Throne speech gives balance: Nault

Last week’s speech from the throne by new Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson shows the federal government’s “balanced approach” to social spending and tax reduction, local MP Robert Nault said Friday.
But Ontario NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton said the federal Liberals still come up short in the areas of health care and education funding.
Last week’s throne speech outlined broad-based tax cuts for Canadians, plus increased social spending in areas like the National Child Tax benefit and extending maternity leave from six month to a year, taking close to $1 billion out of the Employment Insurance funds.
“We don’t look at them as spending more money, we look at them as investing in the future, investing in our children,” said Nault, also the minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in the Chrétien government.
“We believe it will be beneficial to the child in the long run having their parents at home for a longer period of time. These are trade-offs that you have to make believing you’ll have benefits in the long run,” he stressed.
Another big item in the throne speech was the commitment to a national infrastructure program, which would see improvements done on the physical and information highways to make Canada the most “connected country in the world.”
“This is going to have a direct impact on Northern Ontario,” Nault said, with improved telecommunication capabilities.
“We’re [also] convinced there will be a national highways policy,” he added. “Some people will suggest it’s a $4-$5 billion package over five years, depending on what we can afford and what the provinces can afford.”
Getting this funds also depends on Ottawa being able to maintain the high amounts of revenue it’s been able to generate so far. Nault said one item that will help maintain that is the Canadian United States Platform (CUSP), which is supposed to help facilitate trade and resolve disputes between Canada and the U.S.
“It’s the opportunity to work closer together and open the borders up, make it very easy for people to come across and do business,” he said, such as improving the customs facility between Fort Frances and International Falls.
“I think the folks in our region are ready for it,” Nault remarked. “This is an opportunity I’ve been waiting for for a long time.
“I balanced approach is more suited to Northern Ontario’s needs than the Harris government’s dramatic tax cuts,” he said.
But Hampton said he didn’t see anything in the throne speech about bolstering health care and education funding–two topics which he claims weighs heavily on the minds of northerners.
“I know the Harris government has taken a lot of money out of health care and education but I know the Chrétien LIberals have taken out equal amounts of money [since they were elected],” Hampton said, noting the combined total was about $19 billion.
“A clear commitment on the part of the federal government needs to be done to restore at least another $4 billion a year to health care and an equal amount to our colleges and universities so tuition fees would not continue to rise so dramatically–so that our young people are going to get the education they’re going to need,” he argued.
Hampton also claimed the Liberal economic plan relies heavily on the U.S. economy continuing to grow, and very little on building a more solid Canadian economy.