Judy Peterson’s name was mentioned in the federal budget that was tabled last week in Ottawa.
For the past two decades, she has been promoting Lindsey’s Law since her daughter, Lindsey Nicholls, disappeared after leaving a foster home on Royston Road in 1993.
Last summer when John Duncan met Judy, the North Island MP made a commitment to bring Lindsey’s Law into effect. Lindsey’s Law would allow the collection of DNA from missing persons or their close relatives for the purpose of cross-referencing DNA from crime scenes and unidentified human remains.
“It’s not all the way there, but the fact it’s in the budget is the major hurdle,” Duncan said, noting a commitment also from Peter MacKay and Steven Blaney, ministers of justice and public safety respectively.
“That’s very germane to the Comox Valley, even though Judy is now living in the Saanich area. This was her home.”
Duncan also lobbied Ottawa for a tax credit for search and rescue volunteers, who have been treated differently than firefighters who have received a tax credit.
He also notes a significant focus on job skills training.
“I think we’ve finally addressed the fact that apprentices are on equal footing with other students by making interest-free loans available, as long as they’re in a Red Seal apprenticeship program. I know how important our trades are. The Comox Valley has become quite a centre for training.”
Also of local interest is a $15 million top-up to a recreational fisheries program, one-quarter of which ended up in B.C.
In terms of health care, Duncan feels the removal of GST from health-care services and products will “resonate with people.”
He notes concern about the New Horizons for Seniors program, which received a boost of several million dollars.
Duncan said the federal budget does not contain much in the way of new spending or new tax measures. The main goal is to continue to chase jobs and to approach a balanced budget, setting the stage for a surplus next year.
He says Canada is “basically the envy of the western world” with its triple A credit rating, the highest employment stats in the G7, and the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio. These accomplishments, he added, have come without reducing service to individuals or offloading on provinces.
“That’s what we’ve done right from the beginning. We’ve never cut transfers to the provinces, unlike the Liberals before us who balanced their budget based on dramatic cuts to the provinces. I don’t think we’re going to be doing anything dramatic in major new spending.
“What I do think is that once we balance our budget and are looking at surpluses next year, we’re going to be looking at some further tax measures that will be very family-friendly. We need that for the greater good of our society.”
The federal Conservatives will delay spending $3.1 billion on new military equipment until 2016-17. Still, the Department of National Defence budget is 27 per cent higher than 2006.
“There’s no cut per se, it’s a deferral,” said Duncan, noting a phased-in, ship-building program should not be affected.
Government projects a nearly balanced budget for 2014-2015 and a $6.4-billion surplus for 2015-16.
Were it not for the recession in 2008, Duncan said the Tories would not have been running deficits. He notes a “soft landing” from the recession compared to Canada’s allies, which he attributes to a stimulus spending program that saved various businesses and contractors in need of work.
“We’ve worked our way back from that. We still have a major commitment to infrastructure spending in the budget — the biggest infrastructure spending that’s ever been done. It’s over the next decade.”
Since 2009, Duncan said the average age of infrastructure nationwide has been reduced by about two years.
“We renewed a lot of things. The Native Sons Hall is a classic example of a building that we might have lost if we hadn’t gone to work on it. It’s a great facility.”
Duncan was appointed Minister of State and Chief Government Whip last summer. He has served the North Island since 1993. He has run in seven federal elections and won six times. He does not yet know if he will run for re-election.
A redistribution of federal constituencies on Vancouver Island takes effect in 2015. Duncan has relocated his Courtenay office to Campbell River, which is central to a new Island North–Comox–Powell River riding.