Mrs. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, it is a distinct pleasure to rise today. As the federal representative for Kitchener Centre, I have an ongoing challenge to bring the national focus and international issues to my constituents through a local lens. The recent budget was, in my view, good news for Canadians because of its focus on social needs and good news locally because it reflected the priorities that I have heard from my constituents.
Budget 2003 is built on the government's prudent approach to financial management as well as the stewardship of Canada's resources. At the same time, budget 2003 provides Canadians with the tools that are necessary to build a better nation.
Budget 2003 means building the society that Canadians value, building the economy that Canadians need, and building the accountability that Canadians deserve.
Specifically, enhanced funding for affordable housing and support for infrastructure development respond to specific concerns that have been expressed in Kitchener Centre. There is no doubt that dynamic cities like Kitchener are vital to our national well-being. That is why this budget presents opportunities to strengthen the quality of life in the city that I represent.
Infrastructure describes essential elements that enable a city to reach its full potential. In Kitchener, when I think of infrastructure, primarily I think of transportation, homelessness and air quality. I am pleased to see that this budget provides tools to address each of these challenges.
Canada's cities certainly need modern infrastructure to be healthy and prosperous. Since 1993, the federal government has invested $4.45 billion in urban infrastructure. These investments are expected to leverage contributions of municipal, provincial and private sector partners to secure 21,000 projects and $15 billion worth of investment in urban infrastructure.
The Waterloo region boasts a dynamic and vibrant economy with the potential for continued strong economic growth in the years ahead. All levels of government must be mindful of ensuring that growth is nurtured and supported rather than encumbered by the limits of an infrastructure program.
I have continued to advocate for federal funding to support the Waterloo region's light rail transit proposal. Public transit is the most viable alternative to reduced traffic congestion, ensure a cleaner environment and manage urban growth. Infrastructure is key to the prosperity of our cities as well as the health of our nation. This budget reinforces the federal assistance announced in previous budgets by investing an additional $3 billion over the next 10 years. This includes $2 billion for large projects and $1 billion earmarked for small projects.
Additional initiatives have also been introduced to support Canada's urban centres. These measures impact on the environment, affordable housing, help for the homeless, help for aboriginal peoples in urban centres, as well as help for disadvantaged children.
We need more affordable housing in Kitchener. We need to continue to address the issue of homelessness. The supporting communities partnerships initiative has invested in excess of $880,000 in Kitchener to support locally identified projects that address the problem of homelessness in our city. This budget extends that program for an additional three years. The affordable housing program will be enhanced in the coming years and the housing renovation program is also being renewed. This is good news for the City of Kitchener.
I am pleased with the support heard across the Waterloo region for budget initiatives. Dr. Larry Smith of the University of Waterloo's economic department, describes the federal budget as “a very typical Canadian budget”. The moderate increase in spending is the benefit of the sacrifices Canadians have made in the past.
The Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce issued this statement on budget day:
We were also pleased to see restoration of the $3 billion contingency fund, which should be applied to thedebt at the end of the year. Lower EI premiums and an increase in RRSP contribution limits are welcomedby both large and small employers.
The chamber also stressed its support for the federal government's ongoing commitment to income tax reductions.
For myself, I was pleased with the commitments to the environment and health care that resounded throughout budget 2003. This budget is the greenest budget in Canadian history.
The ratification of the Kyoto protocol sparked a tremendous enthusiasm across Kitchener Centre, and the budget provides resources that will allow us to implement Canada's climate change action plan. The budget sets out three points that are critical to environmental preservation as well as sustainable development.
First, economic investments must support environmental objectives. Second, environmental action is essential to long term economic growth and sustainability. Third, environmental action achieves social objectives, such as good health and more liveable communities.
All of us in Ontario will remember the crippling effect of smog days in the summer past. Many people could not go outside. Any degree of physical labour was practically impossible. In many ways our community ground to a halt, much in the same manner that it would if there was an ice storm or a severe snowstorm.
Air pollution costs lives. It creates an enormous burden on our health care system. That is why clean air is a priority for our government. The $40 million announced in the budget builds on the previous announcement of $120 million as part of our 10 year clean air agenda. There is a clear link between health and environment. With an investment of $3 billion, we will promote sustainable development and a healthier environment.
Further, following through on the 2003 health care accord, the budget invests $34.8 billion over the next five years to renew Canada's health care system.
Canada's governments recently reached an agreement on health care renewal that set out a firm commitment and a plan for change. The ultimate purpose of the accord is to ensure that all Canadians have access to health care providers 24 hours a day, seven days a week and have timely access to diagnostic procedures and to treatment.
Budget 2003 also improves access to quality home care and community care services. This investment will improve on the quality and the accessibility of health care services and ensure sustainability as its number one priority, which is what Canadians have told us they want, not only today but in the future.
Specifically for Ontario, budget 2003 invests $11.5 billion over five years. There is $967 million in a special Canada health and social transfer supplement. This fund can be drawn down over the next three years. There is $3.7 billion over the next five years in Canada health and social transfer increases, $6.3 billion over five years for the health care reform fund, and $508 million for diagnostic medical equipment.
Reflecting their collective commitment to reform, Canada's first ministers have also agreed to pursue enhanced accountability for their health care expenditures through annual public reporting on the health care system performance. This will allow Canadians to monitor the progress toward reform, to track a level of access to health care services and to assess the overall efficiency of the health care system.
We have a lot to be proud of in Kitchener Centre. Our city enjoys diversity and culture, prosperity and innovation and compassion for our communal well-being. Indeed, with the initiatives announced in budget 2003, we will be able to be more supportive of our infrastructure and to allow our economy to continue to work and our society to prosper.
Subtopic: Budget Implementation Act, 2003