MP Nathan Cullen says Prime Minister Harper’s first Conservative budget misses the mark on several critical issues.
He is especially disappointed in the funding for childcare. “We drew a line in the sand a month ago and said we want real child care spaces,” he said of the New Democratic Party’s priorities for the budget.
He thinks the $1,200 a year now promised to parents with children under six will not go even half way to cover the cost of child care. According to the NDP, fewer than one in five children have access to quality child care and the party called for the Conservatives to create 20,000 new childcare spaces by 2010.
The childcare dollars offered are taxed as income, and with the $250 a year child supplement eliminated, Mr. Cullen estimates the amount actually comes closer to $400 a year. “Forty or fifty bucks a month for child care,” he says.
Mr. Cullen says Mike Harris in Ontario tried a similar initiative a number of years ago and the result was that not one new childcare space was created.
Mr. Cullen, who is the environment critic, says the budget is a total disaster in that regard.
“It’s like these guys have been living in a cave for the past 40 years,” he says.
The budget gives billions in tax cuts to oil and gas companies and with no plan to combat pollution or climate change will prove devastating for the environment, he says.
“On the environment, this budget is more than a missed opportunity, it is a fundamentally irresponsible squandering of a huge surplus,” said Mr. Cullen.
As for the Conservatives “Made in Canada” climate change plan, he says, “Where is it?”
“During the campaign the Conservatives said they had a climate change plan, now they say we need a year of consultation,” said Mr. Cullen.
Mr. Cullen also hopes to see money set aside to fulfill the Federal government’s commitment the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement. Private investment dollars are now hinging on the $30-million federal commitment.
He is also watching the $591-million committed to the Liberal-initiated Pacific Gateway Initiative, and wants to make sure the northwest gets a fair share.
As for fish, the only notable mention in the budget was a change to inheritance tax, which means when a fisherman passes his boat on to his children, they don’t have to pay tax.
Ten million dollars were also earmarked for fish farms on the east coast, but nothing for salmon or Department of Fisheries reform, says Mr. Cullen.
All in all, Mr. Cullen said, the NDP shortened their shopping list of budget priorities in order to make the new government work, but this isn’t a budget they can support.
He says in terms of savings for Canadians, the new tax credits in the budget serve the accountants more than anyone else. There will be more special forms to fill out and more lines on income tax returns.
“Tax returns will be more complicated to file,” he said.
But the Conservatives have cut a deal with the Bloc Quebecois, meaning the budget will likely squeak through the House.
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