It was by the skin of their teeth but the Conservatives balanced the budget today. Finance Minister, Joe Oliver, dug through coat pockets and beneath couch cushions to return Canada to a surplus of $1.4 billion this year. This was partially accomplished by whittling down the contingency fund. In previous years $3 billion was set aside for contingency but this year just $1 billion was tucked away for a rainy day emergency. Canadians get to spend $288.9 billion between 2015 and 2016.
In his opening comments Oliver proclaimed, “For generations Canadian families have understood the path to prosperity. We don’t compromise tomorrow by spending recklessly today. We don’t pile on debt we can’t afford and we invest sensibly for a secure future. For governments the principles are the same. We have been prudent, we have been practical and we have stuck to our plan. I am proud to announce that this budget is balanced.”
On balancing the budget Sault Ste. Marie Member of Parliament, Bryan Hayes, commented, “It was tough considering the major slide in oil prices but I’m pleased that with what we’ve done and I’m pleased with what Mr. Oliver had to say today.”
Below is a Q & A between Mr. Hayes and the Northern Hoot following the Conservative government’s release of the 2015 Federal Budget.
Northern Hoot: In previous years the government allotted $3 billion for contingency. Balancing the budget meant decreasing that line by $2 billion leaving just $1 billion for unforeseen needs. Is this enough?
Hayes: I don’t think that’s a question I can answer. You don’t what the economy will hold. We know we’re moving forward with a balanced budget but there will be some stipulations that will be defined if there is a major economic crisis. It really depends on the state of the economy.
Northern Hoot: Critics of the budget are suggesting that the Conservative’s haven’t released an economic plan today but rather a political strategy. How would you respond to the suggestion?
Hayes: The people suggesting that are the opposition. My response to that is if you look at the government’s record since 2006 we have done everything that we said that we would do and specifically when we formed a majority government in 2011 when I became a Member of Parliament. When I go knocking on doors, I’m going to be very comfortable saying ‘promises made, promises kept’. Now we are out with our new budget and it’s based on what Canadians asked for. This was done through significant consultation across the country and were bringing forward what Canadians have asked for. I’m going to be very comfortable campaigning on that.
Northern Hoot: The government today really established that it’s for lowering taxes.
Hayes: Absolutely. Since forming government we’ve reduced tax 180 times and with the measures that we introduce with today’s budget- the average family of four will be paying about $6,600 less in tax then they did in 2006 when we formed government.
Northern Hoot: Where does that come from?
Hayes: It’s an accumulation of tax cuts that includes a reduction in GST from six percent to five percent and we’ve also improved family tax benefits. At the end of the year you’ll see that it’s an accumulation of a number of adjustments to improve the economic stability for families.
Northern Hoot: There seems to be a lot of opportunity for the business sector in regard to lower taxes.
Hayes: Yes we believe in low tax plan for jobs and growth and we believe that for our business community. They are the ones that fuel the economy. We are decreasing small business taxes, albeit not fully until 2019, but we are reducing taxes from 11% to 9% and that’s significant for our small business communities. We’re also doing some decent tax things for our larger manufacturing firms as well with respect to accelerated capital cost allowance where were increasing that to a ten year period. What that does is give our manufactures incentive to invest.
Northern Hoot: You’ve announced that 360 million dollars will be applied to addressing ISIS concerns. How much of this money is directed to security on homeland?
Hayes: I’m not one hundred percent sure but I believe that is specific to the deployment of the Canadian Armed Forces. There is different national security money to be put aside for countering terrorism to provide resources to RCMP and Canadian Intelligence Services and Canada Border Services Agency. I do think it is also important for our Armed Forces that we’re going to increase funding by 12 billion dollars over the next 10 years to ensure that they have the resources that they need to do what Canadians ask of them.
Northern Hoot: Many people are asking why there hasn’t been any money designated toward climate change or the environment.
Hayes: I would suggest that were the first government in the history of Canada where you see greenhouse gas reductions. And right now we’re undergoing a sector by sector review and we believe that this is the proper approach. There are already strict environmental measures and funding in place for the environment. As a government we believe in balance between job creation and the environment. The environment is the responsibility of the federal government, the Ontario government and the private sector. It’s a partnership. If they didn’t add additional money then it was felt that what is happening with the funds and resources that we’re putting into it is appropriate.
