Victoria’s MP says the federal budget does little to help local families get ahead, instead wasting billions on tax measures only available to less than one in six Canadian families.
“I didn’t see much in this budget to help the families I talk to,” said Murray Rankin, New Democrat MP for Victoria. “The budget offers nothing for families having trouble affording, or even finding, childcare,” said Rankin. “Building more affordable housing is a top priority for Victoria and our city needs a federal partner, not a government intent on looking the other way.”
As the Opposition health critic, Rankin points out that the budget confirms the Conservatives will go ahead with cutting $36 billion in planned health transfers to provinces.
“We need a federal government that will help seniors and families get home care and deal with the high cost of prescription drugs,” he said.
Rankin was also disappointed that the budget didn’t reverse the cuts to the Coast Guard and marine protection services on the coast, especially in light of the recent oil spill in Vancouver.
“They had $7.5 million to advertise their budget but couldn’t come up with $700,000 to keep the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station open.”
Rankin said he was pleased the Conservatives recognized the value of New Democrat proposals like reducing the small business tax credit, addressing mandatory withdrawals from the Registered Retirement Income Funds, and extending compassionate care benefits. Rankin also said he will fight for Victoria to get its fair share of any new public transit funding but questions why most of the announced funding isn’t available until 2019.
Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver delivered his first budget last week, featuring increased defence spending and a new public transit fund that wouldn’t take effect until after the federal election scheduled for this fall.
B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said changes in the federal budget such as reducing small business tax and allowing personal income splitting for couples have a flow-through effect on provincial revenues. That could be between $18 million and $30 million to B.C., he said.
De Jong said the B.C. government supports the reduction in federal small business tax rate, which is to decline from 11 to nine per cent by 2019.
A new federal fund to help pay for transit doesn’t take effect until 2017, but de Jong said he expects current federal infrastructure programs to continue until then.
Federal Industry Minister James Moore said the Conservative government is still distributing funds from the $70 billion infrastructure fund that was included in last year’s budget, and the new fund is in response to cities’ demands.
The mayors of Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and the national and provincial municipal associations have all endorsed the budget, Moore said.
B.C. NDP finance critic Carole James said the federal budget seems to have missed B.C. priorities, and it was frustrating to see Ottawa balance its books on the same day as the Canadian Coast Guard closed another West Coast facility.
The Coast Guard’s marine communications and traffic centre at Ucluelet is closed, with the function transferred to Prince Rupert. A similar station in Vancouver is to close May 6, with traffic monitored from Victoria, and another monitoring station at Comox is set to close this year, according to Unifor, the union representing Coast Guard employees.
Moore said the rationalization and modernization of ship tracking systems on the West Coast will improve safety, and has already been done on the East Coast.
Business Council of B.C. president Greg D’Avignon said balancing the national budget, investing in transit and providing investment incentives for industries such as liquefied natural gas and forestry will help offset the effects of a slump in oil prices and weak commodity markets.