Since my report from last week, the new Liberal Government has had its throne speech presented and has revealed its priorities for the upcoming legislative session of Parliament. As you may have heard this throne speech was a short one and focussed on five general topics. The first topic related to proposed taxation changes and spending priorities, a subject I will refer to further later in my report as it is also the subject of new legislation.
The second topic of the throne speech relates to government openness including a promise to end our first-past-the-post voting system and also reduced partisanship in the Senate.
The third topic of the throne speech relates to promises such as putting a price on carbon and introducing changes to the environmental assessment process.
The fourth subject area of the throne speech promised new efforts to focus on the relations between government and First Nations, to continue efforts with the resettling of 25,000 Syrian refugees and increased support for the CBC and Radio Canada.
The final subject area of the throne speech was varied and included promises to downsize our military, legalize marijuana, as well as a commitment to continue to pursue trade opportunities and to provide greater support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The above is a brief summary of some of the key points within the throne speech that was also heavily criticized for being silent on agriculture, efforts to increase jobs and support the economy and also a real concern for British Columbia and our region – no mention of the expired Softwood Lumber agreement. This is a point I have been active on, raising in the House several times already, given the importance of forestry to communities such as Princeton, Merritt and West Kelowna who are home to lumber mills that are significant employers. Having no new arrangement to replace the Softwood Lumber Agreement creates uncertainty, chasing away much desired investment from our economy. Fortunately the BC MPs I have discussed this with on both sides of the House have positively responded and are calling the Government to make this a priority.
Also occurring in the House of Commons this week is the debate on a government bill to change the Income Tax Act, a subject that is generating a fair bit of discussion in Ottawa at the moment. During the election, many will recall that the Liberals promised a revenue neutral middle class tax cut as part of a fully costed Liberal platform. Now it has been revealed that in fact the Liberal math was in error and this tax cut actually creates another deficit of $1-2 Billion annually, possibly more.
The NDP has also raised opposition on the fairness of the Liberal tax cut. For those low income families most in need earning up to $44,700 per year there is, as the NDP points out, no tax cut at all from these proposed Liberal tax changes. In fact, the proposed Liberal tax cut will only apply to income earners in the next tax bracket who earn between $45,000 up to $ 90,000 per year. However the way Canadian taxes are structured, the lower income tax rate on this amount of money earned also applies to those who earn between $90,000 up to $199,000 as the Liberals plan to increase taxes on those who earn over $200,000 per year. In other words a family earning $44,000 per year will receive no income tax cut whereas a family earning $199,000 per year will see a tax cut. As the Liberals have a majority it is expected these tax changes will be passed in time for the next taxation year.
One other change is that the Liberal government will also decrease the maximum contribution limit for a TFSA account after it was just increased to $10,000 annually in the 2015 budget. It is expected that the Liberals will reduce the TFSA deposit maximum back to $5,500 so 2015 may be the only year it is possible to contribute the current limit of $10,000. Also expected this week is an announcement from the Prime Minister on when the first chartered or possibly military aircraft will arrive to Canada with Syrian refugees. If you have comments, questions or concerns I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.