It seems like it has become tradition to send the Minister of Finance a number of ideas to be included in the federal budget. In each letter, the importance of fiscal responsibility is stressed as it is widely known the Liberal government immediately broke their campaign promise to only run small deficits and return to a balanced budget in 2019.
I held 6 budget townhalls across the constituency in January to gather ideas from local residents that will improve our quality of life and will build a stronger Westman. People came out on some of the coldest days of the year to put forward their ideas. I want to thank everyone who came to one of the budget townhalls or submitted their policy recommendations.
There are numerous other ideas that could be included in Budget 2018; however the financial circumstances in which the Liberals have put the country in must be taken into consideration. In keeping with the tradition of ensuring the voice of Westman is heard loud and clear in Parliament, the following ideas were submitted to the Minister of Finance:
1. Roads, Highways and Bridges
At every single townhall there was consensus the federal government should prioritize infrastructure funding for roads, highways and bridges. In particular, many provincial highways in Westman are in dire need of immediate repair. There are numerous other highways across our region that need immediate attention. Moreover, an emphasis also must be placed on fixing all of the highways damaged by flooding in recent years, particularly those that are eligible for Disaster Financial Assistance.
2. Seniors Co-Op Housing
The Co-Op Housing model works and many communities in Westman lack access to affordable units for seniors. I recommend the funding earmarked for future years for Co-Op Housing be advanced to this year’s budget. The federal government should partner with municipalities, service organizations and other non-profit organizations in order for them to leverage federal funding and start building the facilities.
3. Tax relief for those who need it
Inflation and rising costs are eroding the disposable income of Westman residents. The tax relief recently introduced completely ignored anyone making less than $46,000. This is unacceptable and doesn’t help low income earners. To assist those who work hard and are struggling, the Basic Personal Amount should be increased to $15,000.
4. Train local residents for jobs in demand
Many Westman employers have challenges with filling jobs with specific in-demand skill sets while local residents are looking for better paying careers but lack the educational requirements. The Canada Jobs Grant should be expanded and more dollars should be made available due to its success. All efforts should be made to enhance partnerships between private businesses and those seeking to enhance their skills training and education.
5. Enhancing Students Loans and affordability
Far too often, students are not able to work while accessing Canada Student Loans. The government should eliminate in-study income from the program so that students can work while studying, without affecting their loan eligibility. Furthermore, there should be greater flexibility built into taking family income into consideration of who is eligible for a Canada Student Loan. It is not fair for students to be considered ineligible due to their family’s financial situation. In addition, accommodation costs such as rent should be included as tax deductibles for families who help assist their child while going through school. The cost of lodging continues to increase and is putting a financial strain on many families’.
6. Assisting smaller communities with infrastructure planning
Many smaller communities cannot unilaterally afford the engineering studies and various other assessments that must take place before applying for federal infrastructure funding. Some municipalities may even forgo applying for some projects due to the high upfront costs while having no guarantee their project will be selected for provincial and federal funding. All efforts should be taken to work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to financially assist smaller municipalities with the necessary studies and assessments in order to apply for federal infrastructure funding.
7. End the class warfare and promote prosperity for everyone
The language and political hyperbole your government used this past summer to promote the proposed tax hikes served as the catalyst for outcry from local businesses, farm families and entrepreneurs. A new tone and level of discourse is needed to reassure Canadians that your government is a willing partner on economic growth rather than looking for ways to increase tax revenues and to use class warfare as a political wedge issue. Raising taxes on job creators will only hinder their ability to compete in a global economy and provide more Canadians with jobs.
8. Ending homelessness for Veterans
Across Canada there are Veterans who live on the streets or in temporary shelters. Veterans Affairs Canada should make it a top priority to fund a new partnership with Legions, Army Navy & Air Force Veterans organizations and various other non-profit and mental healthcare groups to find and locate housing for these homeless Veterans and ensure they are receiving the healthcare and treatments they need.
9. Addiction Services for smaller communities
Most communities outside of major urban centres lack frontline addiction services that are so desperately needed. With the rise of opioids, crystal meth and other various drug addictions, people have nowhere to turn for help. The federal government can partner with other levels of government and non-profit organizations to open new centres that will offer counselling/treatment which include assessments, treatment planning, case management activities, and interventions.