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Leef champions federal budget's thin surplus

There's something in this year's federal budget for every Yukoner, says MP Ryan Leef. Finance Minister Joe Olivier announced the budget Tuesday. It projects that the government will eke out a $1.

There’s something in this year’s federal budget for every Yukoner, says MP Ryan Leef.

Finance Minister Joe Olivier announced the budget Tuesday. It projects that the government will eke out a $1.4 billion surplus.

The budget was delayed this year after plunging oil prices forced the Conservatives to rethink their plan. Normally the document would be delivered before April 1.

If achieved, this year will be the first surplus year since 2007.

“It’s great that we’ve achieved balance,” said Leef on the phone from Ottawa yesterday.

“It’s exactly what we committed to in 2011. It’s what I committed to when I was campaigning in 2011, that I would be a part of a government that would find balanced budgets, move toward that, and we did that.”

Few developed nations have achieved that since 2008’s global financial crisis, he said.

“I think it should be a source of pride for Canadians that we’ve continued to weather the global economic crisis and some continuing global economic uncertainty, and provide Canadians with controlled and responsible government spending and balanced budgets.”

Leef said he is particularly proud to see a balanced budget amid record transfer payments to the territory. This budget will see $923 million in total federal transfers to the Yukon.

“Previous Liberal governments that found balanced budgets did so on the backs of the provinces and territories, by cutting transfer payments, and that affected local governments’ ability to deliver health care, it affected local governments’ ability to deliver education programs, social services, and other local needs and priorities,” he said.

“It’s an embarrassment that they did that by affecting local governments.”

Yukoners will be pleased to hear that the federal government has committed to spend $150 million over four years on social housing, Leef said.

In all, Canada will spend $2.3 billion annually on housing investments that focus on a housing-first approach, he said.

“It’s clearly demonstrating that when we give people access to affordable, available housing that they can then start to focus on the other things that will help provide help and opportunity for them.”

The budget also promises a reduction in the small business tax rate, from 11 to nine per cent.

“In the Yukon, I think most businesses would describe themselves as small business, and they’re really the economic engine of our territory.”

With that extra cash, business owners can invest in things like hiring, training or expanding, “to see that economic engine just rev right up,” said Leef.

He said he looks forward to meeting with Yukon groups about funding opportunities in this budget.

Critics have called this election-year budget good politics but bad policy. Canada has

used a number of bookkeeping measures to make the numbers work, including selling assets, reducing reserve funds and borrowing from the employment insurance fund.

Leef dismissed the criticism.

“Canadian families and Canadian individuals will be the judge of whether or not they think it’s responsible for a government to provide a balanced budget while keeping taxes low and making sure the transfer payments to provinces and territories are still upheld.”

The tactics used by previous Liberal governments to achieve a surplus were far worse, he said.

“They slashed transfers to our territory, and that had an impact of the delivery of our health-care system and our education system. And we saw doctors and nurses vacating the territory, we saw teachers without work,” said Leef.

“We don’t need to look too far back in our history to see the time when they were celebrating balanced budgets while watching the Yukon suffer.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at