Federal Budget – Plus and Minus in Reviews

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Federal Budget Investing Canadian MoneyTHUNDER BAY – The federal budget brought down by Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty is generating interesting reviews.

The official opposition New Democrats are unimpressed. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair states,  “There is nothing in this budget to prepare Canada for a 21st-century economy. The Conservatives are leaving a huge environmental, social and fiscal debt to our children”.

 “I am very disappointed that Mr. Harper has walked away from building a new more respectful relationship with First Nations. The budget measures for these communities reveal a paternalistic and insulting approach,” added the leader of the NDP.

 The NDP also remind Canadians that last year, Conservatives predicted economic growth that never came – overestimating growth figures by over 35% and failing to contain the current account deficit – which has now reached $67 billion.  “Economists predict this year will be even worse than last year. Austerity and reckless cuts are not the path to sustainable prosperity,” said the NDP’s Finance Critic, Peggy Nash. “We need a real plan, not more smoke and mirrors.”

The federal Liberals are equally unimpressed.

“This budget should be renamed the Economic ‘Inaction’ Plan for all the good it will do Canadians,” said Liberal Leader Bob Rae. “Not only have the Conservatives offered no new money for skills training, infrastructure and First Nations’ education, but it is clear that they don’t intend to take any tangible action on the key challenges facing Canadian families, like youth unemployment, and growing levels of income inequality and household debt.”

Despite the Conservatives’ claim that training is the most pressing issue of our time, Budget 2013 cuts new infrastructure funding and on training freezes it at 2007 pre-recession levels. Furthermore, any new trinkets in Budget 2013 are too small to kick-start the economy and create new jobs.

“Canada’s job market still hasn’t recovered from the recession,” said Liberal Finance critic Scott Brison. “It’s even more difficult for young Canadians to find work with an employment rate that is now five points worse than it was before the recession. Budget 2013 should have included a concrete strategy to create new jobs for young Canadians instead of focusing its plan on advertising.”

“Budget 2013 makes reference to First Nations in almost every section, which suggests that the unprecedented attention and engagement of our peoples is beginning to be heard, but the investment just isn’t there,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo.  

The January 2012 Crown First Nations Gathering and the commitments expressed on January 11, 2013 are critical to achieving meaningful and long-term change for First Nations.  Budget 2013 affirms the Prime Minister’s commitment to high-level dialogue on the Treaty relationship and addressing comprehensive claims reform.  

“We will continue to press for direct engagement of First Nations themselves on full implementation of commitments in an urgent manner,” said National Chief Atleo.   “Growing awareness of the issues will result, rightfully so, in growing expectations.  This will continue until our people see real action and real results.  The change First Nations seek will only be achieved once action matches words and we see fundamental reform of key polices and investments that make sense.  In order to achieve fairness there must be respect for First Nations inherent rights and responsibilities, and the Treaty relationship must be implemented in ways that will see real results and change for our peoples – our children in schools and our families in adequate homes and safe communities.” 

Thunder Bay Rainy River MP John Rafferty states, “The budget that was tabled today will not help families and businesses who are struggling in Northwestern Ontario. It looks like the Harper Government is just playing a shell game with this budget document by simply renaming existing programs, or extending them with reduced funding. It’s quite disappointing.” 

While there was much to criticize, Rafferty singled out the Conservatives’ plan to slash infrastructure funding by $4.7 billion over the next four years as a particularly bad proposal. “Municipalities have told anyone who would listen for years that they need sustainable long term funding for infrastructure, but this is especially true for rural and northern communities with smaller populations,” he said. “Unfortunately, there is even less for municipal infrastructure and small municipalities today than yesterday.” 

While mostly critical of the new 433-page budget Rafferty did say that there were a few good ideas to be found.  “We [New Democrats] welcome the long overdue help for Canada’s poorest veterans and their families, and we welcome the extension of the hiring tax credit,” he said.  “The tax credit in particular was Jack Layton’s first policy announcement in the 2011 federal election, so we obviously see its extension as something positive for the Canadian economy.”

Cindy Blackstock states, “The Federal Government gets it wrong again. Seems like there is nothing in the budget today for First Nations children’s education or child and family services. See you in Court Canada and many thanks to all who stand with us as we work to ensure that future governments don’t spend more on advertising than they do on kids”.

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