Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak today on budget 2018. I am very proud to be in the House to speak about this budget, which provides a lot of investments to Canadians.
However, before I talk about the budget, I will talk about the overall economy. We have heard many times in the House a debate about where the economy is going, but the facts are unprecedented growth in Canada and almost the lowest unemployment rates in Canada in my lifetime. That is because of the investment we have made in Canadians and in Canadian institutions, and budget 2018 continues that investment.
Before I start on the specifics of the budget, I will say that, currently, when we compare ourselves to the G7 countries, we are in very good shape economically. When we compare ourselves to our neighbours to the south, certainly when we look at our deficit-to-GDP ratio, we are in a much better position. When we look at the deficit itself as a percentage of our GDP, we are at 0.5%. The U.S. is at 4%.
I have heard many times since November last year that the U.S. has cut taxes. At the same time, it is running record amounts of deficit. We cannot have it both ways. We have to be responsible with our investments, but at the same time responsible with our economy. That is exactly what budget 2018 does. By investing in Canadians and keeping the debt-to-GDP ratio on a downward slide, we are in one of the best fiscal positions across the world, while lifting families out of poverty and making sure that children get education.
At the same time, we are having a conversation about pharmacare, which is one of the elements of budget 2018. How do we move forward as a society and as Canadians on pharmacare? We also look at private pension security. How do we ensure that people who have invested in their pension have 100% of their pension when they get to retirement?
In my riding of Sudbury, there are unprecedented investments coming along by the private sector. Over $3 billion will be invested in the mining sector alone in the next few years. Three mining companies will start three new mines in the area. That is thousands of jobs in our area. The challenge we are actually facing in Sudbury is to find workers to fill those jobs. This is a great place to be, but at the same time it is very challenging.
That is why one of the pillars of budget 2018 is parity, ensuring that access to jobs for females is at the same level as for males. Ensuring that we are investing in education for females, certainly in trades, is a signature piece as well in our investments. We are looking at tens of millions of dollars to ensure that females have access to trade jobs and education with respect to the jobs that need to be filled.
Another investment that budget 2018 makes with respect to females is in women in sports, to ensure that the same number of women as men have access to spaces in sports. I have a daughter who plays hockey and aspires to play at the university level. The fact that we can create opportunities for girls at the same level as boys is very important.
Thirty-five years ago, in my hometown of Kapuskasing, my sister wanted to play hockey. Because she was a girl, my dad actually went to sign her up. They took her in and said okay. A week later, they came back with his cheque and said, “Sorry, she is a girl. She can't play.” She was devastated. Now, 35 years later, here we are, investing for girls to be at parity with boys in sports, and my daughter is aspiring to play university hockey.
In my riding of Sudbury, next year we will have the Esso Cup, which is the national championship for midget girls hockey. Again, when we look at where we were 35 years ago and where we are now, and the investment we are making to ensure parity so that girls have the same opportunities as boys, to me, this is a great way forward. That is how we build an inclusive society.
Two weeks ago, I was at the reserve of Wikwemikong, about a two-hour drive from the riding of Sudbury. Four thousand indigenous people live in that riding. I was with the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, to have a discussion with him about the needs and concerns they have. They expressed to us how happy they were that our government was moving forward. However, they had concerns about how they would be able to tap into the investments. One of the investments they were ecstatic about but, again, wanted to make sure we were moving forward with, was on languages.
Wikwemikong is an Ojibwa community where around 20% of the population still speaks fluent Ojibwa. Now, with this budget, we are able to continue investments in indigenous languages. Given the fact that this is such an important community and the language is so strong, it is one of the biggest exporters of indigenous languages, certainly of the Ojibwa language, across the country and across the area, because people who live there train other people to teach the language.
When we talk about reconciliation, about language and culture, those are very important investments that need to be made. This is our government making those investments, after 10 years of cuts and no investments by the previous government.
I would like to talk about the major investments we have made in official languages. Here in Canada, we have a choice: either we are bilingual or we are not. Do we have a truly bilingual country or do we have a country that is not bilingual? In the Harper era, the Conservatives slashed funding for official languages. They even padded the last Roadmap for Canada's Official Languages 2013-2018 with other expenditures, further reducing investments in official language communities across the country.
In budget 2018, we are setting a new record. Over the next five years, the government will be investing more than $400 million to ensure our country is bilingual and to support cultural institutions in French Canada and English Quebec. We want to make sure official languages continue to thrive.
Through the budget, the new roadmap, and the action plan, we are also investing in youth as a way to invest in our communities and ensure that our young people continue to blossom culturally. Language and culture are expressed through the arts. Other very significant investments in the arts will be made through this roadmap.
I have four uncles who have intellectual disabilities. Two of them have participated in the Special Olympics at the regional, provincial, and national level. This budget continues investments, after stagnant investments, to give them the opportunity to participate.
Again, these are small amounts. These are small investments that go a long way for Canadians. That is why, in this budget, we are reinvesting in Canadians.
We are going to hear, just as we did with the question posed to my colleague, “When are we going to balance the budget? When will we have zero deficit?” Conservatives want to treat Canadians like numbers. We want to treat Canadians like people, and invest in Canadians. When we compare ourselves and our fiscal situation right now, we are in a great position to continue investing in Canadians.
It is not time for austerity. It is time to continue investing: in our veterans, in our indigenous communities, and in training. To remain competitive on a world basis, we need to ensure that we have the best and the brightest in the country and around the world. That is what we are doing. We are continuing to invest.
Another big investment, a record amount of investment, is in scientific research. A few weeks ago, after the budget, the Laurentian University president wrote a column in our paper, an op-ed, saying how proud he was that finally there is investment in Canada and Canadian research, instead of ignoring Canadian research.
That gives opportunities on so many levels for Canadians to thrive in Canada and around the world. These investments also go a long way toward educating our population here. At the end of the day, when we compare ourselves to other countries, we have fairly accessible universities. It is comparatively cheap to go to university here in Canada, although it is still expensive. We have more opportunities for research at the master's level and the Ph.D. level in Canada. We are on the cusp of continuing the Canadian brand, investing and expanding around the world.
On that note, I will end my comments. There is a lot more in this budget that I would like to speak about. Maybe I will have another moment to continue that conversation.