Northern Hoot: Middle class families are struggling more than ever and personal debt is at an all-time high. Tax free saving amounts are nearly doubling from $5,500 per year to $10,000. Is that a benefit to the average Canadian citizen?
Hayes: Suffice it to say, 11 million Canadians have opened a tax free savings account. Half of them earn under $42,000 in a year but they are still opening the account. So even if you can’t max it out this gives you the opportunity to max it out. Even if your family income composition isn’t in a state where you can do this now- well family incomes change. I used to be a janitor and now I’m a Member of Parliament. So circumstances change. If a person can max it out now it doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to max it out eventually. Seniors who can’t contribute to an RRSP after a certain age, well this is an opportunity for them to earn tax-free income to provide for themselves for the future. So I think this is a great initiative. We’ve also increased the child care expense deduction by $1,000 and that’s important. As well, we’ve introduced a tax credit to allow seniors to make modifications to their own home so that they can live in their home longer when they become more elderly or disabled. It’s a tax credit of up to 15% up to $10,000 for home renovations. That’s pretty significant. It think we all realize the longer an individual stays in their own home the more efficient it is for the system. This is something that seniors asked for and I’m really proud that our government has brought that forward.
Northern Hoot: Where are we going to see an impact for small business in Sault Ste. Marie?
Hayes: Well, small businesses are the backbone of our community. So you’re going to see them in a couple of places. You’re going to see changes in the harmonization of apprenticeship training. There is 65 million dollars over four years to better align the curriculum of post-secondary institutions with the needs of employers. I think that’s important. There is a significant amount of money going into innovation and technology. We believe that is the wave of the future so were providing $1.5 billion over five years to advance the science technology and innovation strategy. We’re supporting the auto sector through innovation programs. There are suppliers in the Sault that supply the auto sector. We’ve developed an automotive supplier innovation program with an investment of $100 million dollars over the next 5 years. We talk about the accelerated capital cost allowance- that’s a job creator for our manufacturers. We’re enhancing financial assistance for students through the Canada Student Loans and Grants Program. We’re providing more money for training and internships. All of that is about job growth. And the other area with job growth is enhancing our abilities for trade. We have put together a Creating an Export Market Development Program to share the financial costs with Canadian businesses as they explore and pursue new export opportunities around the world. These are all part of the job creation measures.
Northern Hoot: How does the budget impact the proposed Port of Algoma development?
Hayes: The new budget really reinforced our Build Canada Plan and that’s where the Port will be funded from. It’s the longest and largest federal infrastructure commitment in our countries history. That’s $75 billion over ten years. There’s a component in that plan called the P3 fund. That will be the area where the Port will be eligible for funding.
Northern Hoot: When do you expect the new program between Canadian and American Customs will get underway, with American personnel operating on our side of the bridge to inspect cargo on trucks?
Hayes: Obviously that can’t happen until our Canada Border Service infrastructure is completed. This is all part of the Beyond Borders plan that was signed between Obama and the Prime Minister. But I believe the final phase of the tender, if it hasn’t been awarded will be very soon. And that’s the most significant piece of the tender.
Northern Hoot: Do you foresee anything in the upcoming budget that may show an impact on the Canadian dollar- positive or negative?
Hayes: I don’t know what has been predicted in terms of where the Canadian dollar will be. Obviously a low Canadian dollar is terrific for our manufacturing community and it’s fantastic for our tourism community. I’ve seen some speculation in terms of tourism increase in Sault Ste. Marie and a lot of Canadians staying home to do their travel. I don’t know how that has been factored in but in my point of view there are some pros to a low Canadian dollar, although our buying power is certainly less. I think right now my more immediate concern is the price of oil.
Northern Hoot: Do you anticipate oil prices stabilizing? What of concerns for locals employed with Tenaris?
Hayes: I have heard different points of view. I’ve heard that there is an anticipation of six months but I’ve also heard that the government doesn’t anticipate stabilization for another two years. It’s got to be really difficult for producers of pipe and other products that are dependent on the oil sector. I think that’s why during this lull that it is important that manufacturers continue to invest in innovation and efficiencies. It will eventually turn around.
