Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.
I am pleased to speak to budget 2018, which lays out the government's plans to build on its previous budget and invest in our people, our communities, our resources, and give our citizens the best opportunities to drive economic growth going forward.
I was privileged to chair the finance committee as it held pre-budget hearings across Canada in the fall. I want to thank all members on that committee and those from all parties who subbed in, for their work, their research, their witness selection, and their resolve to make recommendations to the government. Not always do members on committees agree, but we did have many good discussions and everybody's heart was on making the best report we could for the government's consideration.
I would like to give special thanks as well to the many witnesses who spent endless hours preparing briefs and the many who appeared before committee. We heard over 300 witnesses in our pre-budget consultations. While travelling across the country during these consultations, we saw Canada's tremendous potential.
Both the federal and all provincial governments have a role to play in assisting businesses and people to give them the best leg up and the best policy format on which to build economic growth.
Not all of our great ideas in the pre-budget consultations or policy suggestions were put into our report or in fact into the budget, but they do provide food for thought for both this budget and for future developments, whether it is policy or budgets in the future.
I certainly want to thank the Minister of Finance and Finance Canada for seriously considering the recommendations we did put forward. Many are woven through the budget proposals that are in the budget itself and will assist in achieving equality and growth, as the budget is titled.
The budget proposes to invest. It looks to make Canada a leader on a number of fronts. It provides a good foundation for our kids and our grandchildren going forward.
In our pre-budget consultations, we heard a lot about investing in science research, which really became to be known as the Naylor report. There was not one stop the finance committee made that the issue was not raised. The witnesses wanted us to expand on research.
I want to quote from the budget itself, because this is one of the most fundamental policies put forward in the budget, “Canada's Fundamental Science Review, led by Dr. David Naylor”. It states:
While Canada spends more on higher-education research and development (as a share of gross domestic product) than any other Group of Seven (G7) country, the Review identified a number of challenges that require urgent attention. These include declining funding per researcher and the need to fundamentally shift how, when and where Canada invests—encouraging more global collaboration, fostering more interdisciplinary research, and better supporting research that has the potential to be groundbreaking....In response, the Government is proposing measures to make Canada’s research environment more responsive, agile and modern in order to attract the world’s best researchers to Canada and take Canadian research to new heights
In the budget, historic investments are proposed to support researchers. This includes more than $1.7 billion over five years to support the next generation of Canadian researchers through Canada's granting councils and research institutes.
It also includes $1.3 billion over five years for investments in laboratory equipment and infrastructure that researchers rely on to this day. What we said in our pre-budget report was to use the Naylor report as a framework for the long-term support of science and research. We also added agricultural research into the mix.
I went through that somewhat long explanation because I really think that is where some of Canada's greatest potential is. We have always, as a nation, been good at research and somewhat poor at commercialization. We are innovators, and we need to certainly get on top of the commercialization aspect. That investment will make a difference in our children's future.
Not necessarily in the budget but also announced by the government, and tied to this whole research component, is the announcement of the development of superclusters in a number of areas, ranging from oceans research to agricultural research. That builds on the potential this country has. I think it is another great move.
The budget has, as well, established programs to address the gender wage gap and to make progress toward equality in the workplace. It is another good move to find that potential in terms of getting others into the workforce, bringing more equality, and expanding our workforce and our business community and giving them them the opportunity to grow, develop, and strengthen our economy. That is another good move in this budget.
Simply put, the government is investing in Canadians in a responsible way. These growth-generating investments in people, communities, and the economy are being balanced by sound fiscal management. We are investing while at the same time driving down the debt ratio as a percentage of the economy. The government is taking the next steps toward equality and a more competitive, sustainable, and inclusive Canada, where science, curiosity, and innovation are working to drive economic growth.
This past week I happened to attend what was called the Globe Forum in Vancouver. The theme was “The Leadership Summit for Sustainable Business”. Over 4,000 people attended, and the thrust of the conference was climate change and economic leadership. I bring this point up in the budget debate because what struck me at the Global Forum was the need to find balance. I also raise it because at that conference, there was a lot of talk about the oil and gas industry and renewable energy.
One of the things that struck me at the conference was the desire to use our current natural resources as we have, in terms of being so fortunate to have oil and gas in this country, while always striving to build better technologies, with less greenhouse gases, etc., and to use those investments and returns to also improve on renewables. Although it is not really a part of this budget, it is part of the government's philosophy that we need to use what we have to build for the future.
I see that I am running out of time, because there is so much to talk about in this budget, especially as it relates to Atlantic Canada. There are improvements in broadband, pre-apprentice training, skills development, and assistance for the regional development agencies, which are extremely important in my area in terms of assisting the business community and communities themselves in gaining economic opportunities and growing business in the future. In fact, last week I announced that the Thompson Potato Company has a new technology that will add value to its potato product as it goes to market.
That is what this budget is all about: strengthening our economy and giving businesses and people the opportunity to grow the economy for the country as a whole and for themselves as businesses.