Abbotsford’s two members of Parliament have starkly different views on the new federal budget released this week.
Released on Tuesday, the budget included spending increases in many departments, paired with middle-class tax cuts (both of which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during last fall’s campaign) resulting in a deficit of nearly $30 billion, or three times what Trudeau originally predicted. The Liberals have walked back their original vow to balance the books by the end of their four-year mandate. They now say that won’t happen, and the budget forecasts $113 billion in deficits over the next five years.
Liberal MP for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon Jati Sidhu spoke glowingly of his party’s plan to spend big, betting on a reinvigorated economy.
“I don’t think we left any area untouched where people shouldn’t be happy to see this budget come through,” he said. “Let’s celebrate. It’s good for Canadians; it’s good for Canada.”
Conservative Abbotsford MP Ed Fast had a much different interpretation.
He called the budget “a very significant betrayal of many groups within Canada.”
Fast said he hoped Abbotsford would see a significant chunk of the billions of dollars earmarked for infrastructure spending. He said the key projects for the region are proposed widening of Highway 1 and Mt. Lehman Road, towards the Abbotsford Airport. He also expressed a hope that the Vye Road Interchange project would receive funds needed after the project expanded in scope since his Conservative government’s initial approval.
Those larger projects will have to wait at least a year, until the second phase of the budget’s spending plan.
“Much of the infrastructure spending that the Liberals had announced in the election has been put off for many years,” he said.
Allan Asaph, the executive director of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, said widening Highway 1 is vital to the development of the local economy.
He said with industrial land increasingly being taken over by residential development in Vancouver, more and more businesses are moving to the Fraser Valley.
“In order for us to facilitate businesses locating out here in the Fraser Valley, we need to make sure that they have the transportation systems in place so they can get their goods to the ports,” he said.
Sidhu said the highway expansion priority is important but that smaller projects, like an upgrade to the JAMES treatment plant and a new sewer line between Mission and Abbotsford, must come first. Smaller and more immediate projects, include small grants to fix the roof on a Legion Hall and renovating the kitchen at a community centre, according to Sidhu.
“We need to fix what we have now,” he said.
Asaph said he was disappointed to learn the Liberals were deferring a plan to reduce the small business tax rate.
The rate for small businesses – those making less than $500,000 a year – will remain at 10.5 per cent, and not drop to nine per cent over the next three years, as the Liberals had promised. The reduction was first promised by the former Conservative government and Trudeau matched the commitment.
Fast called that a broken promise which serves as “a vote of non-confidence and a gross misunderstanding of the value that small businesses are to the communities in which they do business.”
He said small business owners in Abbotsford he had spoken to were looking forward to the tax cut and its cancellation would result in fewer new jobs being created.
Sidhu said he did not recall small business owners in his riding talking to him about the promised tax break. He said the cut would come eventually.
“We can’t follow through every promise in a day,” he said. “If not today, the day after.”
One aspect of the budget both MPs did agree on was a plan to fund $41.5 million worth of new research into biological and environmental research. Some of the money could end up at Abbotsford facilities.
“Anything we can do to inOVERSET FOLLOWS:crease research that will allow Canada to continue to be a solution to world’s need for healthy food products, I will support,” said Fast.