Mr. Speaker, I first want to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Saint-Lambert.
I am very pleased to rise today to participate in the budget debate. I agree fully with the overriding thrust and objectives of the budget. I would refer to this budget as a threshold budget.
As everyone in the House is aware, when this government came to power we inherited a mess left by the previous Progressive Conservative government. Tough decisions had to be made and the correct programs and policies had to be implemented. It is only now that we are in a real position to make some of the additional investments in the social fabric of society.
I will focus my remarks to a certain extent on how the budget will benefit business, especially small business. Since the budget was tabled, I have spoken to a lot of ordinary Canadians, Canadians who go to work everyday, pay their taxes and who want the government to spend their money on the priorities of Canadians.
After having those conversations I was left with two very distinct and clear messages. First, people told me that they liked the budget, that they liked the additional investments in social spending and that they liked the fact that we were going to continue a record of balanced budgets. They also told me that they were getting sick and tired of the interest groups and the provincial premiers whining about everything. We heard that over the last two or three weeks.
I have also heard the argument that the level of spending far exceeds, in this particular budget, the level of growth in our gross domestic product. This is correct, and increases of this magnitude are certainly not sustainable.
However we have to bear in mind that approximately 50% of the increased spending comes from the health accord which is a threshold, non-recurring item and certainly a priority of all Canadians.
Dealing with the health care debate, which to a certain extent preceded the budget debate, I found it somewhat amusing. The Romanow commission crossed Canada, heard from Canadians and came forward with what I thought were excellent recommendations. The report was tabled in the House and the government responded to those recommendations. One of the responses, of course, was monetary. We have a package containing approximately $35 billion over five years. This will facilitate changes in the way health care is delivered in this country. It offers limited home care, catastrophic drug coverage and changes in accountability. This was the biggest investment in health care ever in the country.
What was the reaction of the premiers? It was total rejection. Why? I would suggest it is because the day they stop whining is the day they will have to start delivering. Right now the ball is in their court. They have to deliver and Canadians, certainly the Canadians that I talked to, are quite prepared to hold them to account.
I realize I am a little off topic but the points I want to make today go to how this budget is good for business, especially small business. Before getting into the specific provisions of how this budget will help small business, I want to say that the budget continues in the same basic direction that the government has been heading in the last nine years. The evidence is overwhelming. The fundamentals are correct. The monetary and fiscal stabilizers of low inflation, low interest rates, wholesale tax cuts and modest increases in government spending have led to a very healthy Canadian economy.
We have some right wing interest groups. The Canadian Alliance Party and the Progressive Conservative Party come forward saying that the tax cuts are not deep enough, that we have no business involving ourselves in the Kyoto accord and the environment, that everyone in Canada has a God given right to own a gun, and that we should cut government spending.
I say to them, let us forget rhetoric for a few minutes and talk about the numbers. Let us have what I would call a 30 minute lucid interval here. Let us deal with the facts.
Whatever ratio, or test or indices people want to use, I am willing to have a chat about it. If they want to talk about the debt to GDP ratio, or debt reduction, or the cumulative surplus, or the gross domestic product, or the projected gross domestic product, or jobs created, or the unemployment rate, or the interest, or the inflation rate or the consumer confidence rate, they can pick whatever indices they want and we can have a chat about it.
However the bottom line is the economy is performing healthily. The reason is that the fundamentals are correct, the programs are there, the fiscal and monetary stabilizers are in place and they are working.
Dealing specifically with the provisions of the budget that have a direct effect on small business, I am very pleased to talk about some them.
The first one I want to mention is the increase in the small business deduction from $200,000 to $300,000. This is a very healthy development. In a lot of cases we have small start-up businesses. They make some money. All of a sudden they get beyond the $200,000 threshold and they get into a higher tax bracket. That $200,000 threshold has been moved to $300,000 which will have a very positive effect in our business community.
The second item which I am very pleased with is the elimination of the capital tax. The capital tax does not tax profit but it taxes the goods that make the profit, the capital. It was a regressive tax. I am a member of the finance committee. Three years in a row we have recommended the elimination of the capital tax. I am very pleased the government has followed up on that recommendation and the capital tax will be eliminated over the next four years.
I am also very pleased that the government has seen fit to decrease the air traveller's security fee from $12 to $7, which is a healthy development, especially for the short haul routes in the smaller regional airports.
I am very pleased the government is continuing with the innovation agenda. We have the increases to the granting councils, the increases in government funding to the universities for indirect costs of research and the scholarship fund. All these items add to the continuing of the innovation agenda which I submit will be very healthy for the Canadian economy.
I was very pleased the government announced an increase in the RRSP limits. This allows Canadians to plan for their retirement. It also provides a pool of capital for Canadian business. This will go to $18,000 over the next four years.
I am also very pleased the government announced that it will continue with the skills and training agenda. This is so important for the future or our economy.
I am also very pleased the government has announced a $30 million expenditure to increase investor confidence in the area of securities regulation.
The employment insurance premiums have been decreased. I believe that is 10 years in a row.
The government has also announced a decrease in taxes for income from resource revenue, decreasing 21% over the next five years.
Most important, I believe the message is there by virtue of a balanced budget. This sends a very clear message to all Canadians that the trends will be there in the future.
The government has also made very significant strategic investments in child care, environment, cities, child poverty and health care which very clearly define the link between social spending and economic policy.
I realize my time is up. I want to say to the House and to all Canadians that I support the budget. I urge my colleagues in the House to support the budget. We are laying the foundation for the future of the country. It asks us to all move forward with commitment, with confidence and with courage.