Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor says the federal budget, announced last week largely re-announced funds that had already been allocated, and delayed other funds until after the next election.
MacGregor spoke about the budget just days after returning home from Ottawa where he heard the 2017 fiscal plan delivered firsthand.
“I don’t think it was a terribly interesting budget,” he said. “For all the hype and the speculation leading up to it, I don’t think it really met that.
“There was a lot of stuff in this budget that was simply sort of a reannouncement of what had been announced in Budget 2016. And then when you did look for some of the new stuff, a lot of it was sort of backdated so it’s not even going to come into effect until 2018 or 2019.”
In other words, MacGregor explained, the Liberals would have to be re-elected for those budget promises to be kept.
Overall, he said, citizens facing precarious employment, rising costs, and record household debt got little in the plan to make Canada’s economy work for them, with the perks instead going to the wealthy and well-connected.
But, ever the optimist, MacGregor wasn’t keen to criticize the entirety of the document, noting “with every budget there’s some stuff that we do support,” he said. “There’s some stuff that we wished would be included and others that we outright oppose. It’s always a mixed bag.”
Funding and programs related to climate change and the weir at Lake Cowichan were top of mind for the MP with regard to his constituents.
MacGregor is hopeful federal funding will be available to raise the weir but he knows it’s more complicated than that.
“There’s still a lot of moving parts at the local level involving the CVRD, Catalyst and Cowichan Tribes, so a lot of questions need to be answered about who’s going to operate the weir, who’s going to take the water licence out, but I want to make sure I’m there and I’m ready when those decisions are made,” he said.
He wanted constituents to take note that in spite of the climate change crisis, the budget is cutting funding for the Pan-Canadian Clean Growth and Climate Change framework by more than a billion dollars over the next two years.
“These cuts are coming at a time where more and more evidence is pointing to just what kind of an impact we’re having on our climate,” he explained.
“We had been calling in the months leading up to this budget for a reinstatement of the previous eco-energy retrofit program, because the government likes to talk about the economy and the environment going hand in hand and this was a program that I feel satisfies both of those programs. It not only encourages people to retrofit their homes and make them more energy efficient but for every dollar spent in this program, it’s going out into the local economy and it’s providing work for local tradespeople in upgrading those homes as well.”
Budget 2017 also fails to allocate the $155 million needed to end racial discrimination in the provision of indigenous child welfare services, he continued.
“Last year we called on the federal government to close that funding gap for indigenous child welfare services,” he said. “The Liberals did commit to that when they voted for our motion but we still don’t see any funding allocated for that in this budget and they continue to fight against indigenous children at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.”
MacGregor said compared to the entirety of the budget, $155 million is “really a drop in the bucket”.
And while he was pleased to see other money go toward childcare, it’s not enough.
“When you dig deep and look at the numbers it’s nowhere near adequate to fill the need for the childcare spaces and unfortunately not one penny of it has been announced for the next year. It’s still a waiting game for that,” he said.