Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to talk about the federal budget 2016.
This being my first speech in the House, I would like to begin by thanking the wonderful people of King—Vaughan for placing their trust in me. Serving as their representative is an honour, one I take very seriously. I also want to thank my supporters, who worked so hard through my nomination and the long election campaign. It was during this campaign that I came to fully appreciate the challenges and opportunities across my large and diverse new riding. Finally, I need to publicly thank my family members for their support, patience, and understanding. They have made this challenging transition to life in two locations manageable. As everyone ever elected to this House knows, the unsung heroes of parliamentary life are our families, who shoulder additional burdens maintaining a home and family while we immerse ourselves in becoming effective representatives.
From my seat in the far corner, in a spot where I look out upon everyone in this chamber, a new MP cannot help but quickly gain perspective, perspective on the formidable but resolvable challenges facing the country, perspective on the impressive talents and breadth of experience members from all parties bring to the national debate. Let us not forget that our time here is brief. Serious issues are confronting Canadians. Let us be bold enough, wise enough, and selfless enough to do what is right rather than what appears to be politically opportune.
With that perspective, I want to use my maiden speech to reflect upon the government's budget as it relates to my constituents, the diverse, compassionate, and hard-working people of King—Vaughan. Succinctly, this budget is about people. It is a transformative plan for investments in our families, communities, and Canada.
My riding is both urban and rural. In the south, there is a rapidly growing suburb transitioning to a more urban context. The northern portion has small towns in an agricultural setting. However, some of those small towns are now transitioning to a suburban context. It is a multi-ethnic mix, and overall, it has been a story of success, with native-born Canadians and immigrants together striving for and achieving prosperity and security and growing desirable communities.
Overshadowing the success stories, however, is a looming challenge. Housing affordability has become precarious, especially for young families and seniors. Without solid economic growth bringing high-quality jobs and good rates of return on investments, many will have trouble meeting the high cost of home ownership in my riding in the years to come.
During the campaign, when I knocked on doors, parents told me that they need more money in their pockets. Seniors told me that they could not keep up with the rising cost of living in their homes. They wanted to stay in their homes but were worried that the money was not going to last. Youth told me that rising university and college costs were making it difficult to invest in their futures, and the lack of good-paying jobs made it difficult to pay off their student debt. Everywhere in King and Vaughan, people were concerned about the congestion on the roads and the lack of accessible transit options.
However, I believe that the government's priorities will help address my constituents' concerns, both in the near and long term. This budget builds on our campaign promises. We promised to strengthen the middle class. When we have a strong middle class contributing to our economy and communities, everyone benefits. With our tax cut, we will put money back into the pockets of middle-class Canadians. It is well understood that the majority of those benefiting will spend it right back in their communities, supporting local businesses and their families, fuelling growth.
With the new Canada child benefit, nine out of ten families will get more help than they do under existing programs, and that benefit will be tax-free. This program is the most significant social policy innovation in a generation and will lift hundreds of thousands of kids out of poverty.
As important as those tax cuts and the new child benefit will be for my riding, ensuring future prosperity and quality of life will largely depend on wise public infrastructure investments in roads, transit, housing, water and waste water services, and communications. It is the smart thing to do, and it is a two-birds-with-one-stone initiative. Good middle-class jobs, necessary to support a family, will flow as major projects move forward. These improved services will further attract employers and more investment.
However, this is not just spending to create jobs. This spending is long overdue. Woefully inadequate infrastructure in my riding already hampers economic activity and decreases quality of life. Ask any of my constituents about traffic congestion and one will get an earful, and rightly so.
Before becoming a member of Parliament, I was a regional councillor in the City of Vaughan and York Region. I was well aware of how important it was for York Region to have strong representatives and a good partnerships with both provincial and federal governments to help invest in infrastructure solutions. We asked the federal government to be a true partner, invest a third, and lift restrictions that did not work in the best interests of municipalities.
