The newly-released federal budget doesn’t do enough for the Alberni Valley, according to NDP MP Gord Johns.
“It’s a mixed bag but I’ve got a lot of concerns,” said Johns.
“The Liberals are running a $30 billion deficit. That’s an almost $100 billion deficit over three years and no plan to get us out of debt.”
The Liberals had originally campaigned on a promise of three $10 billion deficits.
The budget forecasts more than $100 billion in deficits for the next five years, contrary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s election promise to balance the budget in four years. Morneau billed the budget as a plan to “revitalize the Canadian economy” and deliver a tax break to nine million taxpayers, and a more generous, tax-free child benefit.
The budget also indicates Ottawa can contribute up to 50 per cent of future capital funding, instead of the one-third from each senior government that was the practice in the past.
Although the budget is extensive, Johns doesn’t think it addresses key issues in communities like Port Alberni.
“They’ve failed to tackle inequality,” said Johns. The budget includes cuts to middle class tax rates – from 22 to 20.5 per cent for the $45,000 to $90,000 income bracket. Only part of that is offset by an increase in the tax rate for income over $200,000 from 29 to 33 per cent—something that Johns said doesn’t help those making under $45,000 per year.
“This is a bill that gives most of the tax benefits to those making around $200,000 per year while offering Canadians who make around $40,000 per year nothing at all.”
The budget also includes $8.4 billion for aboriginal communities. Johns doesn’t think that goes nearly far enough.
“They’ve fallen short on first nations funding.”
The Alberni Valley is home to a higher than average percentage of first nations.
“It’s a huge issue here in the Alberni Valley,” said Johns.
“The school at Tseshaht, [Haahuupayak], is beyond capacity.”
Johns and NDP party leader Thomas Mulcair critisized the federal government’s employment insurance approach.
“Right now there are 850,000 people who have lost their jobs who are not even eligible for EI,” Mulcair said. “The budget only takes care of 50,000 of them.”
The federal government will continue to keep BC Ferries as ineligible for federal transit funding, Johns said.
“The 3.4 billion for public transit… they’re excluded from that.”
Cutting tariffs from ferries is another thing that puts coastal communities at a disadvantage.
“Local government has been putting forth ideas to build jobs… they could take that funding to build shipbuilding operations in Port Alberni,” said Johns.
“This budget leaves out British Columbians and Vancouver Islanders.”
—with files from Tom Fletcher/Black Press