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Kootenay-Columbia MP pans federal budget

Rob Morrison takes issue with deficit spending, federal carbon tax
Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. Photo courtesy Conservative Party of Canada

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison panned the recently unveiled federal budget, singling out concerns over government spending amid a worsening housing and affordability crisis.

Unveiled by federal finance minister Chrystia Freeland on April 16, the federal budget projects overall spending will rise to $535 billion in 2024-25, while the deficit is projected to be $39.8 billion. There is $11.5 billion in new spending this year and $53 billion over the next five years.

“There is nothing good about an unbalanced budget,” Morrison said.

The Kootenay Conservative parliamentarian’s concerns centred on the burgeoning federal debt, as well as the impacts of the federal carbon tax on businesses and people with low incomes, particularly seniors.

Morrison said life has become increasingly unaffordable after nine years of Liberal budgets.

“Every year, it’s the same. ‘Well, we’re going to make life more affordable,’” Morrison said in an interview at his constituency office in Cranbrook. “Just get out of the house and go shopping and you’ll realize it’s not more affordable.”

Morrison said the federal government is spending billions in debt servicing, money that could be redirected elsewhere if there wasn’t such a reliance on deficit spending.

“The Conservatives want to go dollar-for-dollar,” Morrison said. “What that really means, is if we get a dollar in on our GDP on taxes, from individuals, from corporations, we can spend it all, whatever the priorities, we can spend it.”

Morrison blamed the carbon tax for adding to financial stress to household budgets, noting that businesses, particularly agricultural producers, are facing higher costs that get passed on to consumers.

The carbon tax rebates, he added, don’t go far enough to blunt the costs incurred for winter home heating and fuel, singling out increased cost pressures on seniors and those with low-incomes.

In B.C., carbon tax politics are a bit murky, as the provincial government has had a carbon tax program for more than a decade that, while separate from the federal program, is mandated by federal law.

The federal budget focused on housing, with proposals to use federal land, among other measures, to build 3.87 million homes by 2031. Action items revolve around building more homes, making it easier to own or rent a home, and helping people who can’t afford a home through various funding initiatives.

Other relevant policy planks include creating a national school food program for students, moving towards a national pharmacare program, delivering a suite of $93 billion in major economic investment tax credits, and expanding $10-a-day daycare.

“Our government first came to office with a vow to strengthen and expand the middle class,” said Freeland, in a news release. “We delivered on that pledge by reducing poverty, especially for children and seniors, and creating millions of good jobs for Canadians.

“Our work isn’t done. Budget 2024 renews our focus on unlocking the door to the middle class for millions of younger Canadians. We’ll build more housing and help make life cost less. We will drive our economy toward growth that lifts everyone up. That is fairness for every generation.”

In terms of funding that could flow back to Kootenay-Columbia, the feds recently announced a $5.19-million contribution towards a UV treatment facility in Cranbrook through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) Green Infrastructure – Environmental Quality Stream.

Last December, the City of Kimberley also received $36.2 million through the Green Infrastructure stream of the same ICIP program for the city’s new wastewater treatment facility.

The federal budget included a $400 million top up to the $4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund — which Cranbrook was unsuccessful in its application for — while also unveiling a $6 billion Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund.

Whether any funding from those new announcements will come back to the Kootenays remains to be seen, however, Morrison noted he has sent out “hundreds” of applications and letters of support for local government funding initiatives in the Kootenays.

For example, Morrison said he’s reached out to the federal government to lend support to the City of Cranbrook’s efforts to secure additional funding for the Gold Creek Dam replacement, a $14-million project that is a key part of the city’s water supply infrastructure.

With files from The Canadian Press.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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