This week our Government introduced the 2015 budget. One of the most significant aspects of this budget is that it is balanced with a $1.4 Billion surplus that is forecast to eventually increase up to a $4.9 Billion surplus in 2019. A balanced budget means that Canada has the lowest debt to GDP ratio in the G-7 and one of the lowest in the G-20.
Aside from being balanced, the 2015 budget also proposes a number of new measures; some already announced, such as the increased universal child care benefit and income splitting for families and other measures revealed on budget day. As is often the case, some budget measures have been widely supported – the reduction of the small business tax from 11% to 9% by 2019 has not only been supported by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, it is also supported by both the NDP and the Liberals after their leader initially voiced his opposition. However, expanding the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) maximum annual contribution to $10,000 as proposed in Budget 2015, is opposed by both opposition parties.
Other measures in Budget 2015 include reducing the minimum withdrawal requirements in a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) account to provide more flexibility for those who are retired. A new home accessibility tax credit has also been introduced that will help seniors and those who are disabled with expenses for required eligible home renovations and modifications, helping people to stay independent and in their homes longer. Employment Insurance (EI) related to compassionate care has also been increased, effective January of 2016, from the current maximum of six weeks to six months to better reflect the challenges of caring for a gravely ill family member.
In other areas it has been proposed to eliminate in-study student income from the Canada student loans assessment process and also there will be a reduced assumed parental contribution level in the same assessment process. Student loans will also be extended for short term educational programs for qualifying low and middle income students. These measures are in addition to expanding the Student Grants program that was highlighted earlier this month in a previous report.
On a Provincial level British Columbia will see $6.1 Billion in federal transfer payments this year – an important consideration given that former federal Governments actually decreased transfer payments to Provinces like BC. For the record federal transfer payments to BC, including the federal health transfer will continue to increase every year, supporting cherished programs like health care.
A few other measures that will be of benefit locally include a 10 year extension for tax incentives related to the investment of machinery and equipment. I have visited several local employers to see firsthand how new machinery and innovation is creating jobs that are needed in our local resource communities. I am also encouraged that there will be further exemptions for charitable donations involving private share and real estate donations related to capital gains taxes. Given the good work of many local charitable organizations, Hospital Foundations are one excellent example, this will help ensure more equity from donations remain in communities instead of Ottawa.
Public transit, science and research, military, and law enforcement are some other agencies benefitting from Budget 2015 that column space does not allow me to provide more details on along with many other agencies and service areas. A few examples are the Pacific Salmon Foundation, the Thirty Meter Telescope Project, Canadian Tourism Association and others. For further information on Budget 2015 or any matter before the House of Commons please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.