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Federal budget lacking, says Courtenay-Alberni MP

New dental care program one positive coming for 2023, says Gord Johns
NDP MP for Courtenay-Alberni Gord Johns is pictured here addressing the House of Commons during Question Period on Feb. 3, 2022. (Photo: Christian Diotte/House of Commons Photo Services)

While the 2023 federal budget takes some good first steps, Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns says it mostly misses the mark when it comes to making life more affordable for the average Canadian.

“This isn’t an NDP budget,” Johns emphasized on Tuesday, March 28 after the federal government announced $59.5 billion of new spending over the next five years. “This isn’t what our budget would look like.”

The Liberal government has three main focuses for its budget: the clean economic transition, health care and cost-of-living relief. One of the big ticket items is a dental-care insurance program, at a cost of $13 billion over five years beginning in fiscal year 2023-24. Program eligibility will be opened this year to people under the age of 18, seniors and people with disabilities who meet the income criteria and don’t have insurance.

Johns said he was happy to see this included in the budget.

“Our office is flooded with calls from people with disabilities and seniors that can’t wait to be eligible for this dental care plan,” he explained. “To see the road map and the commitment from the government on this…it’s really great. It significantly impacts people in Port Alberni, because we have a lot of people that meet that income bracket that need help.”

He also praised the doubling of GST rebates this year and a proposed $4 billion housing strategy for urban, rural and northern Indigenous people, which Johns said will benefit Nuu-chah-nulth nations, and other Indigenous people living on and off reserve.

But Johns said there are a few things lacking in the budget, mostly when it comes to affordable housing and a response to the toxic drug crisis. An NDP budget, he added, would see a lot more money when it comes to housing, especially non-market housing, to help the millions of Canadians who are “under-housed” or living in precarious housing situations. Johns said he was also disappointed to see the budget includes “almost nothing” on mental health.

“This is despite the fact that we’re in a crisis when it comes to mental health and substance use,” he said. What little is included in the budget, he added, is “far from what’s needed in an epidemic of this scale.”

To help fund these programs, Johns said the government should be making the “super-rich” pay their fair share.

“I’m not talking about the local grocery stores in Port Alberni, I’m talking about the super big chains that are having record profits,” he explained. “We’re going to keep fighting to make sure CEOs and big corporations are paying what they owe.”

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Elena Rardon

About the Author: Elena Rardon

I have worked with the Alberni Valley News since 2016.
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