Federal budget forgets families and First Nations: Bagnell

Financially strapped Yukon families won't get any help from the new, proposed federal budget, says Yukon MP Larry Bagnell.

Financially strapped Yukon families won’t get any help from the new, proposed federal budget, says Yukon MP Larry Bagnell.

Bagnell walked into Parliament for the budget announcement on Tuesday hoping to cross 18 wishes off his list.

But in the end there were three or four.

And they were only small, he said.

“It wasn’t nearly sufficient,” said Bagnell. “There were a lot of big things needed.”

There was very little money for childcare, students or seniors, he said.

“I don’t think Yukon families that are in a tight pinch for many reasons right now will feel any better after this particular budget,” he said. “There were some things for the North which were good but major items were missing.”

There was no money for programs and organizations that had to shut their doors when the Aboriginal Healing Foundation dried up. This affects the Committee for Abuse in Residential School – a Whitehorse drop-in for residential school survivors – which has been struggling month-to-month and has written numerous letters to territorial, First Nation and federal politicians.

“It was embarrassing, almost, that there was so little for aboriginal people,” said Bagnell. “Every budget in the past, no matter which party was in, had hundreds of millions of dollars for aboriginal catch-up and improvements to aboriginal programs. Here there was only about $30 million and a lot of it is for repairing oil tanks for diesel fuel in the communities.”

And while it doesn’t expire until next year, there was absolutely no mention about the Northern Health Accord, which is extremely important to all three territories as it pays for things like medevac expenses, said Bagnell.

Some things that did make the budget, for the North specifically, include finishing the Dempster Highway all the way to the Arctic Ocean, from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk.

And $4 million, over two years, will go to the Northern Pipeline Agency so it can consult with northern First Nations about the Alaska Highway gas pipeline.

Nine million dollars was tagged for adult literacy and education in northern colleges and universities, and $4.2 million will go to judges and prosecutors in Nunavut.

Two projects stood out as excellent expenses, said Bagnell.

They are the $8 million for northern aboriginal clean energy projects and the $400 million across the country to extend the Eco-energy Retrofit Homes program that offers rebates to energy-efficient homes.

All across Canada, climate change adaptation programs were set to expire in a few days. They have been given $58 million.

And the exploration tax credit for mining companies in the territory was also set to expire, but after Bagnell spoke directly with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the program has been extended for one more year.

But even with these positives, Bagnell confirmed that his party would not be supporting the bill.

“What makes the budget a little suspect is that they didn’t even talk about the biggest items,” said Bagnell. “Billions of dollars for jails, the $30 billion for fighter jets, the $6 billion for corporate tax cuts. They didn’t talk about that in their speech at all.”

And it doesn’t sound like any of the other opposition parties will be supporting the budget either, he said.

The Harper government only needs one opposition party to support the budget in order to pass it and stave off an election.

But that seems highly doubtful, said Bagnell.

“It’s likely that Friday might be the day when the government will fall,” he said.

The budget rang in with total spending at $278.7 billion – which includes $33 billion in debt payments.

The total debt is gauged at $586 billion, up nearly $30 billion from last year.

The projected deficit is standing at $29.6 billion, with hopes of a balanced budget by 2015.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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