On March 21, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced another deficit budget for the Conservatives.
Revenues for 2013/14 are forecasted at almost $264 billion, with spending at about $283 billion – leaving a $19 billion deficit.
Some critics say deficits and borrowing are catching up with taxpayers even with a budget that keeps total expense increases at less than one per cent.
However, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod says it is “a great budget for the economic environment that we are in.”
A key aspect of Economic Action Plan 2013 is moving back to a balanced budget, she explains.
“We certainly see what happens in Europe and other countries when your fiscal house is not in order.”
Flaherty projected the deficit will drop to $6.6 billion in 2014/15 and become an $800-million surplus in 2015/16.
The Canada Job Grant program will see a partnership between the federal government, the provinces and employers to replace the current labour market agreements. They will focus on where the jobs are most essential.
While it isn’t new money, McLeod says it is an “important focus” of the existing dollars.
“I really like the shift in connecting Canadians with available jobs. The Canada Job Grant program adds an excellent focus to really … move our training to where we need the jobs.”
It will provide up to $15,000 per person, McLeod says, adding government estimates 130,000 Canadians will access training at various institutions this year.
There will also be support for Aboriginal youth with special challenges in finding jobs, she notes.
The MP adds the Tory government has pledged another 10 years in funding infrastructure when the current program runs out in 2014.
In the past, she explains, many years could pass before a new infrastructure spending program would fill the gap left by another long gone.
“We heard from the municipalities that it was absolutely critical that we not let a number of years lapse, and that we have a program that was available.
“We’ve made a commitment to infrastructure that’s going to be $70 billion over the next 10 years.”
The regional districts and municipalities have “frequently and repeatedly” suggested the gas tax be indexed, and particularity more flexible in terms of how they can use it, McLeod explains.
“We listened to our … local governments and have responded with a very significant infrastructure program.”
Other important budget aspects for British Columbia are the extension of the mineral exploration tax credit and the hiring credit for small businesses, she adds.
McLeod says budget items of benefit to the region also include boosts for the forest industry and for fisheries.
“There’s support for innovation in the forestry sector that had $92 million to help the [industry].”
While the federal government has helped forestry innovation in the past, she notes this is “nevertheless new money” of benefit to the riding.
The budget includes some other help for the local regions, McLeod adds.
“Specific to our area and British Columbia, one example is protecting salmon habitat.”
She says the portion of salmon conservation postage stamps that went to the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) has now become 100 per cent of that revenue.
“[The PSF] really does an excellent job in terms of Pacific salmon habitat.”
A lot of work is done in the riding by local conservation groups, she adds, so now there will be some more project funding available for fisheries protection.
Many low-income veterans will be glad to hear the funeral and burial reimbursement rate has been doubled, she says.
“That was a very firm request from the agents across Canada.”
The 18 per cent tariff on imported baby clothes and sports gear, such as hockey sticks and skates (and a six to 20 per cent tariff on skis and snowboards), was eliminated in this budget, she says.
“That, as of April 1, 2013, will be gone.”
With the dollar so close to par, the senate had a report done showing cost comparisons between these items in Canada and the United States, McLeod explains.
“We tried to focus in an area that will make a difference to everyday Canadians.”