The Conservative government’s 2014 budget falls short of taking any real significant action, according to Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s budget, tabled on Tuesday, looks to erase the federal deficit ahead of schedule by keeping spending low. Flaherty forecasts a $2.9-billion deficit for the upcoming fiscal year, which is only because Ottawa is setting aside $3-billion in case of unexpected emergencies.
In an interview with the Trail Times from his Ottawa office, Atamanenko acknowledged the government’s efforts but said “it’s important that we don’t do this on the backs of people who are struggling.”
Though the New Democrat’s party is calling it a “do nothing budget,” Atamanenko wouldn’t go that far.
But he is taking issue with the lack of attention to real challenges most Canadians face.
“There are 300,000 more unemployed today than before the recession, many seniors are struggling and families are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet,” he said.
“It appears that the Conservatives are delaying any new ideas until 2015, the election year.
“That’s kind of cynical but that’s sort of what I feel and the analysis of my party says.”
He is pleased, however, to see provisions to expand high-speed broadband in rural areas, $390 million for food safety, and the creation of the Canada Apprenticeship Loans Program, which provides interest free loans of up to $4,000 per person of technical training.
The MP acknowledged the investment in infrastructure but is concerned with the lack of specific support for rural areas.
“There is money earmarked for infrastructure but according to our analysis there’s no real commitment to the smaller communities component, which was a key ask of municipal leaders,” he added.
He also noted the effort to even the playing field for Canadian shoppers but questioned at whose expense.
“It’s one thing just to say you’ll lower the cost of your goods but if it’s costing somebody in Trail more to buy wholesale than it is for someone across the border, how are we going to address that?” he asked.
“We want our people to make money; we don’t them to be priced out of business.”
It will be interesting to see how quickly the shopping list of plans will roll out, he said, and what sort of concrete toll it will have on the Southern Interior.
“It’s one thing to put all of these things into a flashy book and give a speech, it’s another thing to see when we are going to see all of these things take place,” he added.