Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht had one word to describe his thoughts on the federal budget, announced in Ottawa on Tuesday: Disappointed.
Titled Growing the Middle Class, the 2016 federal spending plan includes heavy investment in arts, lowering the retirement age, making changes to child tax benefits, reduce the Employment Insurance waiting period and new funding to the CBC.
Although the projected deficit is nearly three times as high as promised in the Liberal campaign, from $10 billion to $29.4 billion, and with no apparent plan to repay the debt, Albrecht says there are still a couple of things in there that he approves of, especially as they apply to this area.
“The Waterloo Region has always been a leader in the high tech sector and in technology, and there is money in the budget for IT clusters in a four-year commitment of $800 million,” he said. “It isn’t a lot, but it is a good start.”
Even with investment in tech, Albrecht says there are still some things he believes are missing – commitments made on the campaign that are nowhere to be seen in the 2016 budget. Namely, increased GO Transit.
Similar to comments made by MPP Michael Harris regarding the provincial budget, a campaign promise around infrastructure and transportation investments was not included. This isn’t a unique situation, says Albrecht.
“I am a little disappointed that Waterloo Region didn’t come out better in terms of the infrastructure follow-through. Very clearly in the campaign, the Liberals said they would invest in the two-way all-day GO train between Kitchener and Toronto. Well, this has been put on the backburner,” he said. “In fact, a lot of the infrastructure spending in this budget doesn’t even start until five years from now. It is a very small amount up front. There is a huge backlog here.”
In the vein of broken promises, Albrecht says he isn’t pleased to see that taxes for small- and medium-sized business isn’t being reduced. Something interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose pointed out in her official statement in response to the budget.
“They are the backbone of Canada. Small and medium size enterprises are the backbone of our economy. When you reduce taxes, it might seem like a small amount, but I was a small business owner for 25 years with my dental practice and only five employees. When you start taking the cost of running that small business, it many times can hamper you from hiring that additional person, or expanding your resources,” said Albrecht.
Not everything in the budget is negative, however, says Albrecht. Despite his overall disappointment, there are some investments announced on Tuesday afternoon that he sees as valuable investments into the future of the country – with a few stipulations.
“There is increased funding for post-secondary education in grants and loans, and I think that is a good thing,” he said.“But you have always have to temper this and ask where is the money coming from and how is it going to be paid back? Like it is fine to support that sector now, and we need to, but lets not create a situation that reduces students’ chances of getting a good job once they graduate. If we drive business away with deficits and high taxes, we could actually be counterproductive. But I am happy with the investment in education, for sure.”
Albrecht also has a message for his constituents: Take a closer look at the country’s finances.
“I think they should take a second look at some of the unrealistic promises that were made, and promises that were broken,” he said. “You go from $10 billion to $29.4 billion in deficits. This is money that you and I, our kids and grandkids are going to have to pay back. This increases our debt. This is money that could be invested far better in other ways, whether it is infrastructure, or more importantly, infrastructure that is going to create long term jobs.”
Next for Albrecht is just spreading the message of his displeasure with the Liberal spending plan over the next year.
“Well, I am going to continue to point out the fact that these are broken promises. Certainly, they have another budget next year,” he said. “Hopefully, in the meantime, the liberal government will hear loud and clear, not just from opposition members, but also from some of the people that voted for them, and say,‘hey, this isn’t what you promised us.’”