Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House this afternoon to speak to Budget 2019, on behalf of my constituents. I will be sharing my time with the member for Parkdale—High Park.
Budget 2019 continues to build on the Liberal vision for Canada, and this is a vision for a prosperous Canada, where all boats rise together. This, of course, is a precondition for a harmonious democracy where social justice reigns. We know that when there is growing inequality, the middle class, in fact everyone, loses faith in the democratic institutions that are so important to this country. Therefore, it is very important not only for our economy but for our democracy that we strengthen the middle class and that we have a prosperous economy where, as I said, all boats rise together.
Our vision for the middle class is focused on three things, and this has been a recurring theme throughout the three and a half years we have had the great privilege and honour of making decisions in government. Those three things are, first, rebuilding and expanding our infrastructure; second, creating a 21st-century labour force; and third, creating an environmentally sustainable economy that generates jobs and a better quality of life.
Yes, it is important to have jobs, and it is important to have prosperity. However, if we have all of that and our quality of life is degrading because our environment is degrading and the risk to our health is increasing because of a poor environment, people will start asking themselves what they are working for. Obviously, we are working to put our skills and talents to good use, but we are also working to live in a country that has a good quality of life and a strong democracy. We pursue these objectives while at the same time giving a helping hand to those who may need a bit of a hand to participate more fully in the economy.
As a result, this budget includes measures to help seniors who are on GIS actually earn more money before their GIS payments are affected. Of course, in past budgets, we have instituted measures that will help children, who are tomorrow’s leaders and workers. We have included measures like the Canada Child Benefit to ensure that they can grow up strong and healthy and be good citizens and productive members of the economy.
Finally, going back to Budget 2018, we have instituted measures to improve the chances of success for women entrepreneurs and to increase the participation rate of women in the labour force. As we know, if we can have a labour force participation rate for women that is equal to that of men, our GDP, by some estimates, could be boosted by 4%, which is not insignificant. As I said, Budget 2019 builds on that vision.
I will speak a little about infrastructure.
Infrastructure is about more than just fixing potholes. That said, fixing potholes is not a minor thing, it is important. Not so long ago someone said to me that if everyone took the money they spent fixing their cars and aligning wheels every year because of potholes and put that money into RRSPs, they would all have quite a nest egg on their retirement. Potholes are a real problem.
However, infrastructure is about more than that. It is about building the capacity we need to have a strong 21st-century economy, not only today but in the future. Infrastructure is about building capacity to communicate, not only through high-speed Internet access but also through public transportation to allow people to go from point A to point B for business meetings, for example, meetings that create wealth.
I know that a lot is done on the Internet, but if we ask experts in business or the economy, they tell us that face-to-face meetings are important in terms of generating the relationships and creating the networks that are fundamentally at the root of all wealth creation.
What else would the budget do? It would focus on creating, as I said, a 21st-century labour force. One of the main measures in the budget that would help to do this is the Canada Training Benefit. As we know, skills gaps hold the economy back. They hold the economy back even more when it is an economy that, because of the accelerating rate of technological change, is moving ahead very quickly. The Canada Training Benefit would offer a lifetime training credit of up to $5,000, earned at a rate of $250 per year, to those who wished to upgrade their skills for the 21st-century economy.
Attached to that Canada Training Benefit would be an EI benefit of four weeks, which would allow people to earn some income while they were retraining. It is fine to say that there would be money to pay for courses so people could retrain, but they would be off work, so they would not be able to sustain themselves during that period. Therefore, attached to the Canada Training Benefit would be an important EI benefit.
As I say, we have also in the past invested money in the Business Development Bank specifically for female entrepreneurs and so on.
On the environment, glaciers are melting, floodwaters are rising and heatwaves endanger the lives of the vulnerable. By the vulnerable, I mean seniors and those who cannot escape urban heat islands. All this is happening while the Conservatives twiddle their thumbs.
What have we done? We have brought in a price on pollution. Experts agree that if we are serious about combatting climate change, the cheapest and most efficient way to do that is through a price on pollution. I quote The Guardian newspaper, which said, not long ago, “Economists widely agree that introducing a carbon price is the single most effective way for countries to reduce their emissions.”
I am very proud that our government has launched a federal backstop, which will apply to the four provinces that have not instituted mechanisms for pricing carbon pollution. Of course, with that backstop comes a remittance to the citizens of those provinces so that at the end of the day, the price on pollution does not impact their family budgets.
Many constituents have said that a price on pollution is great but that we need to do more. In fact, that is what our government is doing. We are bringing in a Clean Fuel Standard, which will be based on a system of tradable credits. I know that the Conservatives do not like systems of tradable credits, but this Clean Fuel Standard will incentivize fuel distributors and others to modify their fuel so that they emit less in greenhouse gas emissions. Also, if we look at the experience in California, we see that a Clean Fuel Standard will encourage, for example, transit companies to shift to electric fleets, so that is very important.
What else are we doing? We are investing in creating a pan-Canadian network of electric charging stations and natural gas and hydrogen refuelling stations. As a matter of fact, I am very pleased and proud that our government announced recently, back in January, a $5-million investment to build 100 fast-charging stations for electric vehicles in the province of Quebec, including, I am pleased to say, two stations in Beaconsfield, in my riding of Lac-Saint-Louis, and two stations in Kirkland, also in my constituency. They will be built by Hydro Quebec, with funding from NRCan’s Electric Vehicle and alternative Fuel Infrastructure Deployment Initiative.
What else are we doing to increase demand for zero-emissions vehicles, including plug-in hybrids? This budget would take the very important step of offering up to a $5,000 incentive for those who purchase those vehicles.
I am very proud of the budget. It is making progress in many important areas.