Madam Speaker, I am very happy to represent my riding and have a voice for the people of Labrador in the House of Commons. Every weekend, when the House is sitting, I travel back to my riding. It is a very large geographic region of 295,000 square kilometres, which is hard to imagine. Getting around my riding on a weekend is no small task. No matter where one goes within my riding, people will say that they are seeing the improvements they have not seen for a very long time. Those improvements are not just in their communities, but in their families and the regions they are a part of. Those changes are helping build and strengthen the communities in rural and remote northern regions across Canada. My area just happens to be one of those regions.
When I look at budget 2017, the things that really pop out to me are those that directly affect ordinary Canadians who have long waited for programs and investment. Regarding the national housing strategy, budget 2017 is investing more than $11 billion in a range of initiatives that are designed to help build, renew, and repair Canada’s affordable housing and meet the needs that have been inadequately met and unaffordable for many Canadians for a long time. This is being done simply because Canadians have been asking for it.
I ask members in the House why they would not support this initiative when, for years and years, those who have needed affordable and accessible housing, both in our cities and rural areas, on reserve and off, have not been able to get the investments they wanted. Why would anyone want to vote against that today? They have been waiting for a very long time.
In my riding last year, we invested in Inuit-specific housing in the northern region. It was the first time ever in history that any government recognized the real need for Inuit housing across the north, invested in those communities, and ensured that the investment went to the Inuit housing corporations so they could manage their own affairs, as was the case in my riding with the Nunatsiavut government. Those are the kinds of new, innovative ways the government is doing things.
The other thing we did in this budget that many have been requesting for a long time is extend employment insurance to allow for a caregiver benefit. Many caregivers will be eligible for up to 15 weeks of employment insurance when they have to temporarily take time off of work to care for critically ill or injured family members. That is so important. I remember when a lady from my riding came to me when her child was sick. Her child had to go from Labrador to the hospital in St. John’s. The lady had to leave her job, which did not offer her medical benefits and from which she had no income once she left. She needed to be with her child while her child was sick for that 10 to 12 weeks, but there was no income program for her.
This will allow parents who have sick children for whom they need to leave their jobs, without any medical insurance or benefits or any other income, to tap into the employment insurance program during that period. That has been critical for many Canadians, and they have been asking for this.
The other thing is medical care. Quite often in this House, issues about medical care are raised, but in particular mental health services.
This year, our government negotiated with all the provinces and territories to look at a new health accord that would include, and give priority to, mental health services and elderly care. As a result of that, the government is investing over $800 million in the next five years just to improve mental health services in first nation and Inuit communities. This is a new investment of money in communities in this country that need it the most.
Why members would not support these investments for mental health services going into first nation and Inuit communities in Canada that need it so desperately does not make any sense, when they are the same people who, every day, stand in the House and say we should be investing more in mental health services for first nations. That is exactly what we are doing, and we are asking for the support of the House to make sure those investments get to the people who need them the most.
I also want to talk about filling employment gaps across the country. The federal government is able to provide for skilled and advanced training, as well as on-the-job work initiatives for many Canadians who are trying to enter the workforce, trying to find employment. This year, we gave a very significant boost in federal support to the provinces and territories by investing $2.7 billion over the next six years to help unemployed and underemployed Canadians access training and employment opportunities so they can get good jobs.
There are major initiatives in my riding, like the Muskrat Falls energy development project, mining operations in Voisey’s Bay and the expansion of Voisey’s Bay, the expansion of the Iron Ore Company of Canada in Labrador west. All of these companies need skilled individuals to work in their operations. In order for them to get the skills, the Government of Canada is prepared to ensure there are training dollars available for them to access, that it will help them find the employment they need, and ensure they get the training and skills they need for those jobs. That is what we should be doing as a government and because of that, I am hoping that people in ridings like mine will take advantage of these opportunities to get the training and skills they need to get long-term, sustainable employment in these resources sectors or any sector they might choose to engage in.
The other program we announced in this budget is, again, a program that Canadians have been requesting for a long time. Their voices have been ignored to date because it is a difficult issue, but we have taken it on as a government. This year, we propose to invest $6 billion over the next 10 years to improve home, community, and palliative care services for Canadians, as well as more support for informal caregivers. This means that more people in our country who want to stay at home can get the care and supports they need. It means that more families will have more support when it comes to family members who need palliative care or that kind of assistance. This government understands and is listening to people in our country and in ridings like mine in Labrador when we make those kinds of investments.
There are so many things I could talk about today, but I want to highlight a couple. First, our government invested in infrastructure projects across Canada. One of those projects was in my riding in Labrador: the completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway. Last year, we partnered with the provincial government to invest over $60 million in the Trans-Labrador Highway and we are going to continue with our commitment in that project.
We are also going to continue with our commitment to other infrastructure projects across Canada, including Labrador, like small craft harbours, women’s shelters and centres, cultural centres for people in communities, and clean water for communities that need it. We are a government that is not only consulting with people in this country but listening to Canadians.
When we look at the budget before the House of Commons today, it is a budget that reflects the needs of Canadians in the middle class, lower class, and others across the country. It is meeting the needs of what we need to grow, be healthy and strong as a country.