OTTAWA – New Democrat Member of Parliament Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay – Superior North) expressed disappointment in the Harper Government’s latest budget, saying Budget 2012 will make life harder for the middle class, seniors, and neglects key economic sectors in Northern Ontario.
“This Budget is penny wise, and pound foolish. They’re scrapping the penny, but the Harper Government is still making ideological choices that make life harder for Canadians,” said Hyer after the Budget was released. “I am deeply concerned that this Budget has largely abandoned the people of Northwestern Ontario, seniors, small businesses, and the middle class.”
“I was particularly disappointed that the Harper Government decided to shut down the Pulp & Paper Green Transformation Program instead of extending it, after only $450 million out of the $1 billion allocated has been spent,” said Hyer.
“This program played a vital role in making Canadian pulp mills more efficient, more environmentally friendly, and competitive with US mills. It was especially important for our region and the Terrace Bay mill. I’ve repeatedly made the point to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, right up until the last minute, that instead of raiding the fund for more than a half-billion dollars the Harper Government should have invested the funds they committed to last year, so that our forest sector could get working again”.
“Over 117,000 forest sector jobs have been lost since the Harper Government took power”, added Hyer. “The Canadian job market as a whole fared little better. We have 37,000 fewer Canadians working last month compared with September. 41,000 jobs lost in manufacturing alone last year. This poor job performance was home-grown out of ideological policy choices – the US unemployment rate has gone down by a half-point in the same period, while ours has stayed stagnant. Their economy grew, while ours has lagged.”
“On top of job creation, Canadians have been waiting years to see action from the government to protect their pensions and back-wages when they lose their jobs during company bankruptcies,” noted Hyer. “But there is nothing in the Budget for them. And now the government is rolling back Old Age Security, making seniors work an additional 2 years before they qualify. Both the government’s own budget watchdog and the OECD have said that our OAS system is entirely sustainable, and no need for this rollback. This is nothing but a money grab to shift money from our seniors to pay for expensive ideological projects …and for tax handouts to oil companies and banks, so they can enjoy a tax rate less than half that of the corporate tax rate in the USA”.
Hyer was also concerned with environmental impacts of the Budget “Harper seems to have buried changes to the Fisheries Act in this Budget that will gut fish habitat protection, coded as ‘streamlining the review process for economic projects.’ He’s also failed to introduce a program to provide cost relief for Canadians wanting to improve their home energy efficiency, in the wake of closing the ecoEnergy program early. And of course, there was no action on climate change whatsoever”.
Hyer said he will take the week before the final vote on the Budget to study its contents carefully, but was disappointed on first reading. “I will be burning the midnight oil, reading the 498 pages of the Budget, and I hope that the Harper government will be open to improvements,” said Hyer.
Hyer says there are a number of issues he would be paying particular attention to when examining the Budget, including job creation, regional economic development (FedNor), retirement security, First Nations housing, tackling excessive merchant fees for small businesses, support for transit, cancellation of tax subsidies to large oil & gas companies, and action to reduce the growing income gap in Canadian society. A final vote on the Budget is expected early next week.