Member of Parliament for North Island – Powell River Rachel Blaney is happy to see some things included in the latest federal budget, and disappointed that others were not.
Blaney was pleased to see that seniors receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement and working at the same time will have a higher income threshold before having their benefit suspended. However they will have to wait another year and a half for this change to take place. “This is great news for people who can continue to work in their later years but does nothing for seniors who don’t have paid work. With nothing in this budget for Canadians living with disabilities, what are we expecting them to do? This budget leaves many low-income seniors living in poverty and we can do so much better.”
The New Horizons program received a boost in funding of $20M. Many local organizations have benefited from this program in the past and Blaney is happy to see that work recognized and encouraged. The budget also includes funding for a National Dementia Strategy which Blaney has been calling for as the NDP’s critic for seniors’ issues.
As the newly appointed NDP critic for Veterans Affairs, Blaney welcomed new funding including $150M over 5 years to process disability claims. In 2017-2018, Veterans Affairs Canada only processed 33% of their disability claims within their goal of 16 weeks. “It’s too bad this didn’t happen sooner” said Blaney, “our veterans have been made to wait for far too long by consecutive Conservative and Liberal governments.” Other items, such as increased funding for chronic pain research, are good starting points but fail to address larger issues. “Focusing too narrowly on one aspect of what our veterans experience helps fewer of them. We need a more holistic approach.”
Blaney was also disappointed at the complete lack of funding for the environment and climate change aside from a credit for purchasing electric vehicles. “This government has championed themselves as the ones who would put Canada back on track to fix our environment. They supported Gord Johns’ (MP for Courtenay-Alberni) motion for a framework to tackle the rising levels of plastics in our ocean, yet there is nothing in this budget to actually deal with these issues. Climate change can’t wait, we need action now.”
There was also little support for small businesses, especially those in rural and remote communities like many Blaney represents. The commitment to high-speed internet for everyone in Canada by 2030 is a good talking point, but one that has been alluded too before without providing the funds or plan to get it done in the foreseeable future, and doesn’t address other rural issues like the increased costs of doing business or absence of cell service in many areas.
C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, is before the House of Commons right now, yet there was nothing included in this budget on the topic of Indigenous children in care. “Without that investment legislation like this is just empty words,” said Blaney.
Finally, on housing, which is consistently a top priority and concern in every community in the riding, aside from the new first-time homebuyer’s incentive, there is nothing new to help create and provide needed housing. Blaney concluded: “Many Canadians that are really struggling with issues of affordability and this budget does nothing to help that. It’s like a willful blindness to the issues that people are facing day-to-day in our communities.”