By Chad Ingram
“Basically I was shocked at the amount of deficit spending the Liberals are doing” says Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Jamie Schmale of the federal budget.
Unveiled March 22 the budget includes a deficit of $29.4 billion for the 2016-17 fiscal year. As part of their election campaign last year the Liberals promised deficits not to exceed $10 billion a year for three consecutive years in order to stimulate the economy.
“They’ve destroyed that in one year” Schmale says. “That’s a major promise broken.”
During the campaign the Liberal party also promised to get back on budget by the fourth year of the term.
“Right now that’s blown out of the water too” Schmale says.
The budget includes not just a nearly $30 billion deficit for the upcoming year but projected deficits of $29 billion for 2017-18 $22.8 billion for 2018-19 and $17.7 billion for 2019-20.
By way of comparison the Conservative government ran deficits of about $25 billion in 2011-12 $17 billion in 2012-13 and five billion in 2013-14.
Another broken campaign promise was to lower the tax rate for small and medium-sized businesses from 10.5 to nine per cent. That didn’t happen with Tuesday’s budget.
“I was very disappointed to see that” Schmale says. “It’s all on big government big-bureaucracy spending. Whereas in small towns we rely on small business to create jobs to create wealth.”
While the deficits the Liberals had talked about during the election campaign were to be focused on infrastructure on stimulus funding “that’s not true with this budget” Schmale says pointing out that much of the spending is wrapped up in programming. “It’s locked in it’s permanent.”
The MP says this means at some point taxes must be raised to pay for it or services cut elsewhere.
Some of that spending will be done in First Nations communities throughout Canada with $8.4 billion allocated to First Nations over five years including $2.6 billion for primary and secondary eduction.
“There are parts of the budget we support” Schmale says explaining that investments in First Nations communities and their education systems are needed. “It’s a file that’s never had the perfect solution.”
However the Conservatives have criticized the government for altering the tracking mechanism of First Nations spending.
“It’s unfortunate the Liberals got rid of transparency surrounding First Nations accounting” Schmale says.
There is still funding for infrastructure although it is not exactly clear what kind of projects that money will be used for.
“We’re still waiting for the details” says Schmale adding he understands there may be some focus on transit and water and waste water systems none of which are found in Haliburton County in any great measure. “I’d like to see the details.”
On a positive note for the county Schmale says the budget increases the guaranteed income supplement for eligible single seniors up to $947 annually. The previous maximum was $747.
There’s also funding for Internet expansion.
“They did commit to expanding access to high-speed Internet” Schmale says. “That will help people right across the county and throughout rural Canada.”
The budget included welcome news for Fleming College the school which has a campus in Haliburton County issuing a press release.
“Fleming is especially pleased to see the government respond to the call for additional infrastructure funding with the new Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund which commits $2 billion over the next three years” the release reads. “Coupled with the $9 billion Building Canada Fund this will help drive a much needed renewal in college infrastructure 60 per cent of which currently exceeds its 40-year life cycle. The substantial increase in Canada Student Grants along with additional support for youth employment measures and co-op work placements will contribute to greater access and higher quality educational opportunities for students.”
Beginning in the next academic year post-secondary students from low-income families will be eligible for up to $3000 in grants per year – up from $2000 – and those from middle-income families will be eligible for up to $1200 a year up from $800.