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North Island-Powell River MP reacts to federal budget

Financial plan had some positives, but also some shortfalls, says Rachel Blaney
PROVIDES ASSESSMENT: The 2023 federal budget was delivered by the Liberals and North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney had kudos and criticism for the financial plan.

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney saw some positive measures in the federal budget, but also notes there are shortfalls she would like to see addressed.

The federal budget was delivered by minister of finance Chrystia Freeland on March 28 and Blaney said the highlight for her was the doubling of the GST rebate, which is “really good for people who are struggling.”

“They’re calling it the grocery rebate but it’s basically the same thing it was before,” said Blaney. “The NDP fought hard for that and it’s good to see it extended. I’m so thrilled.”

The rebate will provide up to $467 for families, $234 for singles and up to $255 for seniors.

Blaney said federal dental care is being expanded and as the spokesperson for seniors in the NDP, she said her party fought hard for it.

“It’s great to see persons with disabilities, and youth under 18 as well, covered,” said Blaney. “It is really exciting.”

Blaney said the NDP forced the Liberals to attach strings to all their clean economy tax credits, so companies that pay higher wages and have better working conditions will get better incentives. She said as well, the $4 billion for urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing strategy is important.

“We’ve heard from so many Indigenous communities, and off reserve as well, that they need housing for Indigenous people, so it’s good to see that,” added Blaney.

She said she was also pleased that the minimum tax rate for Canada’s ultrarich is moving from 15 per cent to 20.5 per cent.

“Those folks will not be able to pay less than 20.5 per cent no matter what they are eligible for,” said Blaney. “It’s great to see the ultrarich paying their fair share.”

Blaney said there is the creation of the red dress alert, similar to an amber alert, to address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and she is excited about that.

She said she was not happy to see not much investment in health care. She was hoping there would be a bit more of an announcement of supports for rural and remote communities that are dealing with crises in health care.

“In my riding, it is one of the biggest problems that we are seeing,” said Blaney. “On the North Island, there have been closures of emergency rooms, for example.”

Blaney said she appreciates that the Canada Student Loan forgiveness program is being expanded for rural communities, including communities with a population of 30,000 or fewer, so people moving to those communities to work after school will get a better loan forgiveness.

“It’s an important step but it doesn’t go far enough,” added Blaney.

Seeing shortfalls

She said she was disappointed to not see more measures addressing housing targeted for rural and remote communities. She was also disappointed not to see more measures around the cost of groceries.

“We see a lot of the big box stores making significant profits at the same time they are saying it’s not them, it’s inflation that is bringing up the cost of groceries,” said Blaney. “I hear from too many people who are struggling to be able to afford basic food. I was hoping to see something in the budget that would deal with that.

“I didn’t see as much as I was hoping in terms of addressing the issues in terms of telecommunications. We pay some of the highest cellular and internet costs in the world. I was hoping to see something in the budget to address that so costs would go down.”

Blaney said as the veterans spokesperson, the government did not do very much. She said some more dollars were announced around delivery but no commitments were made for taking the people in temporary jobs serving veterans and turning them into permanent positions, which is needed to deal with the backlog in services.

Blaney said the NDP had influence on the federal budget.

“There were definitely items in the budget that wouldn’t have been there without the NDP,” said Blaney. “We had to force a lot of things into play, but seeing the dental care, the doubling of the GST rebate, better, sustainable jobs and rewarding people who are looking after their workers, those things are key to who we are in the NDP.

“If we hadn’t done that work, these items absolutely would not have been in the budget. Knowing that, we’ll be able to keep pushing the Liberals to do better, but we’ve definitely seen things that will make us comfortable.”