Last month the Liberal government brought forward their first budget, a document that was expected to deliver on the many promises they made during the campaign. And, after a decade of Conservative budgets that ignored the crisis of climate change, crumbling infrastructure, the needs of First Nations, and the care of veterans, this one was greeted by many Canadians as a step in the right direction. But it could have been much more than that, and can only be seen as a missed opportunity at this time when Canadians had voted for real change.
Budgets are truly about choices and when you present a 271-page document like a federal budget, there is bound to be a mixture of good choices along with the poor ones. The Liberals made some good choices that I support, such as new investments in affordable seniors housing, new funding for tourism advertising and the re-opening of the important Veterans Affairs office in Kelowna.
However, there are also many campaign promises completely missing or only partially fulfilled in this budget. After the Liberals promised to invest $3 billion over the next four years in seniors home care, their budget shows nothing towards that vital service. Yes, the federal government has to talk to the provinces about how this care would be delivered, but the funds to be directed to home care should have been included in this budget if they are serious about this promise. Similarly, a pledge to bring in a pharmacare plan isn’t mentioned; like home care, this would be an investment that would pay back handsomely in savings in future years, but the Liberals failed to make the bold steps needed. And while the news of reopened veterans service offices is welcome, the budget has nothing towards improving desperately needed mental health services for veterans.
And budgets are not just about spending—they also cover tax measures. The Liberal government could have brought in $800 million a year by fulfilling their promise to close the loophole that allows wealthy CEOs to pay only half the taxes on multi-million-dollar stock options that regular citizens pay on income. Corporate income taxes have been cut almost in half over the last 15 years by both Liberal and Conservative federal governments. The tax cuts for corporations over the past 4 years of Conservative government have cost Canadians about $36 billion in lost revenue and have done nothing to spur investments in new jobs. The Liberals could have reversed this trend while keeping Canada’s tax regime very competitive, but instead left corporate tax rates untouched.
I hope that the government will take the feedback that New Democrats are offering to make improvements to this document. In the meantime, I welcome any comments you might have on the budget. Please don’t hesitate to contact me by email at Richard.email@example.com and I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Richard Cannings is the MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay.