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‘Fairness for Every Generation’ budget misses the mark — MP Rachel Blaney

North Island-Powell River sees some beneficial parts in federal budget, questions others
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland receives applause from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and other members of the Liberal party after she presented the federal budget in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Though the 2024 federal budget was titled “Fairness for Every Generation,” North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney feels that “it was a lot of stuff on the surface, without really understanding the issues.”

On April 16, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland presented the federal government’s 2024 budget in a speech that covered the highlights of the 430-page document. The budget aims at helping younger generations of Canadians, who Freeland wrote in her forward to the document are feeling the chance to build a good life slip away.

“A fair chance to build a good middle class life—to do as well as your parents, or better—that’s the promise of Canada. For too many, especially for younger Canadians, that promise is at risk,” the document says.

However, Blaney said during an interview that “it feels like they they don’t quite have a vision that will really benefit Millennials and Generation Z in the way that that needs to be addressed.”

The budget specifically looked at three main issues: affordable homes, lowering everyday costs, and growing the economy.

One of the government’s key ideas was the renter’s bill of rights, proposed at the end of March. The budget gives provisions to implement measures from that, including protections against unfair practices, simplifying leases and requiring landlords to disclose previous rent prices. The Liberals have also proposed giving renters the chance to use their on-time rent payments to build their credit score.

“Rents are so expensive that people are struggling to even pay the rent and living in really precarious situations,” Blaney said. “It’s not affordable enough. If you’re paying rent that is often higher than you would have to pay even in a mortgage, how do you find the money to save to buy a house?”

Blaney said that there were some “interesting ideas” around housing, including opening up National Defense land for military and civilian housing projects, as well as using Canada Post buildings to provide more housing. The budget also puts more money into the Housing Accelerator Fund.

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“The challenge, of course is it’s for communities of 10,000 and bigger,” Blaney said. ” So you’ve got smaller communities like ours and many that I represent in the riding going against big cities like Burnaby and Vancouver (for funding.) I know that a lot of small communities are very concerned about that.”

On everyday affordability, the budget document highlights their work on $10-a-day childcare, a plan which was introduced in 2021, as well as the new dental care and pharmacare programs, pushed through as part of the Confidence and Supply agreement with the NDP, as well as investments into communities. Freeland unveiled the plan to give over $2.5 billion back to small businesses under the Canada Carbon Rebate program.

Growing the economy was the third major tenet of the Liberal budget, with Freeland saying “we have a plan that will increase investment, enhance productivity, and encourage the kind of game-changing innovation that will create good-paying and meaningful jobs and keep Canada at the economic forefront.”

Part of that is investing in technologies like AI and electric vehicles. In the days leading up to April 16, the government announced a commitment to Artificial Intelligence computing, to the tune of $2.4 billion.

Blaney acknowledged the need to stay competitive in the Artificial Intelligence market, but said she was worried about AI threatening jobs.

“When I think about this area of AI, I think we also need to be thinking about workforce development,” Blaney said. “There are jobs that are under threat because AI is developing. We need to also think that happy, healthy communities are correlated strongly with work. As AI changes, we need to be looking at that, and I don’t think they’re at that place yet.”

Before the budget was announced, it was speculated that the government would increase taxes for the wealthiest Canadians, and Blaney and the NDP hoped that would include a windfall tax on the high profits seen by oil and gas, and grocery companies.

The budget did include an tax increase for the wealthy in the form of a bump in the capital gains tax. That means that for the first $250,000 in capital gains, half of the profits will be taxed. For anything over that $250,000 threshold, two thirds of the profits will be taxed. This will only be applicable to 0.13 per cent of Canadians. Freeland said that the decision to go with a capital gains tax is to attract investment from outside of Canada.

“We’re in a situation in Canada where people are so desperate, and at the same time we’re seeing a lot of CEOs bringing home substantial amounts of money,” Blaney said. “This is not a budget that is going to limit the accumulation of wealth for the very wealthy … If we’re not holding the people who are making all of that money accountable, then we’re never going to see fairness … what we’ve seen across this country and unfortunately across a lot of the planet is the separation between the ultra-wealthy and every-day people … we have to question a system that does that that is allowing ultra-rich people to keep accumulating all of this well and the people who are working for them are paying way more than their fair share.”

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Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Campbell River Mirror in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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