This week the Liberal Government tabled the first budget for the 42nd Parliament in Ottawa. As some may recall during the recent election the Liberals promised their first two budgets would have deficits capped at $10 billion each year before returning to a balanced budget in 2019. The budget announced this week with a deficit of $30 Billion adds more debt than what was promised over the entire term and does not forecast a return to being balanced in 2019. With such a large increase in deficit spending the obvious question is where is this borrowed money going to be spent?
While it is difficult to summarize a budget document in a single MP report I can list some of the areas that are targeted for increased spending. Public Transit will see spending of $3.4 billion over the next three years. While public transit is not available in some parts of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola it will be helpful in others. Green infrastructure is another area in the budget targeted for $5 billion in spending over the next 5 years.
Spending on First Nations will also be significantly increased in Budget 2016 with a commitment of $8.4 Billion over five years. There are many First Nations communities within Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and this funding can help ensure many much needed projects and programs are completed that are beneficial to the region.
In spite of such a large increase in deficit spending there are areas where spending will be decreased or other programs will be eliminated in this budget. One example of this is $3.7 Billion in planned military equipment spending is being deferred down the road. In addition, expenditures such as the children’s fitness and children’s art credit are being phased out starting by reducing them in half for 2016 and eliminated in 2017.
On a more local note Budget 2016 does propose to re-open the Veterans Affairs office in Kelowna although one cannot not be certain if this means at the same location or nor does the budget specify an exact date. From a British Columbia perspective ferries built outside of Canada and imported to Provinces operating ferry fleets will no longer be subject to a 25% tariff. The 15% percent mineral exploration tax credit that was introduced by the former Government and was set to expire at the end of March will be extended for another year until March of 2017. Given the importance of mining to many regions within Central Okanagan- Similkameen-Nicola this continued program can be of benefit to local economies. Tourism will also see a $50 million funding commitment however this is over two years and is Canada wide.
Missing from the budget? From my own perspective while the budget does mention the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) international trade deals there is nothing significant on internal trade. A glaring oversight considering a new Agreement on Internal Trade is due this month and it appears to have fallen off the federal Government’s radar screen. There is also no mention in the budget on a number of Liberal election promises such as restored door to door mail delivery, a reduction in the small business tax rate and of course no plan to return a balanced budget in 2019.
This is only a brief summary of a 269 page budget document and I welcome your comments, questions and concerns on Budget 2016 or any subject before the House of Commons. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament elect for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.