Budget does not impress Johns

Many opportunities missed in federal plan, says Courtenay-Alberni MP

  • Mar. 23, 2016 5:00 p.m.

Scott Stanfield

Record staff

Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns says the federal budget tabled Tuesday by Finance Minister Bill Morneau doesn’t do much for the west in terms of job creation or lessening a growing inequality between the haves and have-nots.

Nor does it do anything for B.C.’s ferry system and the coast guard, or enough for seniors and First Nations.

“This mixed bag budget is what I’m calling it,” Johns said from Ottawa. “There’s a few things in there around infrastructure, but really the government’s planning to spend a lot of money — a $30 billion deficit with no plan to return to balance in their mandate. We’re talking about a plan to run deficits over $100 billion.”

While the federal Liberals committed to infrastructure upgrades, Johns says they delivered on only half the transit money that was promised.

“Right now, our ferry system — of the $3.4 billion for public transit — is excluded from this fund. We’re (Island MPs) going to push hard to make sure that (B.C.) Ferries is recognized and is an eligible public transit infrastructure. We’ll be doing that in the House over the coming weeks to make sure that’s included. We know that’s a huge issue for Vancouver Islanders.”

Johns is happy to see something for seniors (Guaranteed Income Supplement increased by up to $947 annually and money for affordable housing) but is disappointed to see no mention of home care.

“It’s not even mentioned in the budget. This isn’t just people in our riding that we’re hearing from on this issue (health and home care). The Liberals completely missed out on a huge opportunity to do that today.”

Regarding the possible closure of the Comox Coast Guard station, Johns says evidence of ‘new technology’ that is the basis for the closure has defects and technical glitches that might cause more confusion on the water.

“The Liberals have budgeted almost $46 million on navigational aids for marine communication and traffic services, when they should just be keeping the infrastructure centres they’ve already got in place in Comox and Tofino.”

The Liberals have budgeted $8.4 billion over five years for indigenous peoples, $2.6 of which is to improve primary and secondary education on reserves. While pleased to see some money for First Nations, Johns said government has fallen “well short” of its commitment.

“They promised to bring the education of indigenous youth up to a level of all Canadians, and that’s not happening in this budget.”

On the tax front, he said middle class tax cuts mostly benefit those earning $200,000 a year.

“We’re failing to tackle inequality, which is something that was promised. We’re failing to help those that aren’t in the middle class join the middle class. We’re failing to provide tax breaks for those that are in the middle class. And the government had an opportunity to close stock option loopholes for CEOs, that cost Canadian taxpayers over $800 million a year, and fuels growing inequality, and they failed to close those loopholes.”

He notes only 30 per cent of those unemployed are eligible for Employment Insurance.

“Those are some of the things we’re seeing first glance. We know there’s a tariff they’re going to waive of 25 per cent for bringing ferries into Canada, so importing ferries made outside the country. That money could be used to increase capacity for ship-building in our riding and on Vancouver Island to strengthen the economy, create good paying, middle class jobs on Vancouver Island…There’s not a lot for British Columbians in here. We’re really disappointed from what we’ve seen so far. We will make sure that we articulate our concerns as we start to debate the budget.”