Canada Foundation for Innovation said:
These new funds mean that institutions will be able to offer the necessary working environment to keep our best researchers in Canada.
It is clear that we have invested heavily in innovation and knowledge. It is clear that the budget reinforces key measures taken in previous budgets. I have mentioned those. It is clear that we have announced an innovation strategy that reinforces key building blocks for renewing Canada's knowledge based economy. The key building blocks are there for improving that which we have, renewing Canada's knowledge base, clearly investing in research and development and innovation, and supporting the commercialization of knowledge.
The budget sets a direction for reducing our level of taxes to make Canada a location of choice for knowledge workers to live and to work. It does not provide all of the answers, but it takes a number of positive steps in the right direction.
Let us talk about the $1.8 billion invested in science, research and technology. Creating knowledge, what have we done in that area? We have invested in the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. We have invested in the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. We have invested in the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. As well we have invested in the National Research Council.
Investments are also being made in the areas of research and development and biotechnology.
Let us look at the second category of disseminating knowledge. We have invested $60 million in Smart Communities and $60 million in GeoConnections. Let us talk about commercialization knowledge.
There is the commercialization of knowledge: centres of excellence networks, $90 million; Technology Partnerships Canada, $150 million; Business Development Bank of Canada, $50 million; Canadian Space Agency, $430 million to stabilize the agency.
Let us talk about supporting le soutien de l'emploi, surtout chez les jeunes. We have the youth employment strategy at $465 million and the Canada jobs fund at $110 million.
We have made the right investments for Canadians in order to make sure that we create the jobs and the quality of life that they expect as a result of government working in partnership with others.
The budget provides considerable reinforcement for the key measures in the last three budgets to boost productivity, encourage innovation, and improve the well-being of Canadians in a knowledge-based global economy.
The keys to improving productivity have always been capital investment, innovative entrepreneurial spirit, and an increasingly skilled workforce.
In conclusion, I will just mention that there is also considerable funding for minorities, who will now be in a better position to build on what they have. The country that can provide its people with better tools, including the necessary training, will be a world leader.
The budget is about providing Canadians with the appropriate tools, including the training and education required and the climate to succeed in a knowledge based economy. The country that best provides these tools including the necessary training and education will be a leader in the 21st century.