I am delighted to see the government listening to the needs of municipalities and committing to invest as an equal partner and lift the P3 restriction. I am now privileged to be one of those strong voices in Ottawa, and I am pleased to see funding being committed for important transformative projects, not just in my riding but across the country.
Helping to protect the local environment first drew me to becoming involved in public affairs. I am honoured to be the chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development and have the opportunity to work with experienced and knowledgeable colleagues as we transition towards a more sustainable, clean, and green economy while protecting our environment and our health.
Those of us living in quickly growing suburban communities, areas that are facing pressure to expand and consume ever more farm land, areas where everyday life often seems centred around our automobiles, have a particular challenge in helping Canada get on with the transition to a more sustainable future. When we envision a sustainable future and plan for that future, and take concrete steps to make it happen, we reduce the economic burden our grandchildren will have to bear.
The good news is that people within my community will benefit at every turn from this transition. When we move to new, innovative forms of energy, high-skilled jobs will come. When we build efficient transportation mechanisms, we will get cars off the road and shorten commute times, benefiting everyone trying to get home to see their kids' soccer games or to just spend more quality time at home with family and friends.
When the government puts forward its new innovation agenda, which will outline a new vision for Canada's economy as a centre of global innovation, King—Vaughan will be ready to take advantage of these opportunities, and it has the workforce ready to play its part. All that makes sense in King—Vaughan, a region dedicated to providing good opportunities and a good quality of life for current and future generations.
Canada's future depends on ensuring that our children get the education and skills necessary for their success. However, post-secondary education is becoming increasingly expensive. The government recognizes that it must do its part to make post-secondary education more accessible. I am very proud of the program so far to help our youth, and I look forward to more in the future.
At the opposite end of the age spectrum, too many Canadians find it impossible to save enough before reaching retirement age. Too many of our seniors live in poverty, particularly our single seniors. The minister is committed to working with his provincial and territorial counterparts to enhance the Canada pension plan before the end of the year, which will go a long way to improving the future for seniors.
In this budget, the government is increasing the guaranteed income supplement for single seniors, and this will improve the financial security of about 900,000 of our most vulnerable single seniors in Canada. We will see investments in social infrastructure funding for seniors housing and affordable housing.
I want to touch on what the government has committed to for small business.
Budget 2016 supports Canada's innovators and entrepreneurs. It gives them the help they need to access expertise, identify new markets, and scale up for future growth.
Small businesses are the backbone of my riding. What I have heard from small business owners is that they need customers with money in their pockets. This is what will drive our economy. The middle-class tax cut and the Canada child benefit will do just that. It will ultimately put more money in the hands of small business.
If members spend any time at all in King—Vaughan, they will see that people from right across the world have settled there. It is as microcosm of Canada. My constituents come from just about every country and speak about 100 different languages. We obviously have many different backgrounds, but we share this in common: we came to Canada at some time in our family history for peace and opportunity.
The riding demonstrates what I think is one of the fundamental truths about our country: we are stronger because of our diversity. The diversity King—Vaughan offers Canada is also offered to the rest of the world. My constituents have the requisite contacts, language skills, business interests, religious associations, and most of all, desire to weigh in and contribute.
The government's action in seeking to address past wrongs and current shortcomings with our first nations communities, working in equal partnership with them, is perhaps the most crucial step in celebrating and maximizing the potential Canada's diversity brings in growing our economy.
Like all members of this House, I am extremely proud of my community. Some members will know of our attractions: Canada's Wonderland, the Canadian McMichael Art Collection, and the villages of Schomberg and Kleinburg. However, I am especially proud of our people. I am not sure if there is a more generous community in Canada. I cannot keep up with all the fundraising and volunteering efforts going on every week.
I will conclude by reiterating that I am proud of this budget and believe that it is an important step in putting Canada on a path to a bright and sustainable future. We have seized the opportunity to invest in our people, offered immediate help to those who need it most, and invested in future growth that will benefit all Canadians.