In the wake of the newly announced allegiance between the New Democratic Party and Liberal Party, the first vote of confidence came and went without a hitch — that being the new government spending budget. Martin Shields, MP for Bow River, explained the new budget brings a hefty deficit.
“There is going to be $50 billion in new spending and that’s go- ing to be a deficit over $50 billion. Well, that’s just a little tough,” Shields said, before elaborating on what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said about the budget’s deficit during the election debates only to get surprised with a larger number. “I remember when Trudeau was running for leadership and in the election debates of running a $7 billion deficit, I mean we were cringing at that, and now it’s a $50 billion deficit and $50 plus the new spending. So that’s problematic right off the top for me.”
Shields also commented on how this was pos- sible due to the alliance between the Liberal and NDP, who since combining their parties make up a majority within the House of Commons.
“It’s driven the budget to more spending. It’s driven it to more deficit because the NDP see no problem with huge deficit spending. So, it will reflect that kind of budget, it will be a more left leaning freewheel- ing spending budget.” Despite the large amount being spent, there were some aspects Shields agreed with.
“A piece about the temporary foreigner workers. One of the challenges that we have in agriculture is temporary foreign workers/ seasonal workers. They have extended length of time from two to three years and they’re promising to reduce the red tape in the length of time for applications to be approved and that has been a challenge in all of the agricultural sector, not just talking about farm labour, but agricultural manufacturing. There’s lots of pieces to it. It’s been a challenge in a sense and the temporary foreign worker program has been very slow and very expensive and the red tape is just been really brutal. They promise to fix that. We haven’t seen it but it’s a promise. So if you’re talking about something positive in agriculture, if they can actually get that extended from two to three years, and if they can actually re- duce the red tape so that people can actually get people into the agricul- tural work, that would be fantastic.”
Besides the large deficit, another element that Shields would like to see adjusted within the budget is the carbon tax.
“The carbon tax is a piece in agriculture that is huge in the sense that the cost has been taken out. There are some exemptions for fuel but there is a whole lot of power and cost for the carbon tax in the ag sector. We have been lobbying for specific pieces of that to be gone, but we were looking for more than just pieces. We needed help in the ag sector — that carbon tax is a really brutal piece and it’s not money that’s rebated it’s just gone.”
Shields also talked about how he disagrees with the method the federal government used to craft this budget, with them primarily focusing on promises and spending.
“Well, I think they have made a lot of promises. We’ve seen the show before where they made lots of promises spent all the money but they didn’t focus on the results. So it’s a budget again with promises but not to focus on the re- sults, and I think that’s critical in the sense of spending money.”
An example of this attitude of making promises and spending without focusing on results was illustrated when Shields talked about the budget’s approach on giving money to municipalities for housing development.
“They’re saying $4 billion to municipalities to reduce red tape for getting housing built. How does giving money to municipalities reduce red tape to build houses? Money in the budget is going to be allocated. I’m not sure how across the country but what is it to reducing red tape for housing to be built? That one confuses me, it’s not a results written spending it’s just saying we’re going to spend $4 billion that just somehow makes houses get built by giving it to municipalities. It’s not results driven and that’s a problem for me.”
Shields also said in regards to municipal- ities of how they were supposed to hear about the retroactive payment on the RCMP contracts but nothing about that was in the budget.
“We had lobbied hard. I had worked, as many MPs have, on the retroactive pay for RCMP contracts that was negotiated from 2016 to now. Municipalities were not part of that negotiation. Yet, the retroactive pay coming in and there’s been some indications that we would hear about that in the budget but it wasn’t there. So that’s a huge concern.”
Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Taber Times