Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.
There is a lot to talk about in the budget and, in the limited time I have available, I am going to focus on three areas. I am going to talk about what we are doing in research and development. I will talk about what we are planning to do with infrastructure and transportation, because that is a critical element of the budget for all of us, especially in my city of Toronto. Finally, I would like to talk about the need and the plan to return to a balanced budget.
First of all, when it comes to research and innovation, I do not need to convince members that research and innovation are key to building a 21st-century economy. It is a way to develop differentiated products and services, it drives productivity, and it drives a long-term, sustainable competitive advantage. That is how we are going to compete on the world stage as a country.
We want Canada to be a country where the best and brightest from around the world come to innovate and showcase their talent. Here, they can enjoy the benefits of their hard work, dedication, and creativity. When we support innovation, our businesses continue to fuel job creation and economic growth in Canada.
Economic action plan 2014 introduces many new measures to support risk-taking, entrepreneurship, and innovation. The first one I will mention is the Canada first research excellence fund, with $1.5 billion over the next 10 years. This is a really important measure. It builds Canadian leadership in science and innovation, and it works through our world-class post-secondary institutions.
Another important pillar of our research and innovation agenda is the continued support to advance scientific research granting councils. There is $46 million in new annual funding for organizations like the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
Another very important item in this budget is the announcement of $222 million in funding for the TRIUMF physics laboratory, which supports leading research and launches cutting edge spin-off companies. I should also mention the support for the Institute for Quantum Computing, which has some really leading-edge research being done in the field of quantum technologies. There would be $15 million allocated for that.
Another initiative that I am very close to, through my work with the government operations and estimates committee, is the creation of the Open Data Institute, which has all kinds of opportunities for using government data to create businesses and start-ups and to provide good services to Canadians.
There is ongoing and continued funding of $500 million over two years for the automotive innovation fund, which is really critical for re-platforming and for leading Canadian and Ontario-based automotive industries into the 21st century. Something else that would also be very important all across the country is $90 million in the forestry industry transformation program to advance new technologies in Canada's wood products and the pulp and paper sectors.
Economic action plan 2014 plans to reduce the interprovincial trade barriers, which are really important. We can have great products and services, but we need to be able to sell these things across Canada. That same thinking applies to our plan to launch campaigns to promote high quality and high value Canadian-made products around the world, which is well aligned with our very ambitious and very successful trade agenda. All of these new markets opening up for us because of our trade agreements with Europe, around the Americas, and now into Asia, will be leveraging some of the developments we have through R and D.
These research and innovation measures are not new. We are building on some of the past successes. I should mention that since 2006, we have provided over $2 billion for universities and colleges for construction and repairs through the knowledge infrastructure program. We have also provided $2.3 billion to support advanced research through the federal granting councils. There was also $800 million to support post-secondary research through the Canada Foundation for Innovation. All these measures add up to a strong support for the R and D space in Canada.
I should mention one specific measure, which is $1.5 billion to support private sector R and D in Canada's aerospace sector through the strategic aerospace and defence initiative. Last year, members of the House might recall that we launched the venture capital action plan to increase private sector investments in early-stage companies.
Canadians are innovators. We have been throughout our history, and we can compete with anybody around the world. Economic action plan 2014 gives us that shot in the arm that we need to succeed around the world.
The second item I would like to talk about is infrastructure and transportation. One of the most common conversations I have in my constituency office and with my constituents in Etobicoke—Lakeshore is the need for the city of Toronto especially, as well as other cities in Canada, to build more infrastructure, to get people moving, to get goods moving, and to help build the foundation for a strong economy.
In 2007, we launched the $33 billion building Canada plan, which supported over 12,000 infrastructure projects across Canada. In 2008 and 2009, in the stimulus phase of Canada's economic action plan, we supported an additional 30,000 infrastructure projects across Canada. In 2013, we announced a new building Canada plan, even bigger and longer, a $53 billion investment in predictable infrastructure funding over 10 years, which is the largest and longest federal investment in job-creating infrastructure in Canadian history.
Since 2006, I should add, when I talk about the greater Toronto area, we have invested $4.5 billion in GTA infrastructure in major projects such as the Toronto-York Spadina subway extension. We have enhanced GO Transit and invested in the revitalization of Union Station. Now we are going to support Toronto with its plans to bring much-needed mass transit to Scarborough.
The economic action plan maintains these promises in the new building Canada plan and delivers new measures that benefit Canadians from coast to coast to coast, including $40 million to accelerate the repair and maintenance of small craft harbours and a $200 million fund to establish a national disaster mitigation program.
I would be remiss if I did not mention how we provided increased and ongoing support through the gas tax fund, first doubling its size to $2 billion per year and making it permanent, and then indexing it at 2% per year beginning this year.
With regard to housing, which was mentioned by some members in the chamber, we have invested over $1 billion since 2006 for renovations and energy retrofits for close to 200,000 affordable housing units, $600 million in the homelessness partnering strategy, and over $1.25 billion in the investment in affordable housing program to help Canadians in need find and keep affordable housing.
These long-term investments in our roads, subways, railways, bridges, harbours, and other critical infrastructure are key to keeping Canadians moving and maintaining our quality of life and our prosperity. We benefit from these investments because they reduce commuting times so families can spend more time together.
Let me talk about why these things are important in the context of returning to balanced budgets.
Prior to the global recession, our Conservative government paid down $37 billion in debt, bringing Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio to its lowest level in nearly 30 years. This placed Canada in a strong fiscal position to weather the global recession. When the recession hit, we made a deliberate decision to run temporary deficits by generating economic stimulus through our infrastructure program.
We also decided to leave money in taxpayers' pockets. We lowered taxes, despite opposition howls to maintain them and even raise them. This gave Canadians more money to spend and kept the economy going. Conservatives know we cannot tax our way out of a recession. We have cut taxes over 150 times, reducing the overall tax burden to its lowest level in 50 years. We have cut federal taxes in every way governments collect them. We have cut personal taxes, consumption taxes, business taxes, excise taxes, duties, and many more. Our record of strong tax relief saves a typical family of four in Canada $3,400 a year. It is unbelievable.
In addition to lowering taxes for Canadian families, we have lowered taxes for seniors and low-income Canadians. By increasing the amount Canadians can earn without paying taxes, by increasing the age credit and the pension income credit, we have removed over one million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls altogether.
Part of our plan to balance the budget is to control federal government costs, including public sector compensation and departmental expense. We need to ensure compensation and benefits are fair and in line with those of other public and private sector employees.
I should mention that unlike the previous Liberal government, our deficit reduction plan does not include cutting transfers to the provinces.
There are many benefits of a strong fiscal position. I do not need to convince you, Mr. Speaker, as I know you understand the importance of having lower borrowing costs. We are the only G7 country to have a AAA credit rating from Moody's, Fitch, and Standard & Poor's. All the measures in economic action plan 2014 lead to a higher standard of living, and we avoid burdening our children and grandchildren with our debts.
The future is bright for Canada, and I strongly suggest that all members of the House support this budget.