South Okanagan-West Kootenay New Democrat MP Richard Cannings says he’s very happy overall with the federal budget tabled this week, but it is not without its shortcomings.
The NDP and Liberals brokered an agreement wherein the NDP will prop up the Trudeau government until 2025 in exchange for several things, such as a new national dental care plan for middle and low-income earners.
“I think we’ve had some tremendous victories here for Canadians,” Cannings says. “Adding dental care to our health care system is a huge win. It’s the biggest expansion of our health care system since Tommy Douglas brought health care into Canada. That one thing really makes this all worthwhile.”
Although a new Pharmacare plan was not included in this budget (Cannings says it will be included next year), he points to the housing component as another positive.
While a program existed to encourage rental housing, Cannings says it was “poorly designed” so that it built units at 50 per cent above market rates. The NDP was able to convince the government to change the goalposts to ensure housing is more affordable, he says.
While the program aims to build 100,000 housing units, Cannings says the NDP believes Canada needs to build 500,000 units of affordable housing.
“We’ll see how this rolls out but it’s a step in the right direction,” he says.
Foreign ownership of empty homes will continue to be banned, which he expects to have a small effect in some markets.
Cannings was disappointed with the budget in two areas. Although he has been pushing to maintain supports for tourism operators hard hit by COVID, those programs were cut in half in March and will end in May. He wanted to at least see them extended through the summer.
“So I thought the government would listen to the tourism industry but they did not. That program and others like it are ending. I’m concerned about a lot of businesses hit by COVID that have struggled to make it this far. I think many will not have the resources or the businesses to make it through this year.”
He was further dismayed that the budget doesn’t contain more around climate action. He says while there is “big spending” on carbon capture and storage, he believes it is unlikely to produce “meaningful results” and could provide life support for the oil and gas industry, when it should be phased out.
There was one personally gratifying detail: “My private member’s bill on getting rid of the excise tax on low alcohol beer ended up in the budget. So that got done.”