The Liberals released the first federal budget in two years on Monday, which pledges billions in spending amid COVID-19 to address childcare, climate change, and while plotting an economic path forward.
However, Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison panned the budget plan, and argued that it doesn’t contain enough measures to support a Canada-wide economic recovery, is short on details for a national vaccination strategy, and ignores the energy and mining sector.
“The government had two years to get this right,” said Morrison. “It’s the largest spending in the history of Canada. Yes, we really thought they were going to have, and expected, a plan to accelerate vaccination so that we can have a business recovery plan so we can get people back to work.
“We didn’t get it. There was no plan for long-term spending, they just didn’t have a plan for that. We’re trying to re-open the border; there was nothing in there about that.”
The Liberal budget tabled by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will invest $101 billion over three years for economic recovery measures, including $30 billion for a national childcare system, extending emergency wage subsidies and lockdown supports and increasing sick benefits.
Further initiatives include supports for small and medium-sized businesses through programs that will enable expensing up to $1.5 million in capital investments, establishing a $15 minimum federal wage, investing $17.6 billion for green recovery measures, and $18 billion for Indigenous communities.
“This budget is about finishing the fight against COVID-19,” said Freeland, in a news release. “It’s about healing the wounds left by the COVID-19 recession. And it’s about creating more jobs and prosperity for Canadians in the days—and decades—to come.”
Morrison lamented a lack of direction from government to address the significant scale, and fiscal consequences, of massive pandemic-related spending. According to the budget document, the 2021/2022 federal deficit sits at $354.2 billion, while the federal debt has eclipsed $1 trillion with a debt-to-GDP ratio at 49 per cent.
“What this is, is spending 100 billion and throwing money, sprinkling it all over the place with no long-term strategy, which is something we needed,” Morrison said.
He noted there wasn’t any mention of energy and mining sector, given the industry’s economic impact from the Elk Valley coal mines and the Kootenay-Columbia riding’s connections to the Alberta oilsands.
“That was not in there and we were really hoping to have that,” Morrison said.
In separate statements, Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole said the budget “does next to nothing to secure the Canadian economy” while NDP leader Jagmeet Singh slammed the budget and said the NDP “had to force him [Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] to do better” when addressing emergency relief throughout the pandemic.
The Liberals are governing as a minority, meaning it needs additional support to pass through Parliament as a confidence measure. If the budget fails to pass a 170-vote threshold, it could potentially trigger a federal election.
Going forward, Morrison says the Conservative Party has put forward a motion with a few changes and will hold a caucus meeting on Wednesday to determine the next steps.
“It’s going to take a while to digest this and we’ll talk about it tomorrow and then get a plan of where we’re going to go from here,” Morrison said.
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