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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Niagara Liberal MPs mum on budget until Wednesday

Niagara’s Liberal MP offices contacted by The Standard have deferred comment about the federal budget until Wednesday morning.

This, as the Liberal government is planning to add more than $100 billion in public debt in coming years as part of an ambitious strategy to revive economic growth over the long haul.

The Liberals tabled a budget Tuesday that predicts big spending on investments like infrastructure will boost the country’s real gross domestic product over two years.

To help get it there, the government has nixed its election promise to run “modest deficits” of no more than $10 billion before balancing the public books in four years.

That budget includes a number of spending highlights.

There will be $10 billion more over two years for a new Canada child benefit.

Over two years, there will be $2.5 billion over two years on changes to employment insurance.

Other measures include an increase the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit for single seniors, and restore the old age security eligibility age to 65 from 67.

Over three years, $2 billion is planned for a new strategic investment fund for infrastructure improvements at colleges and universities, in partnership with provinces and territories.

There will be an end to income splitting for couples with children, the children’s fitness tax credit and the children’s arts tax credit.

A promised cut to the 10.5 per cent small business tax rate has been deferred indefinitely.

The offices of St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle and Niagara Centre MP Vince Badaway advised The Standard their respective Liberal MPs would be able for comment by Wednesday morning.

In the view of Niagara Falls MP Rob Nicholson, “we all are going to pay the price for the huge deficit that they are predicting.”

Nicholson said he was also looking for something that might benefit the region’s fruit industry or border infrastructure “but I didn’t see anything on that.”

The MP said eliminating the child fitness/ arts tax credit was something he “always liked” and he also pointed to the elimination of income splitting for couples with children.

“They’re also getting rid of the federal Balanced Budget Act, which we had put through,” he said.”And these are all going to be issues we are going to be raising with them.”

Nicholson was also disappointed by a promised cut to the 10.5 per cent small business tax rate has been deferred indefinitely.

“They’ve got money for all different types of groups,” he said. “But they’ve indicated that after the 2017 budget there is no money allocated for national historic sites and that is a shame.”

Niagara West MP Dean Allison said he’s concerned for how the budget might affect small business.

Measures such as enhancing the Canadian Pension Plan and making it easier to collect E.I. “can make it tough on small businesses that already have a lot of tax burden,” said Allison who also criticized the freezing of small business tax cut and the huge deficit, “with no plan in place to get us back to balanced budgets.”

He provided some praise to continuing to commit “spending for innovation and (post secondary institutions) .. and incubators” he said.

“We’ll be looking for the details on how those roll out over the next six months to a year.”

Niagara College president Dan Patterson praised “a number of positive programs announced in today’s budget.

“We are encouraged to see the support for young people in the student aid program, this will help greater numbers of students get access to college,” Patterson said in an e-mail.

Patterson said the college is “especially pleased” with the investment of $2 billion over three years in the Strategic Investment Fund to modernize on-campus research, commercialization and training facilities.

Mishka Balsom, CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, commented on a number of things in the budget

Among them was tourism. She notes the budget invests $50 million over two years, starting in 2016-17, in Destination Canada “to seize new opportunities in important international markets.”

“The Chamber strongly advocated for this investment,” Balsom said in an e-mail. “We are pleased that our request was heeded … (and also) feel that the small business tax cuts and the research and development investment should have gone further.”

Niagara Region Chair Al Caslin said he liked what a number budget measures could portend for the region.

“It’s consistent with what we’ve been looking for in our asks with the federal government,” Caslin said.

Among them are billions in infrastructure spending that “bodes well for us” in areas including in intermunicipal transit, the quest for a GO Train to Niagara Falls and Niagara airports.

Money for water and waster projects are a good match for “shovel-ready projects” in Niagara. Funds for affordable housing, post-secondary education and training are also promising, he said.

The budget also provides money for harbours, “which we’ll be applying for in money to try to help us with our Port Dalhousie Piers (rehabilitation),” Caslin said.

-with files from The Canadian Press

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