On June 22, I stood in the Senate and voted against Bill C-15, the Trudeau Government’s Budget Implementation Act. Ultimately, the Bill was adopted, but it was a close vote with 34 Senators in favour, 17 against and 17 abstentions—a sure sign that this bill did not have unanimous support.
For nearly a month, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, of which I am a member, studied the budget bill. Our committee held nine meetings and heard from 52 witnesses from seven federal departments and agencies, and representatives from another nine organizations.
As I wrote in this paper a few months ago, the government is planning on bringing our country into massive consecutive deficits with no end in sight, despite the Prime Minister’s electoral promise of balanced books. The Trudeau Government is borrowing nearly $30 billion this year alone to, as it proudly says, grow the middle class. For the record, the budget document does not even define the middle class and none of the government officials who appeared before us were able to define it either. How can the government actually assess its progress in growing the middle class if it hasn’t defined it?
While some measures in the budget may benefit Canadians, as a Senator for Northeastern British Columbia, I strongly feel our region was left behind at a time when we most need the support and the unemployment rate is hovering around 10 per cent.
Our region is clearly suffering from low commodity prices as well as uncertainty with respect to a number of major resource development projects including LNG and pipelines. One would have expected the Trudeau Government to do something to help this industry and try to get Canada’s natural resources sector back on its feet.
Sure, the government has made changes to the Employment Insurance program for those most affected by the downturn, but where is its plan to actually get unemployed oil and gas workers back on the job? It’s becoming more and more apparent that the new federal government is focused on keeping fossil fuels in the ground and halting any attempt in getting our commodities to market.
While many unemployed Canadians try to find some work, one thing that certainly doesn’t help them is the government’s decision to maintain the small business tax rate at 10.5 per cent as legislated by the current law, even though it promised to reduce it to 9 per cent in its electoral platform.
Sure, Budget 2016 maintains the previous government’s accelerated capital cost allowance for liquefied natural gas facilities, and gives $50 million to Natural Resources Canada to invest in technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector, but that doesn’t put hard-working men and women back to work. Budget 2016 is leaving thousands of Canadians out to dry. No wonder many of them feel betrayed by this government.
I continue to have concerns with the Trudeau Government’s unstoppable spending-spree. In my capacity as Senator for British Columbia, I will continue to fight for Canadian taxpayers and hold this government to account for its out-of-control spending.
The Honourable Richard Neufeld is a Senator for British Columbia. He is Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, and a member of the National Finance Committee, and the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee. Prior to his appointment to the Senate in 2009, he served in the British Columbia Legislative Assembly from 1991 to 2008 as MLA for Peace River North. He was Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources from 2001 to 2009.