Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to the budget implementation act, the centrepiece of our Conservative government's economic agenda for Canada. There are three strong themes running through this budget: one, supporting jobs and growth; two, supporting families and communities; and, three, balancing the budget.
Jobs and opportunities for Canadians remain our government's top priorities. We have seen over a million net new jobs created since the global economic slowdown. This has reduced the unemployment rate to 6.9% and we will do even more to support job creation with this budget.
Measures we are taking include providing $100 million in interest-free loans to apprentices in the trades, $55 million for paid internships for recent graduates, and $75 million for the targeted initiative for older workers program to support older workers who want to participate in the job market. We are also cutting red tape for businesses by eliminating the requirement for 800,000 payroll remittances by 50,000 small and medium-sized businesses. As well, we are launching the new Canada job grant program. Canadians will now be able to qualify for up to $15,000 per person to get the skills and training they need for in-demand jobs.
British Columbia will also benefit directly in this budget as our government will be providing $222 million for world-class physics research in the TRIUMF laboratory at the University of British Columbia.
We have also announced the biggest infrastructure investment in Canadian history, an amazing $70 billion for new highways, bridges, ports and municipal utilities. Approximately $9 billion of those funds will be spent in British Columbia. This investment will keep a lot of trades employed in my community and across the nation, as well as help modernize and improve the efficiency of our economy to help Canada compete globally.
Indeed, our outlook extends past our borders. As a member of the international trade committee, I am an enthusiastic supporter of our drive to diversify and expand our export markets. Our focus on developing our exports has been characterized by the successful conclusion of negotiations for a free trade agreement with the European Union. The benefits Canada will realize from this agreement alone are an impressive $12 billion increase in the Canadian economy. That is equivalent to creating 80,000 new jobs or boosting the average Canadian family's income by $1,000 annually.
As the House knows, we have also reached a free trade deal with South Korea. I know this deal will be a great boost to our agricultural sector initially, but it will also benefit many other sectors in years to come.
However, there are other free trade agreements we are working toward that will continue to grow our economy, expand our exports and create wealth and high-paying jobs for Canadians.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations could lead to another huge trade deal for Canada and guaranteed access to many of the most populous nations of the world. Indeed, we are already trading with the TPP nations, but a free trade agreement would allow unhindered, duty-free access for Canadian exports. This deal would give a huge boost to industry in my home province.
For instance, in 2012, British Columbia exported almost $4.9 billion in wood and related products to TPP member countries. However, currently, Canada's exports of wood and related products face tariffs of up to 10% in Japan, 31% in Vietnam and 40% in Malaysia. Australia has tariffs of up to 5% on Canadian lumber. Paper and paperboard products face tariffs of up to 27% in Vietnam and 25% in Malaysia.
Eliminating these tariff barriers would significantly support sales of British Columbia's world-class wood and related products in the lucrative TPP market of 792 million consumers, meaning more jobs for British Columbians. Our economic action plan creates jobs directly through spending on infrastructure and it will support the creation of many more through expanded trade opportunities for our exporters.
The second major theme in our budget is supporting families and communities. We are accomplishing this goal through a number of key measures. One, which does not always receive much notice but greatly impacts our quality of life, is the annual federal transfer to the provinces for health care and welfare.
The previous Liberal government devastated our health care system by slashing transfers to the provinces. Despite the very real fiscal challenges we have faced over the past number of years, we have not cut a penny of health care funding.
On the contrary, we have increased funding for hospitals, doctors, nurses and equipment every year since we formed government. This year, my province of British Columbia will receive a record $5.8 billion to fund hospitals, housing and other social programs. Some of those funds will be used to support health care providers in my constituency such as the Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock.
We are also taking action in the budget to protect consumers. One action we are taking is addressing the unjustified Canada-U.S. retail price gap through new legislation. This issue is of particular concern to retailers in my border community as they lose critical business to American retailers which are just a short drive away.
We also committed to recognizing and supporting those who have risked all to defend our freedoms. Budget 2014 provides $2 billion to enhance the new veterans charter in support of serious injured veterans.
The third theme in our budget is balancing the books. Everyone knows that the global economic downturn hit government revenues hard. Before the global recession hit, our Conservative government paid down $37 billion in debt, bringing Canada's debt to its lowest level in 25 years.
Our fiscal responsibility and aggressive debt reduction placed Canada in the best possible position to weather the global recession. When the global recession hit, we made a deliberate decision to run a temporary deficit to protect our economy and jobs.
Many governments around the world are still struggling to tame their national finances. However, through prudent financial management, including trimming the size of our federal government departments and agencies, we are on track to be the first G7 nation to balance our budget.
Overall, since 2010, actions we have taken to make government more effective and efficient are saving taxpayers roughly $19 billion a year.
Canada's net debt to GDP ratio is 36.5%. This is the lowest level among G7 countries, with Germany being the second lowest at 56.3% and the G7 average at 90.2%.
Economic action plan 2014 would bring the projected deficit down to $2.9 billion by 2014-15, and forecasts a surplus of $6.4 billion in 2015-16. That is extremely good news for Canadian taxpayers.
Despite the fact that we have already cut personal and business taxes substantially, a balanced budget will allow more room for tax cuts and debt reduction in the years to come. Already, the average family of four has seen their taxes cut close to $3,400 annually, giving them greater flexibility to make choices that are right for them.
Likewise, seniors have also seen substantial tax relief. Pension income splitting, a $2,000 increase in the age credit, doubling of the pension income credit, reducing the GST from 7% to 5% and other measures have reduced the taxes seniors pay by $2.8 billion annually.
These measures are particularly important to my community, as retirees choose to relocate to South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale from all over Canada to take advantage of our temperate climate and scenic coastal beauty.
Corporate taxes have also been cut from 21% to 15%, making Canada an attractive place for international businesses to locate and invest, creating more high paying jobs for Canadians. In fact, since 2006, we have cut taxes nearly 160 times, reducing the overall tax burden to its lowest level in 50 years.
Economic action plan 2014 delivers additional tax relief by introducing the search and rescue volunteers tax credit and acknowledging the valuable contributions ground, air and marine search and rescue volunteers provide to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
A future budget surplus would allow our government to move forward with promised tax cuts, making the tax burden we carry even lighter and allowing Canadians greater freedom to make their own financial choices to save, invest and spend.
I call on all members to support this budget implementation bill.