Northern Hoot: Is there anything else that you wanted to add?
Hayes: Yes. I think it’s important to mention compassionate care benefits. Before, if you were caring for a family member that was ill or injured, EI would only pay you six weeks worth of benefits but we’ve increased that to six months of compassionate care benefits. I think that was the right thing to do.
Concluding the interview Hayes summarized his thoughts about the budget.
“Overall this is a pretty balanced budget that I think hits most places of the economy in a favourable way. I think families and seniors will be happy. I think it addresses some of our security concerns. And it addresses job creation as well as infrastructure and it’s all done without creating new taxes. I think there are good little nuggets in here. For some folks to say that this is an election year budget, well this is a conservative budget. We have presented good things all along the way and this is another good budget for Canadians. That’s the way I view it.”
Below is a press release issued by the office of MP Bryan Hayes.
April 21, 2015
MP Bryan Hayes: ECONOMIC ACTION PLAN 2015 Demonstrates commitment to jobs, Growth, & Security in Sault Ste. Marie
Ottawa, ON – Member of Parliament Bryan Hayes is welcoming the Harper Government’s Economic Action Plan 2015. It will support jobs and growth in Sault Ste. Marie as well as help our families and communities prosper and ensure the security of all Canadians.
“We have kept our promise to Canadians by balancing the budget in 2015, the first balanced budget since the Great Recession.”
“Under our leadership, Canada has created over 1.2 million new jobs since the recession, but we live in uncertain times and the global economy remains fragile.” said MP Hayes. “That’s why Economic Action Plan 2015 will continue our Government’s focus on creating more jobs and growing the economy in Sault Ste. Marie and across the country.”
Economic Action Plan 2015 includes key measures to support Sault Ste. Marie families and to support the Ontario economy, including:
- Cutting Tax for Small Business: Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to further reduce the small business tax rate down to 9% by 2019. Due to measures taken since we formed government, we have reduced taxes for small businesses by almost 50%.
- Supporting Families: Economic Action Plan 2015 benefits 100% of families with children by lowering taxes and increasing benefits. An average family will receive $6,600 in support per year due to measures our government has introduced.
- Tax Free Savings Account: Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to increase the Tax-Free Savings Account annual contribution limit to $10,000, effective for the 2015 taxation year. There are now 11 million Canadians who have opened accounts to save money for their priorities.
- Supporting Job-Creating Businesses: Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to support manufacturing job across Ontario by providing tax relief for manufacturers and funding the new Automotive Supplier Innovation Program. These initiatives will help create jobs and economic growth for Ontario.
- Public Transit Fund: This fund will grow to $1 billion a year to support major public transit projects to reduce gridlock, create jobs, and protect the environment.
- Supporting Seniors: Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to provide more flexibility for seniors by reducing the minimum withdrawal factors for Registered Retirement Income Funds to permit seniors to preserve more of their retirement savings. Economic Action Plan 2015 also proposes to introduce a new, permanent, non-refundable Home Accessibility Tax Credit for seniors and persons with disabilities.
- National Security: To ensure that our Armed Forces continue to have what they need to accomplish the dangerous tasks Canadians ask of them, Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes increase National Defence’s budget by $11.8 billion over 10 years. We are also providing new funding to help counter violent extremism and terrorism.
While we’re focused on creating jobs, Justin Trudeau has the same old Liberal high tax, high debt agenda that will threaten jobs and set working families back. Meanwhile, the NDP continues to push risky high-tax schemes like a $20 billion carbon tax that would hurt Canada’s economy and kill Canadian jobs. Only our Conservative Government can be trusted to manage Canada’s economy and keep taxes low for the people of Sault Ste. Marie.
The Province of Ontario will receive record high transfer payments to support health care, education, and social programs. Specifically, Ontario will receive $20.4B in federal transfers this year – an increase of $9.6B (or 88%) from under the old Liberal government.
“We are proud of our plan that is lowering taxes and providing benefits directly to families in Sault Ste. Marie for them to reinvest in the Canadian economy,” says MP Bryan Hayes.