The recently-released federal budget has bad news for Yukoners, says Dennis Bevington, the NDP’s critic for the North.
That’s especially the case for residents in their early-to mid-50s who don’t have a plum pension to depend on. In one decade, Ottawa plans to extend the retirement age by two years, from 65 to 67, for recipients of Old Age Security, a benefit worth more than $6,000 annually.
“There are many people in the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut in their early 50s right now who are seasonal workers, without big pension buildup, who may be working in very strenuous, outdoor activities, that are really going to be hit hard by this,” said Bevington, the MP for the Western Arctic.
It remains to be seen how the federal government’s plan to trim $5.2 billion over three years will affect federal agencies and departments. But Bevington worries the North’s services will suffer, from park maintenance to aviation inspections.
The CBC is facing a 10 per cent pay cut over three years. That may well affect regional programming, said Bevington.
A big chunk of money for Indian and Northern Affairs is earmarked to improve education on First Nation reserves. As the Yukon doesn’t have reserves, that money is unlikely to make its way to the territory, said Bevington.
Federal health transfers are also set to slow. Expect fewer health benefits as a result, said Bevington.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants individual provinces and territories to decide for themselves how to deliver health services. That’s a break from past efforts to ensure Canadians enjoy the same level of care across the country, said Bevington.
“That’s abdicating responsibility,” he said.
Federal reviews of big development projects, like pipelines, are to be streamlined, with reviews capped at 24 months. But sluggish federal reviews are the result of inadequate funding, said Bevington.
Ottawa aims to return to the black one year earlier – by 2015. This year’s budget contains no tax changes, but Bevington faults previous corporate tax cuts for the hole the government is now digging itself out of.
A recent list of Canada’s most profitable companies, compiled by Maclean’s magazine, consists almost entirely of financial firms and oil and gas companies, said Bevington.
“We’re cutting taxes for these guys and pushing down on the little guys,” he said. “It’s really ridiculous.”
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