ATHABASCA/BARRHEAD/WESTLOCK - It is a lengthy document, coming in at more than 700 pages, but Conservative MPs from Peace River-Westlock and Lakeland call it irresponsible, and despite its size, there’s not a lot to be happy about the federal budget for 2021.
On April 19, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland presented the first federal budget in two years featuring several big-ticket items, which add up to a whole lot of debt, said the local Members of Parliament.
"It is a massive budget that will take our debt to over $1.2 trillion. It hands out the money in all directions without a clear plan to restore economic growth," said Arnold Viersen, MP for Peace River-Westlock. "It is a campaign-style budget. When Canadians are in a pandemic and are looking for pandemic relief, the Liberals are thinking about the next election."
Lakeland MP Shannon Stubbs called it “incomprehensible” the Liberals have only provided “two brief fiscal snapshots during a time of historic economic challenges, and unprecedented government spending.”
She added: “The country’s rising cost of living, job losses, and tax hikes means, for most Lakelanders, their savings are stretched thin and their futures are uncertain.”
Stubbs also noted she didn’t see a plan for reopening, or securing Canada’s economic future.
“This budget needed to include a concrete plan for the private sector and for entrepreneurs to do what they do best: create jobs and provide for their families. Instead, Canadians got the rude wake-up call that this government will be saddling their grandchildren with more deficits and more debt.”
Viersen pointed to the government’s proposed national child care program, which carries a price tag of $30 billion over five years, and $8.3 billion per year after that to create a $10-per-day child care service by 2025-2026.
"I thought we had settled this in 2014 when we [Conservative Party of Canada] set up a system that gave money to parents instead of setting up a big nationalized daycare system," Viersen said.
What he is referring to is the Canada Child Benefit — a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. He doesn’t think the program will be any more successful this time around.
"It's an expensive program that is ineffective and takes away parents’ choices for child care as it would be available through authorized public centres," Viersen said.
If this budget is any indicator, said Viersen, it seems the government has all but abandoned the resource sector and the jobs it creates. However, he did mention the government’s plans to spend billions on “a green reset.”
In the budget, $17.6 billion is set aside for green recovery — to conserve 25 per cent of lands and oceans by 2025 and to put Canada on course to exceed climate change targets by cutting emissions to 36 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
On that note, Viersen did have one positive note on the budget, saying the cancellation of the carbon tax for farm fuels is something Conservatives have been demanding for years. He was also hoping to see a change in the equalization formula though — something else that has been on the Conservative wish list for a while.
"One thing he said he was going to do, and is something we have been calling for, is the lifting of the per capita cap on the equalization formula," he said, noting the cap is $60. "(The prime minister) said he was going to raise the cap to $160."
All in all, the Liberals left a lot to be desired, say the Conservatives.
“I personally believe that all workers and all businesses are essential to Canada’s economy,” Stubbs said. “People in Lakeland want to know that if they work hard, they can do better, and for government to remember that it doesn’t have its own money. It all comes out of Canadians’ pockets. This Liberal budget doesn’t help the constituents I represent. It means inevitably higher taxes, higher costs, fewer jobs, and future generations left to pay the bills.”
With files from Chris Zwick