Budget offers little for region: Boshcoff

No money for forestry, FedNor, or farmers.
That’s the message Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Ken Boshcoff is delivering after the Harper government unveiled its second budget Monday afternoon in the House of Commons.
“There is no financial assistance for our struggling forest sector, no mention of funding to FedNor for economic development in the region, and no financial assistance for farmers across the riding who are suffering from the on-going drought,” Boshcoff said yesterday.
“This budget is yet another indication of a government that is more concerned about electioneering than they are about the long-term success of Canadians,” he added.
“This budget provides little to help low- and middle-income families and seniors.”
“The federal budget does not materially change the prospects for farmers in Canada,” Stewart Well, president of the National Farmers Union, said in a press release Monday.
“It does not signal a course correction for Canadian agricultural policy at a time when it is desperately needed,” he added.
Finance minister Jim Flaherty has proposed a new income stabilization program for farmers by establishing a new savings account program, to be cost-shared 60/40 with the provinces and territories.
“Budget 2007 will provide a one-time payment of $600 million into the new savings accounts, once agreement is reached with provinces and territories and these accounts are established,” the budget document reads.
There also will be an immediate payment of $400 million to help address rising costs of production over the last four years.
“I think the agricultural community has some serious questions about [the government] being able to deliver on farm income and disaster relief,” Boshcoff said.
“There have been no consultations with the provinces or agreement to put that in place,” he added. “The way they’re approaching it could take years.”
Many First Nations leaders also are citing a lack of consideration in the budget.
“First Nations are beyond disappointment,” Assembly of First Nations national chief Phil Fontaine said in a press release.
“We don’t see any reason to believe that the government cares about the shameful conditions of First Nations,” he added.
While Fontaine commended the Conservatives for renewing funding from last year’s budget for market-based housing on-reserve, “the larger question of the pressing need for social housing remains unanswered.”
“Given the build-up to Budget 2007, I was hopeful the Harper government would address the need to close the gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians on a larger scale,” Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy said in a press release.
“It is conspicuously absent,” Boshcoff said, referring to budget provisions to improve the quality of life for First Nations.
“There are some things for job training in some provinces, but the details haven’t been released.
“It’s too nebulous to try and examine,” he added.
There also was no word of funding for education assistants for First Nations’ students—the funding for which was cut earlier this year.
“There was some hope that that would have been addressed,” Boshcoff noted.
The Conservative budget did receive praise from the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), which welcomed initiatives to “enhance the competitiveness of Canada’s manufacturing sector through an accelerated Capital Cost Allowance [CCA].”
“Generally, Canada’s capital cost allowance system allows businesses to write off their investments in manufacturing equipment over roughly seven years,” Flaherty explained in his budget speech Monday.
“Accelerated capital cost allowances permit a faster write-off to encourage economic investment and to create jobs,” he added.
This budget will allow manufacturers to write-off their new investments in equipment over a two-year period, “resulting in $1.3 billion in tax savings for our job creators over the next three fiscal years,” Flaherty noted.
“The changes to the CAA announced [Monday] will enable manufacturers across Canada to respond to the higher value of the Canadian dollar and other challenges by encouraging investment in capital renewal and innovation,” said Avrim Lazar, president and CEO of FPAC.
Presumably, this write-off will apply to investments such as the biomass boiler announced for the local Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. mill last week.
The government also has budgeted to further reduce the national debt by $9.2 billion, with the interest savings to be returned to Canadians in the form of personal tax cuts.
“Their highly-exaggerated tax relief for hard-working Canadians works out to a mere $80 per tax payer,” Boshcoff warned.
“The government is turning its back on the majority of hard-working Canadians with a list of tax gimmicks that sound good but amount to little,” he charged.
Both the Liberals and the NDP have said they will not support the budget.
“The NDP will not be supporting this budget. As it stands, it does not address the prosperity gap,” said John Rafferty, the federal NDP candidate for Thunder Bay-Rainy River.
The budget clearly was drafted to provide something for everyone, and to win enough support to pass in the House of Commons, he noted.
“He put enough in there to fight an election off,” Rafferty added.
The Bloc Quebecois is the only opposition party to declare it will support the Tory budget, which is expected to pass later this week.