Northern MPs pan federal budget

Canada and especially smaller communities like Prince George should be concerned by the Liberal spending, said the city's Conservative Members of Parliament.

Both Todd Doherty and Bob Zimmer said the federal budget, tabled Tuesday and announcing a $29.4 billion deficit in 2016-17 alone, amounted to broken promises and not much hope for a reversal from the red under current leadership. Doherty said the Liberals have "no plan" and are "spending frivolously."

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"This government has done nothing to alleviate to bring those jobs back, to bring our economy back. I'd be quite angered that there's nothing to address it," said Doherty, first-time MP for Cariboo Prince George.

Added Zimmer, MP for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies, in a statement: "Instead of increasing access to EI, the government should be focused on increasing access to good, stable jobs in Canada."

Northern B.C. is among 12 identified struggling regions where workers can access an extended five-weeks on top of regular EI benefits.

Doherty echoed Zimmer, saying the government has "done nothing to alleviate to bring those jobs back, to bring our economy back.

"This budget aside, they're doing everything in their power to move us away from that carbon economy make it harder and harder for investors - foreign or international - to look at Canada as that place to invest and grow."

A Prince George-based KPMG tax partner cautioned too much doomsaying when it comes to foreign investment.

"For the most part, the markets, nobody should react that unfavourably to this," said Stan Mitchell.

"You look at what's the debt to the Gross Domestic Product and that's not really going to be changing too much. The GDP is expected to increase as well so it's a very small shift. The expectation is that other markets shouldn't be downgrading Canada at all."

But GDP is a wildcard.

"As long as the GDP continues to grow, incurring debt is not an absolute terrible things but you run into these blips. Who would have forecasted where we are in this point in time?" said Mitchell, in reference the drop in resource prices, particularly oil, and last year's Tory projection of a balanced budget turning into a billion-dollar deficit.

When Mayor Lyn Hall visited Ottawa two weeks ago, he said the city would be paying close attention to the infrastructure announcement given council priorities like water and storm infrastructure, transportation infrastructure including at YXS and social infrastructure projects related to housing.

Doherty was doubtful Prince George would benefit from the $6.8 billion announced for this year and next (over and above what's already on the books).

"They're putting some onerous responsibilities on the communities, whether it's green infrastructure or what have you," said Doherty.

"To me it's going to be harder and harder for our communities to get in line for these dollars because clearly there their infrastructure is targeted to big cities."

That's "probably not an unfair comment" said Mitchell of Doherty, given the government pointed public transit and affordable housing which "generally you would think that's going to be more in an urban area as opposed to a rural area."

But the before dumping the budget in its entirety, Mitchell said "you have to look at how the deficit is arising."

Capital projects, for example, can be a good thing "if you're building a bridge and the bridge is allowing more traffic and greater infrastructure and more activity in the economy.

"Mr. Doherty is correct as well," Mitchell said.

"If you start to run deficits now it means the future has to pay for it over time. But, at the same time, if you're making investments in infrastructure, that's what you need to keep your economy humming along."

"That's a dance that the government of the time has to have and decide exactly what they are going to put in infrastructure."

Neither Doherty or Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Critic Nathan Cullen were too excited over the

$8.4 billion commitment to aboriginal programming over the next five years.

"We are happy to see some investments in First Nation communities which had long been held down by artificial caps by the federal government and some incredibly callous policies that particularly hurt young First Nations kids," said Cullen in media conference.

"The pledges are improved but break the commitments that the the Liberals made during the campaign by many billions," he said, noting much of that money won't kick in for years.

"It's called backloading which is to promise money and to really spend in the fifth or sixth year of a mandate. As we know this government might not be here in five years and certainly not six. It's a bit cynical."

Doherty characterized the promises as passion without a plan.

"That's again our concern, that again, throwing money out the door with no financial accountability or no plan is going to lead us further down the hole and not have the intended consequences of positive results," said Doherty, the Tory Indigenous Affair deputy critic.

"All the passion in the world with no plan is still going to result in failure. If we're talking about helping these communities and raising them up and making them equal with all of us I think we need to make sure there is a real sound plan and not just throwing money at it."

One clear plan, however, is the Liberal promise to spend $40 million over two years for the inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women.

Aside from that, Mitchell said the budget makes significant promises to Canada's aboriginal population.

"Given that we've got a fair amount of different First Nations in the area, it will be interesting to see how much does come back."

Doherty said he has to take more time to digest the budget and then "it will hopefully be more more focused and we'll be able to see some benefits from this but right now I have some real concern for smaller communities such as our riding."

"We have been overlooked in this budget."

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