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North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney outlines her budget 2024 wishlist

Federal government to release 2024 budget on April 16
North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney pushed for a federal plan to tackle the opioid crisis in the House of Commons Feb. 2. Photo Youtube

Ahead of the federal budget presentation scheduled for next week, North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney wrote a letter to the Minister of Finance to outline the needs faced by people in her riding.

Blaney’s letter asks minister Chrystia Freeland to take action tackling housing, food insecurity, the opioid crisis and to provide support for small businesses.

In her letter, Blaney wrote that small businesses are still recovering from the pandemic, and that there are businesses within her riding that are looking for funding to help them with that recovery.

“Some have even contacted me to inform me of their desire to expand,” she wrote. “In these uncertain times, we must support our local businesses, and I implore you to provide adequate funding for programs that help our communities thrive.”

Business owners aren’t the only members of the community affected by increased costs. Blaney asked the minister to consider increasing funds and infrastructure for organizations like food banks.

“Parents are doing everything they can, but the cost of food just keeps going up,” she writes. “Right now, food bank usage across the country is at its highest level since 1989 and more than one million children are living in poverty.”

Food banks told Blaney that they are “at risk of closing,” and are in “dire need” of governmental support.

Parents and families, among many others, are also struggling to afford housing. Blaney asked Freeland to do more to address the housing crisis, saying that she has spoken to families that have left the area because of housing affordability. She also highlighted the crisis as it relates to First Nations communities.

“It is inconceivable that in 2024, in Canada, First Nations are so disproportionately homeless and forced to live in inadequate homes. Canada needs an urban, rural, and northern Indigenous Housing Strategy that is governed and led by Indigenous peoples and housing providers.”

Blaney also called on the Liberals to address the two-tiered system created by their government’s increase to Old Age Security (OAS) benefit for seniors aged 75 and older and demanded that the increase be granted to those 65 years to 74 years of age.

“More than 2 million senior Canadians were excluded from benefits, despite the fact that all seniors are affected by the increased cost of living. This decision left many seniors further struggling to make ends meet, it is unacceptable” she said.

Low-income Canadians are nearly four times more likely to die due to opioid use, according to a study out of the University of Waterloo. In 2023, Campbell River had its worst year on record for toxic drug deaths, and the fifth-highest rate of deaths in the province.

Blaney wrote that “This is unacceptable! Canada needs a health-based plan for harm reduction and treatment with a timeline.”

The North Island-Powell River riding includes 19 Wing in Comox, and Blaney — as NDP critic for Veterans Affairs — said she would continue advocating to get rid of the “marriage after 60 clause” in the Canadians Forces Superannuation Act.

RELATED: Middle-class safe from tax hikes says Freeland, no such promise to the wealthy

North Island-Powell River MP will not be running in next federal election

Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Campbell River Mirror in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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