North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney isn’t giving the federal budget a passing grade.
In its first budget in two years the Liberal government put childcare front and centre.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced more than $30-billion for the start of a national child care program by cutting child care costs in half by the end of 2022.
That will include $10 a day for child care by 2025.
But Blaney, who is an NDP MP, is not ready to congratulate the government on its childcare announcements, just yet.
“I’ve talked to many constituents about the challenges that they have just because sometimes their childcare is just as much or more than their rent or their mortgage payment,” Blaney said.
“The Liberals have been promising a national childcare program since 1993. Until all parents in my riding have access to the affordable childcare they need, this is just another promise we will try to hold them to.”
Another important issue Blaney raised was poverty among seniors.
The budget includes another one-time $500 payment, and a 10 percent increase to Old Age Security, but only for those over 75 years old.
Blaney says this doesn’t help enough people: “Not only does this policy fail to target the seniors in most need, (but) it (also) seems to tell those between 65 and 74 that they should just get a job.”
And while she’s pleased to see an additional $1 billion over six years for the Universal Broadband Fund to bring modern internet speeds to more communities and $700 million for the new regional economic development agencies, Blaney says the details of where and when that money will be spent will be key.
“I will be continuing to push the government to ensure this money actually gets spent in our communities where and when they need it.”
Meanwhile, other highlights of the 2021 budget include an extension of all the big federal COVID-19 support programs including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy as well as the Emergency Rent Subsidy until September.
Blaney says that while many small businesses will be relieved to hear the wage subsidy and rent subsidy programs extended to Sept. 25th, she points out that they are still unable to plan past that date, “with no guarantee that the economy will be able to open fully by then.”
“Especially for our tourism and seasonal businesses, they don’t just need help this summer, they need help to survive until next summer,” said Blaney.
“The Liberals are continuing to offer small businesses the bare minimum, and we will continue to fight for them to do better.”
There will also be an increase to the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. As well, Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits will be extended from 15 to 26 weeks.
The financial blueprint also provides $5-billion for projects that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Net Zero Accelerator.
However, one key aspect that Blaney says the Trudeau Liberals failed to address was universal Pharmacare.
“This is something that I heard from constituents across the riding, about not being able to afford their medication,” Blaney said. “And what that means is they’re not taking their medication or they’re taking half their medication, and in and out of hospitals in some cases. It’s not good for any of when people aren’t taking their medication.”
Overall, Blaney believes the federal budget has failed to deliver on the needs of our region.
“This budget was an important opportunity to support Canadians through the pandemic and set the stage for our recovery,” said Blaney. “Yet rural and remote regions like ours are not seeing an equitable distribution of funds. Too many Canadians are being left out again while the ultra-rich continue (to) get a free ride.”
Analysis and debate on the 700-page budget will continue in the coming hours and days.