The federal finance department describes the new Liberal government’s first federal budget as one that restores hope for the middle class, creates opportunity for all Canadians and revitalizes the Canadian economy.
But North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney says this budget has “some hits and some significant misses.”
The budget, called Growing the Middle Class, was tabled Tuesday.
“A strong economy starts with a strong middle class,” states the federal finance department release on the budget.
“Budget 2016 offers immediate help to those who need it most and lays the groundwork for long-term economic growth. Most importantly, it focuses squarely on people and the things that matter most to them — things like strengthening the middle class, creating jobs and growing the economy.”
With this budget, Finance Minister Bill Morneau introduced the new Canada Child Benefit, which the government is billing as “a simpler, tax-free, more generous, targeted benefit that helps those who need it most: the middle class.”
The budget includes new investments in infrastructure that total more than $120 billion over the next decade, including investments in public transit, water and wastewater systems and affordable housing.
Supporting Indigenous peoples is a focus in this budget, and the government is making what it calls “unprecedented investments” in First Nations, Inuit Peoples and the Métis Nation — totalling $8.4 billion over five years — in areas that include education, infrastructure and skills training. The government will ensure access to clean drinking water for every child, including those who live on reserves.
Blaney has been looking at the budget with concern around the actual numbers compared to the numbers that were promised during the election campaign.
“My general reaction is this budget is a missed opportunity around reducing inequalities,” she said Tuesday evening, a few hours after Morneau’s budget presentation. “We’ve seen a lot of promises in the election campaign we just had, we’ve looked at the numbers and they just don’t add up.”
Blaney says when she looks at the budget, Indigenous communities not getting the amount of funding they were promised, youth being shortchanged, support for clean technology being less than promised and smaller, rural communities being left behind are among her concerns.
Blaney says the NDP is pleased to see the new Canada Child Benefit has been created to help families but it doesn’t do as much as a child care strategy would.
“We’re happy families will get a little help, but again, it’s not a long-term plan that will allow families to plan for child care,” she said.
Blaney is disappointed in how this budget addresses seniors, saying there hasn’t been meaningful investment in seniors’ care.
“Across the riding, seniors have spoken with me about increasing inequality,” she added in a release sent out Wednesday.
“The extra $947 for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) shows some movement.”
Her concern is that the increase is only for seniors making the least, while others get no increase at all.
“This just does not provide the level of support required.”
Since being elected, Blaney has been working to try to keep the Comox Marine Communications and Traffic Services station from closing and she was disappointed to see that there was “absolutely nothing” in the budget to maintain the station.
Health care spending is another area that Blaney is looking at closely, as it is an important issue for her constituents.
“There’s absolutely nothing in there about increasing health care spending,” she said.
“We receive a lot of letters in our office around health care barriers, people waiting a lot of time. If we’re not investing in health care, that’s a problem.”
Blaney says she heard a lot of concern about the treatment of veterans during the election campaign and this is another area where she sees some movement, but not enough.
“It was with relief I saw the offices across Canada are being re-opened,” she said. “However, veterans are also being shortchanged by the lack of mental health support, with nothing for suicide prevention and meaningful support for families.”
You can find the federal budget on the finance department’s website at fin.gc.ca.