Jennifer Moreau / Burnaby Now
The federal Conservatives have managed to pull the country out of deficit for the first time in their nine-year run in Ottawa, but Burnabyâ€™s two New Democrat MPs are raising criticism over how they did it.
Finance Minister Joe Oliver presented the 2015 budget on Tuesday, and there is a projected surplus of $1.4 billion - a big improvement over $55.6 billion deficit in 2009, during the global financial crisis.
However, Kennedy Stewart, the New Democrat MP for Burnaby Douglas, has problems with how the Tories did it, mainly by using $2 billion from a contingency fund and selling off the governmentâ€™s shares in General Motors.
â€œThey hit their target, but I think what they did was a bit reckless,â€� he told the NOW. â€œItâ€™s a very hardcore, right-wing budget. Itâ€™s pretty staggering actually. At the core of it, pretty big tax breaks for very wealthy people. â€¦ What was also stirring is the term â€˜climate changeâ€™ wasnâ€™t mentioned once. So it does really look like weâ€™ve got our work cut out for us in the next election, and it really sets up a classic NDP-Conservative battle.â€�
Fellow New Democrat Peter Julian, MP for Burnaby-New Westminster, echoed Stewartâ€™s comments, stating that there was no mention of the environment, the Kinder Morgan or Enbridge pipelines, or reopening the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.
â€œWhen you balance budgets, you have to do it by establishing priorities, and this government is just reckless with spending money,â€� Julian said. â€œItâ€™s a fake balancing of the budget. Itâ€™s something they are hoping will get them through the election campaign.â€�
The budget also raises the limit on annual contributions to Tax Free Savings Accounts from $5,500 to $10,000. Julian said that will cost the government billions, and thatâ€™s money he would rather see spent on a national child care program or health care. (Based on the Broadbent Institute's estimates, the current TFSA system will cost $15.5 billion annually in 40 to 50 years.)
Oliver, however, lauded the new plan in his speech.
â€œThe causes of global financial challenges are complex â€“ and largely beyond our control. But our responses, the choices we have made, have been direct and unambiguous,â€� he said in the House of Commons. â€œFor generations, Canadian families have understood the path to prosperity: Donâ€™t compromise tomorrow by spending recklessly today. Donâ€™t pile on debt you canâ€™t afford. And invest sensibly for a secure future. For governments, the principles are the same. We have been prudent. We have been practical. And we have stuck to our plan.â€�
Select budget highlights: Source, Department of Finance.
â€¢ Reducing the small business tax rate to nine per cent by 2019.
â€¢ Increasing the tax-free savings account annual contribution limit to $10,000.
â€¢ Providing $14 million over two years to Futurpreneur Canada in support of young entrepreneurs.
â€¢ $750 million over two years starting in 2017/18, and $1 billion per year thereafter, for a new public transit fund aimed at building new public transit infrastructure to reduce congestion and fight gridlock in large cities.
â€¢ Reducing the minimum withdrawal factors for Registered Retirement Income Funds to permit seniors to preserve more of their retirement savings to better support their retirement income needs.
â€¢ Extending Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits from six weeks to six months.