After an extremely difficult winter for many across the country, I think it is safe to say that we are all welcoming the warmer weather. The start of spring usually means an increase in activity, both in Ottawa and Northeastern BC, and I can say with certainty that this past month has proven this to be true.
April began with a visit to Prince George and Fort St. John from the Honourable Kerry-Lynne Findlay, Minister of National Revenue. During her time in Fort St. John, I had the opportunity to take part in a roundtable discussion with the Minister and several local businesses, highlighting the actions our Government has taken to support small and medium-sized businesses.
I also attended the trade shows in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek where I was able to meet with many residents to discuss a variety of issues and visit with several of the exhibitors to learn more about our local businesses and community groups. In Prince George, I am continuing to work hard to ensure that our local veterans receive the services they deserve.
Back in Ottawa, I chaired this year’s 50th National Prayer Breakfast and Leadership Dinner as Chair of the Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast. The National Prayer Breakfast is an annual ecumenical event offered under the auspices of the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons which brings together Canadians from across the country to pray for their nation.
The Dinner featured Dr. Kent Brantly, a physician with Samaritan’s Purse and one of Time Magazine’s 2014 Persons of the Year as an “Ebola Fighter”. British Columbia’s own Sweet Presence provided the evening’s music. The Breakfast featured Dr. Ravi Zacharias, with music from Vancouver’s St. Patrick’s Regional Secondary Chamber Choir. Both speakers were inspiring for all who attended.
Some personal highlights of the event for me included having the Governor General, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, accompany Garth Hampson in singing O Canada, and having the opportunity to publicly recognize Prince George’s Ben and Rousella Klassen, who had travelled to Ottawa to attend the Breakfast.
April also brought the tabling of Economic Action Plan 2015, which includes many key measures that will support Northeastern BC families and our local economy. These measures include reducing the small business tax rate to 9%, lowering taxes and increasing benefits for all families, increasing the Tax-Free Savings Account annual contribution limit to $10,000, providing tax relief to LNG industry and new funding to the forestry sector to diversify their markets, reducing the minimum withdrawal factors for Registered Retirement Income Funds, and introducing a new Home Accessibility Tax Credit for seniors and persons with disabilities.
We are doing all of this while also keeping our promise to Canadians to balance the budget in 2015, the first balanced budget since the Great Recession. Not only are we balancing the budget, but we are also projecting a $1.4 billion surplus, which to me is just icing on the cake.
Lastly, I want to ensure all families are aware of our Government’s proposed changes to the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB). These changes will boost Universal Child Care cheques to almost $2,000 per year for each pre-schooler and extends $720 for every child 6 through 17. If you have children under the age of 18, you qualify. Period.
You should already be in the system, but I urge all parents to double check that you have signed up by visiting http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/uccb/.
I look forward to the rest of this spring session here in Ottawa and having the opportunity to spend the summer meeting with residents to discuss the issues that are important to you.