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Federal budget to be balanced in 2015; local politicians

By: Sara Wilson

  |  Posted: Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 06:00 am

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Finance Minister Jim Flaherty presented the 2014 federal budget in Parliament on Feb.12 and while it’s not a balanced budget, it aims to be in 2015.

The 2014/2015 budget anticipates a deficit of $2.9 billion this year and a $6.4 billion surplus the next year.

In order to achieve the surplus the government isn’t handing out any family tax cuts, it’s slashing “defense” spending and will hike the Tobacco Tax.

“Our first priority is a balanced budget,” Wild Rose MP Blake Richards said. “That’s when we can look at those measures.”

Among the highlights is a heavy contribution to the Canada Jobs Grant – a training program designed to get people back into the work force and a hot topic with the provinces premiers’ who say that the mandatory April 1, 2014 start date is unrealistic.

The budget outlines a contribution of $300 million to $500 million in federal job training initiatives to get the program rolling.

“It’s so important, engaging employment with training and making people able to get training and move into employment,” Richards said.

“The details are still being rolled out, but we’ll be looking at partnerships in the private sector as well as government jobs.”

So far, none of the provinces have signed up for the Canada Jobs Grant, however, the program will roll out via Service Canada regardless of an agreement being signed.

“We will continue to negotiate with the Provinces to develop job creation, for this budget a big component of it is the Canada Job Grant,” Crowfoot MP Kevin Sorenson said. “We’ll still negotiate in good faith on the points but it will go ahead in April.”

Smokers will see an increase in their pack of cigarettes as the budget outlines a hike – based on the rate of inflation – of $4 per pack.

This is the first increase to the Tobacco Tax since 2002.

Also getting a big push is investment into the country’s infrastructure and while the budget doesn’t outline any upgrades to Rocky View County infrastructure, Richards explained that “the budget is a broad strategy” and will act on government-led initiatives.

Since the record breaking June 2013 floods that destroyed major infrastructure throughout southern Alberta, the federal government outlined a program – officially beginning in 2015 – that will aim to mitigate the damage by natural disasters.

The National Disaster Mitigation Program will receive $200 million over five years, as well as an additional $40 million for emergency management for First Nations.

An injection of funding into Veterans Affairs was also included, which will see an additional $108.2 million over five years to provide veterans with a funeral and burial costs, as well as an addition $2.1 million to improve the department’s online presence and ease of access.

“There’s a new generation of veterans and they have different needs,” Richards said.

“This budget shows funding for burial and funerals for Afghanistan veterans.”

Also included will be the creation of a DNA database aimed at giving families closure for missing persons.

“This was really brought forward by the victim’s families,” Sorenson said.

The NDP Party of Canada members say the expected surplus in 2015 is due to cutting public service worker’s disability and sick leave coverage, as the government stated that it will review the costs.

“As expected, public service workers are paying for the government’s race to beat the deficit. It is only by inventing stories, like wrong sick leave numbers, to discredit our public service workers that Conservatives were able to hit their budget targets,” said Treasury Board critic Mathieu Ravignat said.

Included in the budget is an initiative to change the structure of public servants heath care system from its current ratio.

“Currently they have in addition to national coverage, a supplementary health care plan and it’s a very good plan,” Sorenson said. “Right now its 75 per cent funded by the taxpayer and 25 per cent funded by the employee. We want to change it to a 50/50 system.”

Food safety received an injection of funding - $390 over five years – after an increase in the number of national food recalls including the E. coli contamination of tainted beef from Brooks company XL Foods in 2012.

The government released its finding into the contamination case on June 5, 2013, which outlines several recommendations to better operations.

To view the budget visit: http://www.budget.gc.ca/2014/home-accueil-eng.html

Summary of 2014 budget:

• Launching the Canada Job Grant: so that Canadians can get the skills training they need to get in-demand jobs.

• Creating the Canada Apprentice Loan: which will provide apprentices in Red Seal trades access to over $100 million in interest-free loans each year.

• Launching a Job Matching Service: this new service will automatically match Canadians looking for work with employers looking to hire them.

• Increasing Paid Internships for Young Canadians: investing $55 million to create paid internships for recent graduates in small and medium-sized businesses and in high-demand fields.

• Helping Older Workers Get Back to Work: investing $75 million in the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers to support older workers who want to participate in the job market.

• Cutting Red Tape for Small Business: cutting 800,000 payroll remittances for 50,000 small businesses.

• Making Landmark Investments in Research & Innovation: $1.5 billion over the next decade for research at universities through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

• Conserving Canada’s Natural Heritage: investing in Canada’s national parks and historic canals, conserving recreational fisheries, expanding tax relief for the environmental conservation of lands, encouraging a clean energy generation with tax relief to new ‘green’ technologies and more environmentally friendly initiatives.

• Supporting Families: enhancing tax relief for families adopting a child, expanding tax relief for health-related services, capping wholesale wireless rates to make service more affordable, cracking down on cross-border price discrimination, and more.


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