Maple Ridge MP Randy Kamp has reading material for awhile after receiving a pile of questions at his pre-budget consultation Wednesday.
Hammond resident James Rowley wanted to know about cost cutting in Fisheries and Oceans Canada and how much the effects of climate change cost Canadians, while veteran politician Craig Speirs grilled the government over its job-killing cuts and said the old personal medical-marijuana grow laws have been the government’s most successful job-creation program.
Kristin Krimmel though praised the feds, for creating the Parliamentary Budget Office to watch government spending.
While the questions ranged from seniors struggling on pensions and limited budgets while costs constantly climbed, Kamp focused on government finances. The federal budget is expected in February.
“We’re not immune to global economic events so we have to be careful we manage our economy well,” he told a crowd of about 50 in Thomas Haney secondary.
Kamp said growth in the gross domestic product hasn’t met the 3.5 per cent predicted for this year.
Still, Canada is producing more jobs as a percentage of its gross domestic product than other western countries while government spending as a percentage of GDP is supposed to drop to 13.5 per cent from 16 per cent in 2009.
“So, we’re on track to a balanced budget in 2015,” Kamp said.
One questionner said government layoffs were intended to hurt unions, while but Kamp said many layoffs were due to attrition. “We feel that’s what we’re required to do.”
The Conservative MP is also parliamentary secretary to Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and said that his own department, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, has gone through three rounds of cost cutting; first, implementing a five-per-cent cut, then looking at the programs that remained and imposing 10 per cent cuts. The third round involved reducing the department’s bureaucracy in Ottawa.
Despite government-wide job cuts, and changes to environmental assessment and fisheries legislation,Kamp said later that so far there have been no ill effects.
“We continue to produce scientific reports. We continue to employ scientists.”
Bill C-38, passed in 2012, removed general protection of fish habitat, and instead says no one can cause “serious harm” to native, recreational or commercial fisheries.
There’s also no longer any requirement to contact Fisheries for authorization for disruption of fish habitat. That’s only required for waters connected to recreational, commercial or aboriginal fisheries.
“We feel that wasn’t a good use of taxpayers’ dollars.”
Kamp added, “No one has shown me a situation yet where they think the approach hasn’t worked.”
One questioner wanted to know if the government would reinstate its tax rebates for energy efficient home renovations and said his renovation business dropped by 75 per cent when those expired.
But the program was intended only for the economic recession of 2008-09, he said.
However, other MPs are telling Prime Minister Stephen Harper that was one of the most worthwhile programs.
Kamp said though that the government isn’t cutting health-care spending transfers to the provinces but tying increases to growth in the economy.
Subsidies to the oil and gas industry will be phased out though he told another questioner.
The meeting started with former Green party candidate Mike Gildersleeve and Dave Rush holding up a banner protesting pipelines.
“We need to stand up and speak out against the projects that are not in the public interest,” Gildersleeve said.
One spectator though questioned how the pair got there. Rush cycled to the meeting.
The spectator said that selling resources is how Canada pays for its social services.
“We didn’t used to do it that way. What happened?” Rush countered.