North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney says that she was ‘content, but still wanted more’ from the Liberal Party of Canada’s budget as presented to the house of commons last week.
Blaney, who is the NDP critic for Seniors, Veterans and Rural Economic Development, noted that those files in particular had little attention in the budget. For seniors, Blaney was relieved to see more funding to keep what had been until now temporary staff on a permanent basis to help with Veterans Affairs’ disability claim backlog. Veterans will also be getting some more support for housing, as well as women veterans getting more support for disability claims, based on equipment being more suited to male bodies.
“Women veterans largely were serving when everything was build physically for a man’s body, not a woman’s body,” Blaney said. “Just how things fit on their bodies could cause them physical harm and often female veterans would apply for disability supports because of how those impacts have been felt in their bodies… because the measurement of these disabilities were all based on a male physiology, they were often rejected. It’s good to see there’s some resources in there to start looking at this and to have a more safe support system for them.”
For Seniors, Blaney was disappointed. While she noted “a bit of extra funding for the New Horizons program,” she said there was relatively little to help bring seniors out of poverty.
“I would have liked to have seen a concrete increase in the guaranteed income supplement and the old age security. We saw neither, and I think that’s really disappointing. It just tells you that part of seniors… with their very fixed income — and some GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) seniors are by far the poorest people in the country — not being able to deal with all of the inflation that we’re seeing, that really does concern me in terms of long-term health and well-being,” she said.
Blaney has been pushing the government to focus more on rural economic development, which she says has often just meant adding connectivity to rural communities.
“That is important, it opens up a lot of opportunities, but there’s a lot more to it,” she said.
Rural economic development in B.C. to Blaney means things like making sure smaller communities are prepared for when things get upended, as has been the case for many communities in B.C. facing job losses due to industries moving elsewhere, as well as environmental catastrophes and housing issues. She has been advocating for a Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacifiCan) office to open in the riding — which has been scheduled for later this year — and is looking forward for people to actually get to speak about their issues to government staff.
“If we have a fundamental change in our region, they need to understand that there needs to be supports in place,” she said.
More generally, Blaney was disappointed in the government’s allocation of funds to fight climate change. She said that the budget does not ensure Canada’s place as a leader when it comes to the environment, and it worries her because “we know how expensive the impacts of climate change are becoming.
“We’re watching it, especially in B.C. with the heat dome, forest fires and huge flooding,” she said. “We’ve seen whole communities destroyed. We need to be dealing with climate change and not just continuing on a path that is not going to help us mitigate those changes.”