The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce supports the federal budget’s focus on bolstering the economy and easing pressure on young families and seniors, but concerns exist about the country’s overall financial condition.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s budget makes significant investments in the forestry, tourism and oil and gas sectors, while employees will be able to take paid leave for training at 55 per cent of weekly earnings.
“These measures will go a long ways towards supporting sectors critical to the overall economy of the North Okanagan. As for paid leave for training, this will certainly help individuals switching careers, but the program doesn’t start until late 2020 and could escalate costs for employers,” said Dione Chambers, Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce general manager.”
“We also welcome the $1.7 billion for high-speed internet in rural and remote areas and the one-time transfer of $2.2 billion to address short-term priorities in municipalities as infrastructure, whether it’s roads, water lines or the Internet, provide the basic building blocks for business to succeed,” said Chambers.
Another positive aspect of the budget is the removal of the federal requirement that alcohol moving from one province to another be sold or consigned to a provincial liquor authority. And an external advisory committee on regulatory competitiveness will identify opportunities to streamline regulations.
“We hope the advisory committee will consider the excise tax that is levied on distilleries but not other alcoholic products and creates an uneven playing field for distillers, particularly when competing with U.S. companies. The Greater Vernon Chamber will continue to develop policy related to distilleries and the excise tax,” said Chambers.
Other budget measures include programs for first-time home purchasers, incentives for seniors to save for retirement and lower interest rates on student loans.
If the Chamber has a specific concern about the federal budget, it’s the $22.8 billion in new spending over the next five years comes at the same time that the 2018/19 deficit is projected to be $14.9 billion and debt of $685.6 billion is expected to climb to $761.7 billion by 2023/24.
“We understand that it takes a considerable investment to meet the needs and wants of Canadians, including business, but a home with a poor foundation puts the occupants at risk and the same goes for a nation’s ability to function effectively if the financial foundation is fractured. We need the government to put its house in order,” said Chambers.