Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to finally be able to speak to the budget. I am not going to lie. As an MP, I felt muzzled, especially this year with the time allocation motion on the budget. For a long time I did not think the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord would get 10 minutes to talk about his expectations regarding the budget. I would not dare expect 20 minutes.
The budget includes some good measures that I will go over. However, it also has some shortcomings and misses opportunities. I am also aware that when I am finished my speech, the government is not necessarily going to take my suggestions and rewrite the budget this year, what with just a few days left before the House adjourns. However, I hope that regardless who is in power this fall, the government might consider the needs of my riding and the realities of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. It is a region that I am very proud to represent. I am the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, but in the region, there is not much difference between the ridings except at the local level. Whether we are talking about Jonquière—Alma, Lac-Saint-Jean or Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, we have the same reality and we must work together for our industries and our people. I will not necessarily make a distinction between the needs of the ridings. We can make progress by working together.
I will begin by talking about the good things about the budget. I commend the Conservative government for adopting one of the ideas that the NDP put forward in 2011. I personally campaigned on this issue. I am talking about our measure to encourage job creation and stimulate the economy by focusing on SMEs because they create over 70% of the new jobs in Canada. Helping SMEs just makes sense. The government adopted the NDP's idea to lower the small business tax rate by 2%, from 11% to 9%. As this idea is implemented over the next few years, I honestly think that it will have a positive impact on our business community, whether in large cities like Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver or in small communities like mine.
I represent a number of small communities, including Saint-Fulgence, Sainte-Rose-du-Nord, Ferland-et-Boilleau, L'Anse-Saint-Jean, Petit-Saguenay, Rivière-Éternité, Saint-Felix-d'Otis and Saint-Honoré. These small municipalities have from 500 to 2,500 residents. Naturally, a large corporation is not going to move into the town and create 2,000 jobs. Small and medium-sized businesses, like gas stations, are the ones that will open up. Unfortunately, over the past four years, municipalities have lost more gas stations than they have gained. Many other small municipalities are at risk of losing their grocery stores. My point is that in these small municipalities, jobs at SMEs make all the difference. These businesses ensure that someone who is born in the town can continue to live there and work there as long as possible, even as they age.
Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean is a beautiful area of the country for nature lovers, and it is a top destination for people who want to live there and those who want to visit. I find it sad that young people cannot find summer jobs. They know that once they reach adulthood they will most likely end up in the big city, such as Saguenay, Quebec City or Montreal. I am, above all, an advocate for the regions. Political stripes aside, my region is what defines me. My region is currently struggling when it comes to jobs. The unemployment rate remains quite high—higher than the average, in fact. Although things improve come spring and summer, the unemployment rate still remains quite high. A number of plants and big companies have closed in recent years, which has left a mark on our economy. It infuriates me that the government dipped into the employment insurance fund to balance its budget this year.
I think that money could have gone to the unemployed workers who are going through tough times. They need all the federal help they can get to ensure that their families have what they need. Entrepreneurs need help in order to create new jobs.
There are things missing from this budget, and I think that is a shame. In March, I made the same grocery list. I wanted to put pressure on the government on three major issues that would have made a big difference for a riding like mine and all of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean.
First there is forestry. There is no denying that Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean has a number of major industries tied to forestry and aluminum. Agriculture and tourism are very important as well. When things go poorly for a major player like forestry, then many jobs are on the line. In my region, forestry jobs have been lost or have become very precarious. Ideally, the federal government should have invested in research and development. I hope that they will consider that in a future budget. That would be good not only for secondary and tertiary processing of forest products, in order to develop new niches and processes, but also for exporting this type of new product. Unfortunately, even though I see that this year's budget includes a two-year renewal of the funding for the national forestry engineering research centre—the exact name escapes me—it is not a lot of money for the entire industry in Canada. More research would be good. We must not abandon our primary industry.
Our big corporations, including Resolute Forest Products, play a vital role in the regional economy. That is why I liked one of the previous government programs. It was the four-year $90 million investments forest industry transformation program. It was a step in the right direction because this program met the exact needs of the forestry industry in my region and throughout Canada.
The problem was that it was a four-year program and the $90 million was spent in the first year. Our forestry industry needs more federal assistance to renew itself, modernize its facilities and improve its performance. The Forest Products Association of Canada had determined that the industry would need $500 million over six years. The government proposed $90 million over four years, and already there is no money left. We urge the federal government to invest more in forestry.
Furthermore, seven years ago, the Conservatives made a promise that has yet to be included in a budget, or even put to Treasury Board. I am referring to funding for 2 Wing at the Bagotville military base. This project has a $300 million price tag, with $180 million for infrastructure, which would house 500 members assigned to Bagotville. Two hundred and fifty members have already arrived and they still do not have dedicated premises. They are sharing the resources of 3 Wing. The $180 million will also be used for warehouses, because this is a vital unit of our Department of National Defence. It is important to release the $180 million in funding for the Bagotville and 2 Wing infrastructure.
I have very little time remaining. I will close by talking about our tourism industry. Helping this industry is a simple matter: we need customs services at the Bagotville airport. Right now, we do not have full customs services. Services are available only when flight capacity does not exceed 30 passengers. That is not good because Europeans love our region and they want to come spend money there and contribute to our tourism economy. However, the government needs to do more on this project so that we can get more equipment. I am convinced that this should be easy to do. The facilities at the airport and the Bagotville military base are of high quality.