Mr. Speaker, hon. colleagues, there is good reason to be pleased with the 2014 economic action plan. Our hard work is paying off; it is paying dividends; and we are on track to realize a stronger and more prosperous Canada in the coming years.
When I was elected in 2011, the global economy was still fragile following the 2008 great recession. It was a time of continued economic uncertainty south of the border in the United States, around the world, and at home. Our economy, while better than most, was still sluggish.
Indeed, voters in my riding of New Brunswick Southwest, which borders Maine and shares waterways with the United States, were well aware of the economic challenges facing U.S. workers and the U.S. government. A majority recognized that our economy was stronger and our outlook even then was brighter.
Today, as the result of several Conservative budgets, this government has created 1.2 million net new jobs since the economic downturn. I should say that government has not created those jobs, but perhaps it has worked to create the conditions for the hard-working men and women across the country. Businesses small and large worked together in the national interest to create those 1.2 million jobs.
Today, our government's foundation is strong. We have competitive tax rates, and we are marching toward a balanced budget. Overall, it is very fair to say that we have strong economic fundamentals.
We have done all this while maintaining transfers to the provinces and territories, which will continue to rise every year to a new record high. We have helped vulnerable families with children and seniors by taxing them less and ensuring important social programs and transfers are maintained and even enhanced. We have done this all along, while the Liberal and NDP opposition have called for higher taxes and more debt spending.
Under our plan, one million Canadians have been removed from the tax roll, including 380,000 seniors. I repeat, one million Canadians are no longer paying federal income tax. There are 1.4 million Canadians no longer living in poverty, including 250,000 children. The after-tax disposable income has risen by 10% across all income levels since 2006. These are real measurable benefits that have helped Canadians from coast to coast.
Of course, there are ongoing challenges, and in some parts of Canada, including my region, unemployment remains stubbornly high. However, recently, the federal government ratified an agreement with the Government of New Brunswick to deliver skills training for in-demand professions through the Canada jobs grant.
We remain focused on job creation and ensuring that the nation's economic fundamentals are strong and will continue to move the country forward. We should take great solace that, according to The New York Times, Canada's working families are at the top of the pack compared to other nations. This is remarkable news.
Of course, this is unpleasant news for the opposition, particularly the leader of the third party, who has attempted to depict a worsening situation for Canadians. In the end, the facts just do not bear that argument out.
On that score, it was with great regret that I read today that the new Liberal premier in my home province is moving to stop the fracking of natural gas in New Brunswick. This decision will slow economic growth; it will hurt job creation and cause more young workers to go west. Towns will begin to empty out, and there will be less money for important social programs, and so Premier Gallant is already calling for Ottawa to throw him a lifeline. He wants more transfers.
That is right: the premier is closing the development of natural gas in New Brunswick, yet insisting more tax revenues, earned by other provinces that do frack natural gas, be sent to his government. If it were not so cruel, we would note the deep irony of sending New Brunswick workers to work in the very same industry Premier Gallant is closing.
However, I digress. I will get back to the matter at hand, which is the 2014 economic action plan.
Our work, which has been ongoing over many years, continues in this budget implementation act. It began with Ottawa first looking internally and reviewing programs to ensure they delivered value for Canadians and Canadian taxpayers. As a result, direct program spending has fallen for three consecutive years, and we are on track for a fourth year, which I believe is a first in modern Canadian history. At the end of the day, this means we are delivering quality social programs, maintaining transfers to the provinces, delivering some tax relief, and doing it all within a balanced budget as of next year.
We have also reformed programs to take into account demographic changes, and we have made modest changes to EI in order to encourage more work and less reliance on the state.
This has all been hard work. I do not think there has been a riding in the country that has not been affected in some way or other by some of these changes. However, they have resulted in a number of things, such as a stronger federal balance sheet, a stronger national economy, and better fortunes for Canadians in the years ahead. I stress the hard work because, as has been said time and time again and will continue to be said right up until the budget next year, budgets do not balance themselves; they require hard work. If members believe budgets balance themselves, I would ask them to consider Greece, Detroit, or even Canada in the mid-1990s. However Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Martin qualified their efforts at the time, I am sure they would not have said that the federal budget balanced itself.
Promoting jobs and economic growth has been our number one focus for the last three and a half years, and it will continue to be our focus going forward until every Canadian who wants a job has one. We have done this through supporting businesses by reducing red tape, making it easy for them to invest, hire, and sell their products.
We have frozen EI tax and have provided EI payroll tax savings for small businesses through the small business job credit.
We are supporting apprenticeship and training programs, and we have also expanded our infrastructure programs. We have done this through the new building Canada plan, which will provide $21.8 billion over 10 years through the gas tax fund. Incidentally, the gas tax fund has been indexed, meaning that, as inflation goes up, our municipalities across the country will see modest increases every year to account for that inflationary loss.
We are spending $10.4 billion over 10 years under the GST rebate to municipalities, ensuring that when they spend money it will benefit their constituents.
We are spending $14 billion under the new building Canada fund to support major projects right across this country.
This is real spending that will have a benefit on communities from coast to coast and ensure that infrastructure is upgraded so our products can get to market, our men and women can get to work, and products—whether coming across by land, air, or sea—are able to get across this continent to markets in the United States, within Canada, or overseas.
The budget also has to be taken in context with our overall trade agenda, where we will see greater market access in Asia and in Europe. That is something I talk about an awful lot when I am home, because many of the industries in New Brunswick are closer to major markets in western Europe than western Canada. If people are selling something like live lobster, they want to make sure the product gets to market while it is alive and fresh.
The other area we focused in on is responsible resource development. We will continue to do that through the energy east pipeline, running throughout the entire country and into the Saint John refinery in New Brunswick, in particular, as a way to ensure that more hard-working New Brunswick men and women have jobs in their home province. Therefore, when they get up in the morning and go to work, they can come home at night and spend time with their families, as opposed to having to travel across the country for work that they could be and should be doing in New Brunswick, whether building a pipeline, refining oil, or fracking natural gas.
In conclusion, these measures that we have pursued have benefited Canadians and Canadian families. I look forward to seeing a balanced budget 2015 and the additional opportunities that our future measures will bring.