Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski is taking a wait-and-see approach to the federal budget unveiled on Tuesday.
“I think this is the way to look at government budgets, is that in six months from now, people need to ask themselves if they are better off prior to this budget,” Stetski said. “Are they worse off or has there been no change in their day-to-day lives, other than we now have an additional almost 30 billion debt.
“I think that’s the way we need to be looking at government budgets all the time.”
Stetski referenced the Liberal’s projected deficit, projected at $29.4 billion—a monumental shift from their campaign promise of a $10 billion deficit, as the party advocated turning on the spending taps to fund infrastructure projects across the country.
“Interesting that the deficit went from $10 billion, which was they had said during the campaign to $29.4 billion, and that’s without actually fulfilling a number of campaign promises that they had made,” Stetski continued.
A few key aspects of the budget include:
• A Canada Child Benefit to replace the Universal Child Care Benefit. The benefit is pro-rated, meaning the benefit—starting with a household income of $30,000—gets clawed back the higher the household income.
• $11.9 billion for infrastructure investments into public transit, water and sewage and social infrastructure. Stetski said that within the riding, $85.9 million has been earmarked to twin part of the Trans-Canada Highway through Yoho National Park.
• First Nations will be receiving $4.22 billion over five years for on-reserve education, water and wastewater infrastructure, child and family services, education infrastructure and housing needs.
“There is some excitement and some positive excitement around elements of the budget, so people really need to go back and look at the starting point,” said Stetski. “The Conservatives had cut in so many different areas that were important to people in both Kootenay-Columbia and in Canada, that having money in the budget now for a number of things is quite exciting for Canadians.
“You see that in the reaction across the country, there is a fairly positive reaction, there are a lot of good things in the budget, but I think a lot of that happiness is just based on where things had gone to over the last 10 years, particularly the last four years, with the Conservative government.”
However, Stetski noted that there were a few disappointing aspects of the plan, namely that there were no tax cuts to small businesses or any increases in corporate tax rates, both of which were NDP campaign promises.
He praised the funding increase for student grants, but lamented the elimination of educational and textbook tax credits.
Rules for employment insurance were tweaked, making it easier to apply for benefits. Stetski added that the policy was tailored for areas with sharp unemployment, such as Alberta’s oilsands, which has seen a spike in unemployment due to the worldwide low price of oil.
“If you’re living in some parts of Alberta, you’ll be able to apply for this expanded Employment Insurance. If you’re living in other parts of Alberta, you won’t, and none of it applies to British Columbia,” he said.
While Guaranteed Income Supplement will get a boost of up to $974 for eligible seniors, the budget doesn’t add anything for home care or palliative care, continued Stetski.
He also brought out the Trans-Pacific Partnership using Creston dairy farmers as examples, noting that the Liberal’s didn’t include any compensation for dairy farmers, which was another election promise.
“The lens that we look at it is does this budget do anything to help with inequality?” asked Stetski. “For example, this budget does not change tax rates for corporations at all, which is where potentially, there is hope that money would come from increased taxes to corporation to fund people living in poverty, to put more money into affordable housing, to bring in new programs to help with mental health across Canada.
“So those kinds of opportunities which, for us and for me, looks at trying to reduce inequality, it’s just not there.”