Still sour notes in budget for MP

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said he is still disappointed with the federal government’s budget, which they released last week.

  • Jun. 14, 2011 3:00 p.m.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said he is still disappointed with the federal government’s budget, which they released last week.

Considering the original draft of the budget, which was released prior to the last federal election, he said it’s mostly the same this time through.

“The budget that came out didn’t really put all that much together that is different than last time,” said Cullen.

Of note, he said concessions the Conservatives made on pension changes haven’t gone far enough for what the Official Opposition would like to see.

He said that their pension strategy still leaves “far too many seniors below the poverty line.”

In the budget document available on the Government of Canada’s website, the government said that seniors and pensioners will receive approximately $2.3 billion in additional targeted tax relief for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

For 2011, the government says a senior can earn at least $19,064, and a senior couple can earn at least $38,128, before paying federal income tax.

Cullen has concerns over other areas of the budget, including health care funding.

“Loan forgiveness for some doctors and nurses is not going to get us to where we need to go,” he said. “We needed to see the creation of more seats and spaces. Traininig more doctors and nurses. That was clearly called for by Canadians.”

Cullen was referring to the budget’s promise to combat the shortage of health care professionals in rural and remote communities. Under their plan, the government will forgive a portion of Canada Student Loans for new family physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses that practise in under-served rural or remote communities.

The loan forgiveness provides up to $8,000, per year, for a maximum of $40,000. Nurses will receive up to $4,000 a year to a maximum of $20,000.

It wasn’t all bad news, he said. He said the NDP are pleased with the announcement that $400 million is going to the ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes program, that will support homeowners making their houses more energy efficient. Details were sparse on the program and the government said details will come in the near future.

That program is one that the NDP had been after the Conservatives to include, said Cullen.

He also praised a plan proposed in the budget to allow Ridley Terminals, a federal Crown corporation in Prince Rupert, to be able to expand thanks to allowances that it can borrow from capital markets.

All in all, though, he thinks the overall tone of the budget may suggest a situation in Canada that doesn’t exist.

“For those of us in the Northwest of B.C. and many parts of Canada, the recession is not over. We’re still missing a few hundred thousand people from the job market,” he said, saying that he thinks there’s a tone in the budget that the recession is in the past.