The year 2011 was one that ended with many historic changes around the world, changes few would have predicted 12 months ago.
We saw great economic and political uncertainty around the world continue with the European sovereign debt crisis, the Arab Spring and the political gridlock in the United States.
While no country was left untouched by the events, we did see a wide spectrum of responses.
We saw peaceful protests, democratic elections, 11th-hour multi-lateral meetings, riots in the streets and, in extreme cases, states killing their own citizens many of whom were only calling for political reform and greater economic freedom.
Closer to home, few would have predicted a majority government in Canada But in the May 2 federal election we saw a tremendous amount of turnover.
In this, the 41st parliament, we have the youngest group of MPs ever (with an average age of 49.9 years).
In recent local elections, there was also great turnover, with many mayors and councillors not returned to office.
The ongoing global economic turmoil, continued challenges with unemployment and poverty have given rise to political unrest and also served as a catalyst for movements and protests throughout North America.
There is one common denominator that is often overlooked, the great importance for governments of all levels to spend within their means and, at the same time, to continue to create policy that supports jobs and a strong economy.
These two tangibles are very much connected and yet all too often they are treated as isolated and separate entities.
In my travels around the riding, and through the corridors of power, some facts have become increasingly clear. When it comes to spending your tax dollars on programs, services and administration, there is no shortage of ideas on how more money can be spent.
At times government, in response to special interest groups, support policy and initiatives that sometimes impede and restrict the private sector’s ability to generate the jobs and investment we need to support our valued social programs.
Most Canadians would agree that creating manufacturing jobs in Canada, as opposed to overseas, is an important goal that is beneficial for our economic prosperity. But to meet those objectives it is critical Canada have an infrastructure network that allows manufacturers to efficiently and easily move goods from the factory door direct to marketplaces where an effective financial return can be realized.
Many may not realize it, but in each community in our region where I have visited our largest and higher-paying private-sector employers, they all depend on the smooth movement of goods across borders, whether they are provincial or international.
Many residents will know that the federal government recently entered into agreements with the United States in respect to Canada-U.S. border relations.
Likewise improvements to roads, the construction of bridges, elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board, tax credits for small business to encourage hiring and capital equipment tax credits for large business are all initiatives designed to create investment and jobs.
On the other end, our government has also been undertaking a spending review in Ottawa. Reviewing spending, consolidation and programs like Shared Services Canada have already helped reduce our deficit by more than $22 billion in 2011, a 40 per cent reduction over last year.
At the same time we have been able to implement the largest increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement in 25 years and help close to 700,000 retired seniors. The government has also remained opposed to a bill that would have paid these benefits to newly arrived immigrants.
Legislation has also been introduced for a new $2,000 family caregiver tax credit to assist caregivers of infirmed dependent relatives and also a new childrens’ arts tax credit of up to $500 per child for eligible fees associated with childrens’ artistic, cultural, recreational and developmental activities is soon to be supporting families.
For 2012, looking ahead we must continue to support investment and the creation of jobs in order to maintain and enhance our special quality of life we enjoy as Canadians.
Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla.