Budget fails to make life more affordable for the people in New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody

Feds to rein in spending

From the Tri-City News

By Sarah Payne - The Tri-City News Published: March 04, 2010 4:00 PM Updated: March 04, 2010 4:06 PM

The federal government is taking an austere approach to the 2010 budget, coughing up only a fraction of the new spending that has characterized recent years under the Economic Action Plan.

"This is probably the smallest budget in terms of new spending in about 10 years in Canada," said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty while delivering the latest budget in Ottawa Thursday afternoon. "Some very difficult decisions have been made."

This year's budget carries on with last year's $19-billion stimulus plan and adds just $2.2 billion in new spending, mainly on innovation measures. Included in the planned spending is $108 million for youth to gain work experience, $62 million to support athletes over two years and $8 million to create a new office to oversee the RCMP.

The Rick Hansen Foundation will receive more than $9 million in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Man in Motion tour.

And while there were no spending cuts or tax increases announced, the federal government is struggling with a $56-billion deficit that it aims to eliminate by 2014/'15. Freezes on spending increases, salaries, government departments and more are expected to save $17.5 billion over the next five years. Increases to national defence will shrink, saving about $2 billion, and international aid will be capped at this year's level to save $4.5 billion.

Anyone hoping for a tax credit on their Botox or liposuction is now officially out of luck.

"It's a prudent budget in line with what Tri-City residents, B.C. residents and Canadians are calling for," said James Moore, Conservative MP for Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam. "They're calling for us to keep the strong investments going forward that are part of our Economic Action Plan, which has seen solid results. Now it's time to start winding down the spending as we get closer to a balanced budget."

Ending that stimulus spending later this year is expected to cut most of the $56-billion deficit, Moore said, while in the long term the government expects recent economic growth to continue to help the country "grow its way out of the deficit."

He also noted that shrinking the federal civil service, through attrition, and freezing politicians' salaries will add further support to the deficit-reduction plan. Federal MPs make a minimum of $157,000 and critics are calling the salary freeze a purely symbolic gesture.

Rookie MP Fin Donnelly, representing New Westminster-Coquitlam-Port Moody for the federal NDP, said there is nothing in the budget he can support, particularly the lack of support for affordable housing.

There was nothing to address the needs of his riding's homeless, homeowners and renters, Donnelly said, and no move to encourage the development of private-sector rental housing or help those affected by the leaky condo crisis.

"I'm also surprised by the lack of commitment for the environment and climate change, which is what I think is the most pressing issue of our time," Donnelly said.

The Conservatives' deficit-reduction plan also comes on the backs of working-class Canadians, he added, with the gap in tax breaks for wealthy corporations and average Canadians growing ever wider.

"I don't think this budget feels like what I was put in office to do, which is to make life more affordable for the people in New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody," Donnelly said. His party is hoping to negotiate changes with the Conservatives before voting on the budget. The Liberals are also not supporting it but leader Michael Ignatieff has said enough of them will be absent or abstain from voting on it to avoid an election. The Bloc Quebecois plan to oppose the budget.