Budget provides some good news and some bad, says MP Carol Hughes

OTTAWA—It was a good news-bad news budget presented by federal government Finance Minister Joe Oliver this past Tuesday, says Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes.

Ms. Hughes, who contacted the Recorder shortly after the budget announcement said, “there are some good points and some bad points in the budget. What is good is that the government has finally put in some measures we the NDP had indicated needed to be taken and had tried to convince the government to put in place previously. We had debates and legislation in place that the government voted against, but now they are putting several of these measures in place.”

Among the good aspects of the budget, Ms. Hughes said, “they have done work on the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing and investment in new equipment; and the government is finally going to reduce small business taxes, which will help business and manufacturers. This will be done eventually, be decreased to nine percent, something the government had previously voted against,” she said, noting the present taxes are at 11 percent.

“We had also called on the government to relax the existing formula that requires Canadians to withdraw minimum amounts from their Registered Retirement Income Funds,” said Ms. Hughes. “The government has done something there that will help seniors so they are not outliving their savings. This is a good measure that is something again we had asked the government to consider and they had turned down.” Under existing rules, for example, a 71-year-old must withdraw at least 7.38 percent of their RRIF that year. Under the new formula, that would be reduced to 5.28 percent. Under the budget a new Home Accessibility Tax Credit of up to $1,500 is being provided for the cost of home renovations for seniors or people with disabilities.

“The government is extending compassion care benefits from the NDP platform in 2008 from six weeks to six months. They finally think this is a good idea,” said Ms. Hughes. This is for Canadians with gravely ill family members. The budget also announced a new Home Accessibility Tax Credit of up to $1,500 for the cost of home renovations for seniors or people with disabilities.

As well the budget included, “some action-protection on unpaid interns that we have been asking for, and some other things we had been asking for,” said Ms. Hughes.

“One of the things we aren’t in favour of with this budget is the wasteful unfair income splitting fee that only applies to some of the richest people in the country,” stated Ms. Hughes. “It would have made more sense to make child care spaces more affordable, for parents to pay $15 per day, to be able to work as well.”

“In the area of food inspections we continue to see the government cut programs in food protection that would help to make sure our food is safe,” said Ms. Hughes. She pointed out, “for example in Toronto there is now going to be one food inspector for a population of over four million people.”

“On household debt-consumer protection we’ve been asking for ATM fees to be capped and credit card interest rates to be cut, but this isn’t in the budget,” continued Ms. Hughes.

Ms. Hughes is not happy either with the fact, “there is nothing in this budget concerning missing and murdered aboriginal women. There needs to be a national inquiry on this issue. And there are still inequities in child welfare for aboriginal children. The government is investing $200 million over five year for First Nation education but this is only a portion of what Prime Minister Harper had previously pledged would be provided. Basically what this amounts to is about $61,000 a year for a First Nation community, which is basically the cost of one teacher. And we already know teachers are underfunded in First Nation communities.”

“There are certainly other things that we are not in favour of with this budget,” said Ms. Hughes. “Understand that for the past 10 years the Conservative government mandate has seen billions of dollars dumped into tax giveaways for large businesses and CEOs while we also see job losses and middle income families falling further and further behind. They’ve put a little meat in the budget that we had been requesting for quite some time, but the government failed miserable, in other areas, for instance in doing anything to stimulate the economy.”

The Conservative government returned to a balanced budget, which hinges on using $2 billion in contingency funds, one-time asset sales and expectations that oil prices are poised to rise. The budget includes tax cuts for small businesses, future cash for public transit and increasing the maximum amount Canadians can contribute annually to tax-free savings accounts to $10,000.

The 2015 budget includes a projected surplus of $1.4 billion in 2015-2016, a new fund for transit infrastructure that begins in 2017-2018 and will grow to $1 billion per year by 2019-2020; a package of measures aimed at seniors; reducing the small business tax rate from 11 percent to nine percent by 2019; increased spending on defence, policing and national security oversight; measures to boost manufacturing and exports.

The Globe and Mail reported in its April 21 edition the 2015 budget promises a climb out of deficit and posting a $1.4 billion surplus in 2015-2016. That is accomplished in part by reducing the size of the annual contingency fund from $3 billion to $1 billion per year over the next three years.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver was quoted by the Globe and Mail as saying, “during periods of surplus, there isn’t a need for the same contingencies because when you combine the surplus with the contingency, you have an adequate cushion. Canadians understand if you have more money coming in than you have going out, your books are balanced.”