Federal budget Big deficit aids parents, seniors and EI reform

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Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC &
PONTIAC – Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled the Trudeau Liberal’s first federal budget, titled “Growing the Middle Class”, March 22 in Ottawa. The budget
forecasts a $29.4 billion deficit in 2016-17, almost three times the $10

Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC &
PONTIAC – Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled the Trudeau Liberal’s first federal budget, titled “Growing the Middle Class”, March 22 in Ottawa. The budget
forecasts a $29.4 billion deficit in 2016-17, almost three times the $10
billion that was promised during last year’s election campaign.
According to Pontiac MP William Amos, the Pontiac will benefit the most from the new Canada child benefit that replaces both the Canada Child Tax Benefit and the Universal Childcare benefit. “It will lift about 30,000 people out of poverty. It’s the most positive social investment the government has made in decades,” Amos told the Journal, highlighting that families earning under $30,000 will receive the maximum benefit of $6,400 per child under six and $5,400 per child for those aged six through 17.
The measure represents $10 billion more in spending over two years. Income splitting, the children’s fitness tax credit and the children’s arts tax credit were all eliminated.
The budget also includes $2.5 billion in spending over two years to overhaul the employment insurance program including halving the two week waiting period, extending a pilot program that allows claimants to work while collecting benefits, and extending the benefit eligibility window for those living in areas with higher unemployment rates.
Although the Liberals did not keep their campaign commitment to stick to the existing schedule to reduce the small business income tax rate from 11% to 9% by 2019, a plan that was part of the previous Conservative government’s 2015 budget, according to Amos, the plan’s indefinite deferral “doesn’t make much of a difference” given the new child tax benefit. “The new tax credit will put more funds in the pockets of Canadians who will then have more money to spend, which will definitely help businesses. The rate was reduced to 10.5% and
we hope to continue reducing it step by step. We still have several years in our mandate. The reduction is slower than we hoped, but we have to be prudent with our finances,” he explained. 
The budget also included various measures to help aboriginals: $2.6 billion over five years for primary and secondary education on First Nations reserves and $969.4 million over five years for education infrastructure; $1.2 billion over five years for social infrastructure for aboriginals; $10.4 million over three years and $33.6 million over five years for new women’s shelters in First Nations communities; and $40 million over two years for the inquiry into missing
and murdered aboriginal women and girls. “This is the most significant investment aboriginals have ever experienced. We have First Nations and aboriginal communities in the Pontiac who will now benefit from increased funding opportunities,” said Amos.
Other budget highlights include reducing the retirement age from 67 to 65; increasing the guaranteed income supplement for single seniors; $5.6 billion more in benefits to veterans and their families over five years and re-opening nine veterans’ service offices and adding a 10th; up to $178 million over two years for provincial urgent affordable housing needs; and deferring the planned $3.7 billion in National Defence purchases.
“We’re spending money in critical areas where the people asked us to invest. We campaigned to help the middle class and invest in infrastructure, which we clearly did,” concluded Amos. Over the next 10 years, the government will invest $120 billion in infrastructure, focusing first on public transit, water, waste management and housing.