Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to the federal budget that was tabled by the Minister of Finance in this place on Tuesday.
Before I get to my comments, congratulations to you, Mr. Speaker, for your appointment as our very capable Acting Speaker, and I thank my colleague from Kelowna—Lake Country for yielding some time to me this afternoon.
As this is my first major address to Parliament, I would like to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to the residents of Mississauga—Streetsville for their confidence in me and in our government.
I would also like to thank my wife, Rhonda and my children, Sarah and Megan for their unwavering support of me during the campaign and now as a husband and father away from the family while we are all here in Parliament.
None of us would be here without our fabulous campaign teams and volunteers. While it can be dangerous to single out any one person for their help, I do want to pay particular thanks to my campaign manager, Jodi MacDonald for her tremendous efforts in our successful campaign.
Finally, congratulations to all members who were either elected or re-elected, and also to the thousands of women and men who placed their names on ballots for the same opportunity we all have to serve our communities as members of Parliament. No matter what party, riding or area of the country, everyone should be thanked for participating in our democratic process.
Now to the budget. I feel like I have this budget memorized. Like all hon. members, I spent 36 days knocking on thousands of doors talking about this budget because it was presented already on March 22, and of course not implemented because of an election that no one wanted. However, given the results, it was not such an unnecessary election after all.
I want to talk from my community service perspective about some of the very positive initiatives in this budget. When I listened to my neighbours at the doors about the March 22 budget, there was very strong support for these initiatives. I consistently heard from people that this was a good budget in tough times, that it was reasonable and it was affordable. My constituents were clear that they wanted us to focus on jobs and the economy and I am delighted to report to them that this is still our number one priority.
I have served two terms on the Mississauga Arts Council board of directors in recent years and I cannot tell the House how thrilled I am about the new children's arts tax credit. Mississauga is home to the Living Arts Centre, and many times I see young people actively participating in music, dance, art and other creative activities. In almost all cases their parents or caregivers have paid a fee to the city of Mississauga to enrol their child in that program, allowing the family to claim up to $500 a year to offset that cost. It is not only a cost saving for the family, but I suspect it will also make it more affordable for more children to enrol in these programs.
I have just completed a three year term on the board of Safe City Mississauga and was appointed its founding chair. Safe City is Mississauga's crime prevention association and we work very hard on local crime prevention initiatives. We have also been in touch and met with the National Crime Prevention Centre and are very well aware of our government's strong commitment to fund prevention initiatives across the country.
I was very pleased to see the increased funding in the budget for youth crime prevention programs of $20 million over the next two years. I suspect that organizations like Safe City Mississauga might come up with creative local initiatives to help prevent youth crime and gang recruitment through this new and very important funding.
This budget provides increased support to students in post-secondary education. We know that in order to succeed in the 21st century's knowledge-based economy we need highly skilled and educated people to be the workforce of the future.
Our government is helping full-time students by doubling the in-study income exemption, helping close to 100,000 students. We are also helping part-time students through eligibility changes to allow more students to qualify for a Canada student loan.
Mississauga is getting its first full community college this fall as a direct result of the federal infrastructure grant to Sheridan College through Canada's economic action plan. This new institution is a much needed new educational facility in our fast growing city.
In the last campaign there was considerable talk about corporate tax rates. I want to let the House know that those low rates are important, not just to create jobs in cities like Mississauga but to keep jobs there too.
My riding consists of many small business operators but also some large companies that employ thousands of people in very good paying jobs. I want those jobs staying in my community. These employers tell me that Canada's tax rates are very important in their business decisions.
Further, as a long-time member of the Mississauga Board of Trade I can say that it is its position that raising corporate tax rates will have a significant impact on Mississauga's business community. It has submitted many briefs on that tax rate issue.
That is why I am delighted to see that we have a new tax credit for new hires for small business and that this budget commits to maintaining one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world.
As well, when knocking on doors I did encounter a number of older workers who had lost long-time jobs as a result of the worldwide economic recession. The very interesting thing that I heard from these people was not that they were bitter or blaming anyone, it was that they still wanted to work and make a contribution. They understood the very difficult situation that many firms found themselves in and some of the very tough decisions that had to be made.
Although these residents no longer had work, they were willing to do their part to retrain and re-enter the workforce. I will be thrilled to report back to those people and others that we are extending the targeted initiative for older workers to support training and employment programs.
I have also had the opportunity to speak with and meet many seniors at their doors or through a number of very active seniors' clubs and associations in my riding. We know that many seniors need our help and support because of low incomes and their need for support services.
I am very pleased that this budget makes the largest increase in the guaranteed income supplement in decades of up to $600 more a year for single seniors and $840 a year for senior couples. Our government is helping to lift thousands of seniors out of poverty through this very significant increase to the GIS.
In my previous life I had a very significant interaction with municipal government. This very important order of government does deliver many services that directly affect the lives of all of our constituents. Generally, however, there has been a view that the federal government does not have a direct relationship with municipalities. There are some that take the view that municipalities are still children of the province and that any federal funding should go through the provincial parent.
I am very pleased that not only have we, as a federal government, continued to live up to our commitment to flow the gas tax money directly to municipalities for transportation and infrastructure, but that this budget commits to make that transfer permanent. If it is one thing I hear from municipalities, it is that they want long-term, predictable funding.
The next phase of Canada's economic action plan may be the most democratic budget ever presented in this House. That is because the members of the Conservative majority government campaigned on it in the last election. Canadians who elected us knew exactly what they were getting when they gave us their confidence.
They voted for strength and stability. They voted for a measured approach as we continue to emerge from the worldwide economic recession. They wanted us to keep taxes low, invest in priorities, and they wanted us to be responsible. This budget achieves all of those goals.