Clearing up our stance on budget

By John Rafferty
One of the toughest tasks of my new job as a member of Parliament is cutting through the noise and clutter that sometimes dominates national media coverage, and which requires me to set the record straight about where I stand on some issues.
This week it seems that I need to address some of the confusion about where I and the New Democratic Party caucus stand on the upcoming federal budget.
A few of the media outlets around the country recently—and falsely—had reported that NDP leader Jack Layton has said our caucus already has decided to vote against the upcoming budget. This is simply not true.
The truth is that Jack, NDP finance critic Thomas Mulcair, and other appointed spokespeople from our party have stated that it is “unlikely” that our caucus will be voting for the budget. However, not voting for something and possibly voting for something are two very different things.
The fact is that I remain quite open to voting for the budget. Recently, I held eight separate meetings across the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding to discuss what you would like to see in the budget document. Following the meetings, I sent a summary of the ideas you brought forth to Mr. Mulcair, who then brought them directly to the finance minister during a private consultation they had earlier this month.
The ball is now firmly in the finance minister’s court. He must present a budget that directly addresses the needs of the people of Thunder Bay-Rainy River if he wants my support, but I would be lying if I said that I expect him to rise to the occasion.
I say this because it was just 13 weeks ago that the prime minister stated that the country would avoid a recession and that his government would maintain a budgetary surplus in 2009 and beyond.
It took the threat of parliamentary defeat to make Mr. Harper finally come clean on how bad things really are, but I still doubt whether Mr. Harper or Mr. Flaherty truly understand the extent of the challenges facing our economy and the people of our riding.
When the time comes, my decision about whether or not to support this budget will be determined by its contents and whether or not I believe this government is capable of working with other parties to get us through these tough times.
So despite what you’ve read in some national media outlets, that is really where things are at when it comes to the budget–it’s still possible that I and the NDP caucus will vote in support of it, but we’re not confident that it will be a document worthy of our support.
Thank you, again, for taking the time to get caught up on things. I also appreciate all of you who took the time to attend one of the consultations or who wrote to my office to express your concerns.
I will be sure to keep you up to date as things develop in the coming days and weeks.

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