Notes for an address to the Gananoque – Thousand Islands Township Mayor’s breakfast
Thank you and good morning everyone.
I am delighted to be here this morning to join with you at this annual breakfast. As you are aware, the House of Commons resumes sitting today so I am heading back to Ottawa shortly as our government prepares to unveil this year’s budget.
I am looking forward to the budget projections but let’s briefly review last year.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty noted a few achievements at the end of the year.
In 2013, Canada’s financial services sector ranked the best in the world for the sixth year in a row.
With the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the Group of Seven it is no surprise that real business investment in Canada is now well above its pre-recession peak, while no other G-7 country has even recovered to pre-recession levels.
It is still important that we remain focused on balanced budgets.
The government is on track to balance the federal budget in 2015 and reduce the federal debt-to-GDP ratio to 25 per cent by 2021.
Both the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development expect Canada to be among the strongest growing economies in the G-7 in 2014.
In 2013, Canada further strengthened its international competitiveness through a number of historic achievements.
These accomplishments included an agreement in principle on a comprehensive trade agreement with the European Union, which will result in Canadian businesses having tariff-free access to almost half of the world economy.
As well we signed an agreement in principle to establish a cooperative capital markets regulator with Ontario and British Columbia that will better protect investors, enhance Canada’s financial services sector, support efficient capital markets, and better manage systemic risk.
In 2013, the government continued to receive a triple-A credit rating, with a stable outlook, from all the major credit rating agencies, Minister Flaherty explained.
These are all recognition of the fiscal progress we have made and our growing reputation around the world as stable managers.
We know Canadian families work hard for their money; that’s why we have kept taxes low.
The federal tax burden is at its lowest level in 50 years, and Canadian families are paying less in taxes now than they were in 2006.
In parliament, we had one of the most successful years passing a large number of Bills including 19 Private Member’s Bills. A record 39 substantive Private Members' Bills have received Royal Assent since we took office.
Since the 2011 election, 83 pieces of legislation have become law. In 2013, 40 bills received Royal Assent – a record number, and our government’s most productive calendar year.
The overwhelming majority of the government’s agenda from the last session of Parliament completed the legislative process prior to this past fall’s throne speech.
We are delivering on our commitments by; creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians; supporting and protecting Canadian families; and putting Canada first.
Since the fall, the government has already made progress on bills that will meet our Throne Speech commitments.
Personally, as your Member of Parliament, I had a very good year which means this year has been productive for Leeds-Grenville.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars are flowing into the area for economic development and we are working hard to set the stage for further growth in the region.
From job creation to infrastructure improvement, there was a great deal taking place in the riding.
Some of the 2013 highlights include: funding for Newterra for plant expansion and job creation; funding of multiple projects through the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund; funding for the recreational path along the 1000 Islands Parkway; and funding for the highly successful Tall Ships Festival in Brockville.
As well, following the 2012 opening of the new border facility in Johnstown, the federal budget in March last year ear-marked $60 million for the re-development of the border facilities at the Thousand Islands crossing.
That money was approved in the fall and work is getting underway there.
I am also pleased to note that my private member’s Bill to re-name Thousand Islands National Park received Royal Assent in time for the new season.
And I have been working hard to ensure the casino remains right here.
This is an important employer in this region and I will continue to work diligently to ensure it remains here.
The other major agenda item in Leeds-Grenville concerns the Rideau Canal.
Throughout the year I have done a great deal of work on the Rideau Canal both in the riding and in Ottawa. Following the public meeting in 2012 we acquired a three-year window for consultations to find solutions for the canal.
This past fall I was pleased to announce the visitor experience process and I continued to gather input including holding another public meeting in December.
There is still a great deal of work to be done on this issue and I look forward to continuing this process throughout this year, including the announcement of the visitors experience work this coming Friday in Smiths Falls.
In the spring I introduced a private member’s bill that was aimed specifically at the Rideau. Once it is passed it will help fund long term rehabilitation of National Historic Sites such as the Rideau Canal.
I was pleased to be chosen as the chair of the Heritage Committee in the fall.
As chair I will be reviewing such upcoming pieces of legislation as pick and pay for cable channels and seeing the planning for Canada’s 150th anniversary take shape.
I encourage you to share your views on how you think we should celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
All Canadians are being invited to participate in the consultations by completing an online questionnaire at Canada.ca/150.
We want to know how Canadians would like to mark our 150th anniversary. We want a celebration that reflects who we are as Canadians, where we came from, and what we can give back. Canada 150 will be an occasion to build and strengthen the nation and to engage Canadians in shaping our future.
The final highlight of the year was my annual charity hockey game for the United Way of Leeds-Grenville where over $116,000 was raised.
And one last reminder before I wrap up. It is getting late but the Canada Summer Jobs program application deadline is this Friday.
For details visit the Service Canada web site for applications and guidelines.
I am eager to return to Ottawa today and I look forward to the new budget that I expect will be coming in February.
As I have always stated in the past, my door is always open and I am available at any time to assist municipalities and constituents in any way I can.
Thank you again for inviting me – and have a great 2014 everyone!