Cautious optimism for MP about federal budget

Par Raymond Berthiaume
Cautious optimism for MP about federal budget
MP on budget

“I’m happy to see the future of where we’re going,” said Drouin, during a phone interview April 5.

The 2023 federal budget announced last month includes $43 billion in new spending programs over the next six years with its main priority targets as health care, fostering a “greener” economy for Canada, and helping make life “more affordable” for Canadians. Critics of the new budget complain that it does not include either new money or plans to deal with the issue of affordable housing that is becoming a growing concern for many municipalities or more funding help for dealing with aging municipal infrastructure like roads.

Drouin noted that previous federal budgets have set up programs dealing with those issues and that those programs are still in place.

“There is going to be accelerated funding,” Drouin said, for affordable housing programs. “There are funds that are available. But municipalities will have to step up and mandate how those projects go ahead.”

The MP indicated that municipal governments must be more active in dealing with developers on creating more affordable housing units within their communities. He cited as one example that local government could require developers to guarantee a specific percentage of affordable housing units as part of a new residential project during the municipal planning and approval phase.

Drouin noted that the federal government has to be cautious about how it delegates funding aid to avoid creating an artificial economy that is dependent on senior government money.

“We have to be careful not to inject too much money into the economy,” he said, “as it could cause inflation.”

The MP observed that Canada still has a Triple-A international credit rating, which is a sign of confidence in the country’s economic performance and financial management.

“Overall, we are in a much better financial shape than the U.S.,” Drouin said, “or many other G20 states.”

Positive budget items

Drouin noted several items in the 2023 budget that will benefit residents and businesses in the Glengarry-Prescott-Riding. They include a one-time increase in the GST rebate this year. Nicknamed “the grocery rebate” because it is meant to help offset the impact inflation has had on the cost of many food items, it means up to $467 in GST rebate for families, $234 for singles, and up to $235 for seniors.

“That is a positive measure,” said Drouin.

The MP also indicated that the agriculture sector will get some help with lowering production costs. The 2023 budget includes plans to reimburse farmers for the tariff they pay for fertilizer for their operations. The federal government is also working with the Dairy Farmers of Ontario on a variety of compensation plans. That includes adding $32 million to the $300 million of federal spending already dedicated to programs that assist the dairy industry on production costs.

“Milk has to go somewhere,” said Drouin, adding that the St-Albert Cheese Factory is one regional business that could benefit from the new funding provided through the federal budget.

“There are also dollars for tourism,” he said. “We have a lot of (local) businesses that are dependent on the tourism sector.

The 2023 budget includes $130 million through the Federal Development agency (FedDev) to support existing and new tourism projects.

The MP also indicated that the government negotiated a 27-per-cent reduction in the interchange fees that Visa and Mastercard charge small businesses. Drouin said that will help lower the operation costs for many local businesses.

Health and dental

The federal budget includes $3.6 billion in new money during the 2023-2024 fiscal year for health care. That includes Stage Two of the federal dental care plan worked out through an agreement between the Liberals and the NDP. The program launch last year provided dental care assistance for children under the age of 12 from low-income families. Stage Two expands that coverage to Canadians under the age of 18, people with disabilities, and seniors.

The expanded support program will be in full operation by 2025. Drouin promised to monitor how the expanded program operates during that time. He noted that some low-income families and individuals have to deal with tight budgets for food, hydro, home heating, and other expenses. He agreed that any dental care assistance program that required “up-front payments” first for dental care bills with federal rebates at a later date would be no benefit for many low-income families.

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