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What matters most to Canadians will be the economic plan that is put into place by the Budget. A plan to protect and grow the economy in the short and long term, this is what matters.
James Van Leeuwen from Pincher Creek, Alberta: Hello Ted. Because of our heavily export-based economy, there are some major economic course changes that Canada urgently needs to be making if it is to remain relevant to the markets of the 21st century.
One such course change is a strong shift towards competitiveness in the global 'Knowledge Economy', which will require far greater investment in broadband telecommunication infrastructure. Another required course change is an even stronger shift toward sustainable energy. This is especially urgent for Alberta, where the economy is at great risk in a world that is accelerating away from fossil fuels.
Beyond stimulating the economy in the near term, is there a longer-term strategy behind the $64 billion of deficit spending to ensure that we'll recover the deficit (and more)? In other words, is this more than just a Band-Aid?
Ted Menzies: James, thanks for the question. Every time I drive through Pincher Creek I am reminded that the hundreds of wind turbines provide green power to over 100,000 homes.
Your comments mirror what we have been hearing consistently in our consultations. This Budget must be forward looking and lay the foundation to prepare Canada for the 21st Century economy. Any future plan must include a focus on research and development, productivity and improving market access.
Much of what you talk about is actually referenced in 'Advantage Canada', our long term plan for Canada's economy that we released in November of 2006.
Due to the unprecedented global economic challenges we are now facing, we have made the deliberate decision to advance the concepts of Advantage Canada and run significant deficits in the short term. We will ensure that while the measures we take on Tuesday will provide short term benefits through stimulus and help for Canadians in need, they will also help create a stronger more prosperous Canada over the long term.
Bobby Dy: Since the CPC took power, the major federal support programs for biomedical and natural sciences research (CIHR, NSERC) have been funded at levels below inflation. Barack Obama has included a major increase in NIH (the equivalent of CIHR) funding as part of his stimulus package. The argument is that it generates jobs immediately and trains highly qualified personnel for sectors such as biotech. Without this training, there can be no private biomedical sector in this country. Will the Canadian government follow a similar route, and does the Canadian government recognize the dangers of an exodus of our top researchers to the U.S. if the slide in CIHR funding continues?
Ted Menzies: Thank you for the question. Our Conservative Government has been and will continue to be a strong supporter of R&D in Canada. In fact, we have made important investments totalling over $5-billion annually to support R&D activities.
Indeed, since taking office we've provided over $2-billion in new resources for R&D. What's more, we've taken the extraordinary step of naming a Minister of State (Science and Technology), the Hon. Dr. Gary Goodyear, to advance this important file. This builds on the "Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage" strategy we announced in 2007, which I encourage you to read online.
Even more, a "Knowledge Advantage" was one of the five key advantages that we outlined as a priority for Canada in our long-term economic plan, Advantage Canada.
Additionally, we've heard the need to support R&D in our consultations, so expect to see that reflected moving forward.
Dan Laurin from Windsor: How will the Conservative Government address the massive job losses in Ontario's manufacturing sector? Living in Windsor, I see every day more layoffs and read about more companies relocating to Mexico. The jobs we need to maintain are high-paying jobs, $18-24 per hourů
Ted Menzies:: Coming from a farming background, I have seen first hand how devastating the effects of an industry downturn can be on communities and families. I am hopeful that this budget will provide help in terms of EI and also skills training.
Certain sectors have been facing tremendous challenges over the last few months. These challenges have been increased due to the global economic downturn. The Prime Minister and the Premier of Ontario have recently made announcements with respect to the auto sector to help address some of the concerns.
These are difficult times for many Canadians. We recognize this, and this is why we have made the decision to accelerate spending to help maintain and create jobs. Canadians need to appreciate that we are entering this time of global economic uncertainty in a much stronger position than any of our G7 trading partners. We will emerge from these challenging times stronger than our partners, and best positioned for the future because of the timely, targeted, and temporary investments that Minister Flaherty will announce tomorrow.
Adam Radwanski: Mr. Menzies, we understand that you have many other obligations today, and indeed were having to deal with budget-related business even over the past hour. Thanks for managing to field some questions anyway. We apologize to those readers whose questions we weren't able to get to.