By David F. Rooney
The federal Conservatives’ 2015 budget has a number of items that will be of interest to the people of Kootenay Columbia riding, including $2.8 billion earmarked to improve infrastructure within Canada’s national parks.
MP David Wilks said it remains to be seen how much of that money will be allocated to Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks but he anticipates that some of it will go towards improving those sections of the Trans-Canada Highway that are within park boundaries.
“My job is to lobby the ministers (likely Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt and Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq) to make sure some of that money goes to the highway,” he said in a telephone interview from Ottawa.
There were a number of other items in the budget presented in the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon by Finance Minister Joe Oliver that are likely to be of interest to people in our riding, Wilks said.
- $86 million in funding over two years, starting in 2016, to extend the Forest Innovation Program and the Expanding Market Opportunities Program. These programs will help forestry companies adopt emerging technologies and develop new markets for Canadian wood products;
- An 82% increase to $10,000 from $5,500 in the amount Canadians can contribute to their Tax Free Savings Accounts;
- A reduction in the Small Business Tax to 9% from 11% by 2019 for businesses that earn less than $500,000 a year;
- Seniors can, starting at age 71, leave more money in their tax-sheltered Registered Retirement Income Funds each year to help their savings last longer;
- EI benefits to care for a sick or dying relative have now been extended to six months from the current six weeks;
- There is a new home accessibility tax credit to renovate homes to make them more accessible for seniors and people with disabilities;
- Home Accessibility Tax Credit for home renovations for seniors and people with disabilities; and
- $75 million to implement the Species at Risk Act for next three years.
There was also new funding for veterans, modest increases in defence spending and more resources to fight terrorism.
Needless to say, federal New Democratic Party candidate Wayne Stetski was less than enthusiastic about the Conservatives spending plans.
“The Harper Conservatives have tabled a budget that continues the pattern they’ve followed from the start, ignoring the needs of the middle class while giving tax breaks to the wealthy,” he told The Revelstoke Current.
“I believe that voters will judge the Harper Conservatives on their record: the highest deficit budget in Canada’s history at $58.2 billion, and seven straight deficit budgets. With that record, saying they’ll balance the budget now, right before an election, is going to be pretty tough for most Canadians to believe.”
Stetski accused the Tories of “giving tax breaks to their core supporters” and said Oliver’s budget was “written out of desperation to maintain a majority, rather than “serve the needs of people.”
“What is important to the people of Kootenay Columbia that is not present in this budget is affordable day care, increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors, and enhanced infrastructure funding to rebuild our communities and provide good local jobs,” he said. “Those are my priorities.”
Please click here if you would like to read the federal budget for yourself.