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From the House: Budget has issues

This week the federal budget cleared its final hurdle in parliament. The Harper government, with the support of the Liberal caucus, continues to implement a misguided, deficit-laden agenda.

This week the federal budget cleared its final hurdle in parliament. The Harper government, with the support of the Liberal caucus, continues to implement a misguided, deficit-laden agenda.

I’m not sure defeating the government was an answer to the problems contained in the budget, but the Liberals could have at least negotiated on the budget contents, especially if they knew they were going to pass it all along.

I felt comfortable heading into the confidence votes last week given the consultations and discussions held at the three townhalls last weekend. The people who showed up at our meetings in Fort Frances, Atikokan, and Thunder Bay expressed dissatisfaction with the budget.

Pension security was the number one concern of people attending our meetings and it was disappointing to have to inform people that there was nothing in the budget to address that issue. The budget made vague references to helping secure pensions in "federally regulated" industries, but there are very few people who would benefit from this action.

The Conservatives would never admit it, but the truth is that once any company enters bankruptcy protection or undertakes supervised restructuring it automatically enters federal jurisdiction. Since the government has failed to step up and take responsibility for protecting the pensions of people in Thunder Bay – Rainy River, New Democrats will. More details on our plan will come in the next few weeks.

Another prominent issue that arose during our townhall discussions was the inclusion of the Harmonized Sales Tax in the text of the budget document. On page 182 of the budget, the Conservative government recommits to helping Ontario and British Columbia implement the HST by passing along huge incentive payments to these provinces.

The budget confirmed that $4.3 billion of our federal tax money, collected in part through the GST, is being used to promote, encourage, and enable an eight per cent provincial sales tax increase on many essential items like gasoline, hydro, cable, Internet, and snow removal .

Finally, an item that arose at our meetings was that of the increasing rate of poverty in Northwestern Ontario, and specifically of poverty among seniors.

I had heard from people and groups in Ottawa about this problem, but it really hits home when people in your community take the time to come out to a public meeting and tell you face to face about their struggles.

Unfortunately, the only time and space dedicated to senior poverty in the budget document was used to say that the government was doing enough. The people in our riding are telling me the opposite.

These are the real problems facing our riding. There are others and I am sure that people will fill out our budget survey and raise these issues in other ways.

I’m happy to report that my work on these three main issues continued last week when I cast a vote against the bloated and misguided Conservative budget that failed to address those issues in a way that helps our families and communities in Thunder Bay – Rainy River.