MPs from the parliamentary finance committee were in Prince Rupert late last month to gather input for the next federal budget from a handful of representatives from interest groups from northern BC.
Talking to the committee from Prince Rupert was the CEO of the Prince Rupert Port Authority, Don Krusel, and Louisa Sanchez who was representing First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. They were also joined by representatives from the Mining Association of Canada and the Clean Energy Association of British Columbia.
The purpose of the meeting was to gather input and ideas that could be used in the Conservative government’s next federal budget. Meetings like this have been scheduled in communities all over Canada and Prince Rupert was stop number 20.
The port authority CEO told MPs that the federal government’s decision to invest over a billion dollars to help build the Fairview Container Terminal was a wise one that has paid off for the community and for the country. Krusel cited the fact that the port has seen its traffic grow year after year since it open for business.
“Today the Port of Prince Rupert serves as the North American gateway of the northwest transportation corridor. This corridor extends to central Canada and also on to Chicago and beyond to Memphis and New Orleans. It connects the populations and industry of central North America to the rapidly growing Asian economies,” says Krusel.
With the port planning to increase its capacity to 100-million tonnes in the next few years, Krusel told MP’s that the Federal Government should continue to spend money on the Prince Rupert Port and other kinds of infrastructure that support trade through the Asia Pacific Gateway with the rapidly rising economies just across the pacific. Failure to do so would be a missed opportunity for Canada’s economic future said Krusel.
“Without the continued expansion of port infrastructure, Canada’s resources and products will be shut out of international markets. It would be like building a grand mansion with many rooms, but with no front door to gain access to its rooms,” says Krusel.
With such a large increase in ship traffic from northern BC, New Democratic MP, Alain Giguère, wondered if the Prince Rupert Port would be prepared for a tanker or another kind of ship sinking off the North Coast. Krusel said that despite all the concern about a catastrophe from oil tankers, the danger is being exaggerated.
“This gateway is the safest from a marine risk perspective. It goes back to the 1970s, when there was a marine risk study completed on the entire west coast to determine how Alaska crude should go from Alaska to the rest of the continent. They studied all the various locations. This location had the lowest risk factor.
Louisa Sanchez from First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition had three suggestions for the finance committee. First, that the federal government increase its spending on early childhood and learning programs to one per cent of Canada’s GDP, which she says is the UNICEF benchmark. The second was that the Feds rework the tax policy to help close the gap between rich and poor in this country.
“Accomplishing the first two broad objectives, supporting early childhood development and reducing income inequality, is fundamental to creating a healthier, more sustainable path of social and economic development for our country,” says Sanchez.
The third suggestion is to subject every budget item to a “child impact assessment,” where each item’s affect on the lives of Canadian children would be taken into account before approval.
When asked for a example by an NDP member, she pointed to the idea of increasing the child tax benefit by $1,000. An child impact assessment, she says, would show that doing so would help alleviate the pro0blem of children living in poverty, and by doing so would decrease the costs impoverished children can place on other programs like health and education.
“The third recommendation provides a process with little or no cost, which will reduce the risk for negative unintended consequences,” says Sanchez.
Conservative MP, Shelly Glover, didn’t buy that the idea had little or no cost. She said that it didn’t make sense to have every single item on the federal budget checked for its impact on children when so many things the government spends money on have nothing to do with children. To do so it would most likely be a slow and costly process.
“I can understand if you were suggesting doing them only on those that might have an actual impact on children, but to do all of them, which is what you’re suggesting, would be inefficient and a waste of taxpayer dollars, wouldn’t you think,” Glover asked Sanchez.
Sanchez who was clearly caught off guard by the MP’s questions admitted that they had not costed out the impact assessment idea.