Yesterday the Conservative Party released their Economic Action Plan, a $276 billion federal budget that saw $5.2 billion in spending cuts.
“In this budget, our Government is looking ahead not only over the next few years but also over the next generation,” said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
“The reforms we present today are substantial, responsible and necessary. They will ensure that all across government we are focused on enabling and sustaining Canada’s long-term economic growth.”
The Conservative Party says that there are five major themes of the plan, including ensuring long-term sustainability of social programs, supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, responsible and timely resource development, investing in training and infrastructure and supporting families and communities.
However Skeena-Bulkey Valley MP Nathan Cullen has many issues with the 2012 budget, perhaps the biggest issue being that environmental reviews of major oil, gas and mining projects will be shortened, something the Tories say will ensure ventures get off the ground sooner to promote economic development.
“The idea that you can short cut these things and just start rubber stamping everything and that it won’t cost you in the end is insanity. It’s not the real world. There’s a reason we built all of these systems. Could they be improved? Absolutely. But to cancel the federals role is not good for business,” said Cullen.
Cullen says the Torie government is doing this out of desperation to get the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project underway.
“Changing the rules of the game that they’ve been trying to undermine since day one and corrupt them even further… I’ve never heard of a government anywhere doing this. You can’t get this many months in a process, and engage this many stakeholders, then half way through say they’re entirely willing to change the process in the company’s favor. I guess they’re just that desperate,” he commented.
Enbridge was unsurprisingly pleased with the announcement, stating via email, “Enbridge is supportive of measures in the federal budget that advocate the concept of ‘one project, one review’ completed in a clearly defined time period. It makes great sense and would support developments that bring jobs and prosperity to Canadians.”
One of the most controversial changes made in the budget is that starting in 2023 the age of eligibility for Old Age Security will change from 65 to 67. The change will not affect Canadians under the age of 54.
“They’re going to move the retirement age up a couple of years and try to placate Canadians by saying it won’t effect the ones next in line, just the people right after that. Well, the pension system is built by people many years before they actually retire and it’s for people by people. I don’t understand why the government thinks this is a good idea,” said Cullen.
Also, around 19,200 public service jobs will be cut over the next three years (about 4.8 per cent of the current work force). Cullen mentioned that he would be amazed if public service jobs weren’t cut in the north.
In the Federal Budget, the Tories will be providing $275 million over three years to support First Nations education and to build and renovate schools on reserves. Although this is seemingly a good idea, Cullen referred to the situation as a shell game, claiming that “money is being taken out from one pot and put into another”.
“[The NDP] thought there should be new additional money, however this is not the case. The amount is far less than what the First Nations have been asking for, so on two fronts it’s disappointing,” commented Cullen.
In the last budget there was a special taxation rate in place for mining and exploration. Under the 2012 budget, the government is going to kill that advantage, particularly on the exploration things. Cullen says that this deeply worrisome, as it’s been a successful program for the north, and across the country.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will have to deal with $115 million in cuts (10 per cent of funding). What this means to rural communities in the north are still unknown.
“A great concern is that a big chunk of that money is going to come off of rural radio. As people know, CBC is a great connecter across the northwest, across north and rural Canada in general,” said Cullen.
The budget also saw nearly $80 million cut for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
“We’re going to have to see some dust settle first before we understand what the impacts are going to be for our region,” said Cullen.
The federal government will be providing $5.2 billion over the next eleven years to “renew the Canadian Coast Guard”, however Cullen says these funds will be for new boats only.
Additionally, the federal government will also be getting rid of the penny in the fall. Production of the coin costs about 1.6 cents to create, so by eliminating the penny the government will save approximately $11 million a year.