Madam Speaker, I am delighted to rise in the House to speak to the 2017 budget. The title of the budget, “Building a Strong Middle Class”, is actually a very good indication of our government’s intentions.
I think it is crucial that people in my riding of Shefford, and all Canadians, clearly understand that the 2017 budget is an important step in our government’s long-term plan, in order to create jobs and strengthen the middle class and those working hard to join it.
When we formed the government, we promised Canadians that we would make middle-class families our priority. That is what we have done, and today families can clearly see that their government supports them. After the more generous, better targeted and non-taxable Canada child tax benefit was instituted, and after reducing income tax for middle-class people by 7%, a measure that affects 20,000 families in my riding, we will continue helping the people who need it most.
The measures we have taken to date have a positive impact on our economy. The facts are there to show it. We can confirm that our plan is working when we see over 250,000 jobs created in the last seven months and an unemployment rate that has gone from 7.1% to 6.6% since we were elected in 2015.
The International Monetary Fund cites us as an example for the whole world. We are experiencing the best economic growth among the G7 countries. We are on the right track.
The 2017 budget tabled by our government proposes a number of measures that meet the needs and priorities of the people in my riding, and particularly of the middle class.
For example, the budget fosters the success of small and medium-sized enterprises. Job creation enables people to get the skills and tools they need to succeed. The creation of the new strategic innovation fund will enable us to attract, support and grow Canadian enterprises in dynamic and emerging sectors. Sectors like agri-food, digital technology, clean technology, and advanced manufacturing will be particularly targeted, thanks to a $1.26-billion investment in Quebec. The new strategic innovation fund will be far-reaching in its impact. It demonstrates an immediate intention to strengthen our communities through a long-term vision.
The budget also makes social investments that very directly affect the public. Budget 2017 provides for more support for home care and for mental health initiatives. Through an $11-billion investment over the next ten years, the government will put an additional $1.4 billion into improving home care and $1.1 billion into supporting mental health initiatives.
Another of our government’s social measures is certainly the creation of the federal strategy on gender-based violence, which will help ensure that all Canadians have the opportunity to live in a healthy, welcoming, and inclusive community. A $100-million investment over five years will make substantial progress possible.
The people in my riding also need access to affordable housing. Under the new national housing strategy, which will support the construction, renovation, and repair of affordable housing stock, we will be making historic investments of $11.2 billion over the next 11 years. These funds will be used to build better communities, with a real increase in the number of affordable housing units in Canada.
I am very proud of our team’s second budget, since it enables us to continue our efforts to improve people’s quality of life and invest where the real needs are for Canadians and for my riding: affordable housing, support in the home, mental health, and combatting homelessness.
As we know, Canadians who care for family members often have to deal with a family caregiver tax credit system that is complex and difficult for families to understand.
Clearly, they deserve better than that. The 2017 budget therefore offers a unified tax credit for family caregivers at the time when families need it most. Furthermore, the improvements and increases to the employment insurance system, with more flexible maternity and parental benefits and the creation of a new benefit for family caregivers, are also major steps forward that will provide invaluable assistance to people all across Canada.
What we can take from this is that budget 2017 aims to give everyone a real and fair chance to succeed. This budget also provides for investments in such areas as skills and training, so that all Canadians have access to the opportunities they need in order to succeed now and in the future.
Our government’s investments, which are set out in this budget, will help workers upgrade their skills, will help young people acquire the skills and experience they need to launch their careers, and will ensure that more people who are unemployed are able to get training and still be eligible for employment insurance benefits.
In addition, budget 2017 sends our government’s clear message that it intends to improve our neighbourhoods and make them healthier places to live, by focusing on investments in infrastructure. I know that the communities in my riding are stronger when we can provide them with cultural centres, sports and recreation facilities, and public spaces that are more accessible for children and families.
When I see the efforts being made by our government and the significant investments it is making in these areas, I am proud of how we are listening to Canadians. We are showing them that we are listening to them. I can attest to the fact that the people of my riding are telling me how pleased they are with the budget and the things being done by our government.
I would also like to talk about the significant progress the budget brings to the agriculture and agrifood sector, something that is particularly important to me, since 80% of my riding is in an agricultural zone. Budget 2017 shows the significant support that our government is providing for the agriculture and agrifood sector, which not only employs one out of every eight Canadians but also generates high-quality jobs everywhere in Canada and in my riding.
It is also worth pointing out that the budget identifies agrifood as one of the three priority areas in terms of growth and the creation of well-paid jobs in Canada. We know that demand for food will continue to grow worldwide. Our agricultural producers already have an excellent reputation on the world stage, and our products are safe and high quality.
However, we must be prepared to meet the growing world demand in the agrifood sector and take advantage of this excellent opportunity. That is why budget 2017 sets an ambitious target: to expand agrifood exports to at least $75 billion by 2025, an increase of 35% over 2015.
Now more than ever, the agrifood sector is globalized and technology-based. Budget 2017 continues our government’s support for science, innovation, and the global competitiveness of the agrifood sector. We are therefore aiming to grow the Canadian agrifood sector through an investment of $10 billion for exports and increased investments in value-added processing.
In conclusion, we all know that we can still do more to help the middle class and those working hard to join it, and that is what we will continue to do. Our government knows that it is always possible to do better, and we know that the best way to ensure greater prosperity for more Canadians is to make smart and responsible investments in the economy so that everyone will prosper in the long term.
I know that this budget is an excellent one for the people of my riding. They have told me that it is. On their behalf, I congratulate us, as a government, on this historic progress for our country.