Mr. Speaker, I will be dividing my time with my friend, the member for Etobicoke Centre.
It is with great honour that I rise today in the House to speak to the budget delivered by the Minister of Finance last Thursday. Economic action plan 2013 builds upon the work from previous budgets and the government’s impressive track record guiding Canada through the worst global economic slowdown. We are now in a leadership position amongst the countries of the G8.
The focus of the 2013 budget is clearly upon jobs for Canadians. It is about leveraging the jobs we have now in Canada through our leadership in financial services, resource development and technological innovation. It is also about securing the jobs of the future and reorienting our skills training and lifelong learning programs to ensure we provide Canadians with the tools they need to maintain our strong position in the world. Finally, economic action plan 2013 makes key investments in areas of priority for Canadians: families, seniors, veterans and our first nations. These investments are important and are being made in a budget premised upon two fundamental principles.
First is the government’s laser-like focus on getting Canada back to a balanced budget by 2015. This is to ensure we maintain our quality of life and maintain one of the strongest credit ratings in the world for the purpose of financing our debt. Second is the critical commitment we make to seniors and families across Canada to balance our budget without resorting to raising taxes.
At a time when government revenues are somewhat flat, these two fundamental principles are not easy. The opposition suggests billions in new spending on almost a weekly basis. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that the government should not stick to our timeline of balancing the budget. Mere days before the budget, he went to New York to tell the business press that he would raise taxes on Canadian employers if the NDP were in power.
Following the release of economic action plan 2013, which was very careful to maintain core entitlement program spending and increase transfers to the provinces and territories, the NDP leader said, “You cannot ‘austere’ your way out of a crisis”. The NDP leader’s cute turn of phrase and commitment to runaway spending and higher taxes reminds me of the Winston Churchill quote that compares a nation trying to tax its way into prosperity to a man standing in a bucket, trying to lift himself up by pulling the handle.
The challenging global economy and shifting labour realities requires the type of strong leadership that our Prime Minister has shown from the doldrums of the global economic recession to the present day. Economic action plan 2013 is about setting priorities that will maintain a focus on jobs for Canadians and a plan to ensure our prosperity for decades to come.
Our government is proud of its record of 950,000 net new jobs having been created since the depth of the recession in 2009. This leads the G8 nations and has helped maintain our quality of life when other areas of the world are in turmoil. Our government is, however, committed to a relentless pursuit of higher employment, particularly for young Canadians, aboriginal Canadians and in areas of the country experiencing a higher than average rate of unemployment.
Accordingly, I would like to speak to three key areas of economic action plan 2013, premised upon securing jobs for Canadians.
The first area is the government’s innovative approach to filling the skills gap in Canada, while also helping transitional industries retrain and re-equip their workforces. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, in its 2012 statistics, indicates that 34% of small to medium-size businesses face a skilled labour shortage. This means that while some Canadians are having a hard time finding a job, some Canadian employers are having a hard time filling a job. Finding a solution to marry these two aspects of our economy should be the overarching public policy goal of any government. Our government is making that the top priority.
The Canada job grant will address the skills shortage in Canada by assisting up to 130,000 Canadians each year with short duration training for the workforce. The $5,000 per person grant has the multiplier effect two times over, up to $15,000 with our provincial and employer partners. The Canada job grant will allow employers facing skills shortages or training facilitators in the industry to work with both the federal and provincial governments on a solution that will help them increase their productivity, while also helping more Canadians find long-term employment.
The skills deficit in the marketplace is the true determinant of where skills training investment needs to go. This will allow the federal government to negotiate transformative labour market agreements with the provinces and territories.
Our government recognizes that the largest skills shortage in Canada is in the skills trades and in the engineering and mathematics fields across the country. Economic action plan 2013 will work toward reducing barriers on apprentice accreditation and support the use of apprentices in all areas of national procurement and investment.
The government is also earmarking $19 million to promote engineering sciences and mathematics to young Canadians in an effort to help young people fill these critical roles in our economy. Outstanding schools like the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, which serves my riding of Durham, have world-class programs in these core areas that will help our young men and women find engaging employment right out of school.
The government is committing $241 million to ensure that young aboriginal Canadians have access to skills training to assist in raising employment levels on reserve through a realignment of the income assistance program.
I had the pleasure of joining 200 other Canadians at the Governor General’s Canadian leadership conference last summer near months before my election to Parliament. It was an excellent opportunity to see some of the policy challenges facing our country. I was part of a group of 17 Canadians who toured the province of Alberta, meeting with business, political, social and aboriginal leaders. Every community we visited and almost every leader we spoke to described the labour shortage in Alberta as one of the most pressing issues facing the province. Indeed, it was placed as one of our key findings in our Governor General’s Canadian leadership conference group. The economic opportunity in Alberta is of tremendous benefit to all Canadians and meeting the challenges this opportunity poses must engage all Canadians.
The second key area I would like to highlight from economic action plan 2013 is the building Canada plan. Nothing underscores the ability of this government to set priorities to secure our long-term prosperity better than this element of the budget. I would recommend page 171 of the budget to my colleagues to see this impressive plan represented visually.
The building Canada plan is an ambitious $53 billion 10-year plan to secure and enhance our nation’s critical infrastructure and establish predictable long-term partnerships with the provincial and municipal governments across Canada.
The building Canada fund will inject $14 billion into our economy in priority infrastructure projects, with a national, provincial or local significance. First nation infrastructure is part of the building Canada plan and will see $155 million directed toward critical energy, road, bridge and civic infrastructure alongside investments in broadband connectivity to complement economic development efforts on reserve.
The relentless focus on jobs and supporting skills trades in Canada is built into the building Canada plan. As part of its consultation and planning with other levels of government, the federal government will directly encourage the use of apprentices in projects receiving federal funding.
The third area I want to touch on briefly in economic action plan 2013 provides for small business in the manufacturing sector in Ontario. On the same day that our Minister of Finance delivered the budget, the Scugog Chamber of Commerce in my riding celebrated its business of the year awards.
Small businesses are often the foundation of our local economies and have been an important focus of our government. We have kept taxes low for these businesses for many years and have assisted with the difficult challenge of whether to hire one more person or not through the small business hiring credit. This budget expands this hiring credit by providing up to $1,000 against the rise in EI premiums as a result of hiring a new person. We are also increasing the lifetime capital gains exemption to $800,000, which will also directly benefit small business owners.
While our government has shown its support for small businesses in Canada, I take this occasion to support Kenna Kozak from the Scugog Chamber of Commerce, Sheila Hall from the Clarington Board of Trade and Angela Horne from the Uxbridge Chamber of Commerce. These organizations in Durham, and others like them across the country, are the lifeblood of the small business community. They not only raise important policy issues to our government, they also serve to connect small businesses in a way to one another.
Finally, manufacturers will also benefit in southern Ontario with our government’s proposed $1.4 billion toward an accelerated capital cost allowance—