Federal budget draws diverse response

Conservative budget includes pushing pension eligibility back to age 67

Ottawa has slashed spending, but North Okanagan reaction is mixed.

The new Conservative budget calls for $5.2 billion a year in savings by 2015 and 19,200 federal jobs will be eliminated over three years.

“I wouldn’t call it drastic. They’re cuts that were reasonable,” said Colin Mayes, Okanagan-Shuswap MP.

“Those things that will create jobs and are better for the economy are still there and in some cases, they are increasing.”

Mayes supports $105 million being directed to forestry innovation and market development over two years.

Eligibility for Old Age Security will climb from 65 to 67 in 2023. It does not impact anyone 54 or older as of March 31, 2012.

“It’s not sustainable as it is,” said Mayes of the need to change the pension program.

“If we didn’t do something, we would go from $36 billion this year to $108 billion in 2030.”

There are also changes to political pensions.

“We recognize MPs and senators’ pensions are reasonably generous. MPs will be paying more into the plan as of 2013,” said Mayes.

Nick Hodge, Okanagan-Shuswap NDP president, says the budget requires some sarcasm.

“I’m pleased to see that MP pensions have been protected. Working class seniors relying on Old Age Security were not so fortunate,” he said.

Hodge also says federal spending continues to increase and that will push total debt to more than $600 billion next year.

“In 2006, Colin Mayes promised supporters at a Salmon Arm meeting that he would resign if a Conservative government ever ran a deficit. This budget projects the fourth deficit in a row, with two more years to look forward to,” said Hodge.

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce welcomes what it calls a business approach to government.

“The issue of debt reduction can now be supported with a majority position in Parliament for a faster reaction to key issues versus dealing in a minority position and being challenged in each and every move with continual tactical delays from opposition critics,” said Ken MacLeod, president.

“I am somewhat concerned about the off-loading of services to the province but overall, it shows direction and may stimulate job creation and growth.”

The North Okanagan Labour Council believes the spending cuts outweigh any new measures that could address unemployment.

“The Conservative have brought in more corporate tax cuts with the hope of creating jobs but companies are sitting on almost $500 billion of surplus cash rather than investing,” said Carole Gordon, NOLC president. “As recently as this January, we saw that giving Caterpillar a tax break didn’t help the 400 workers who lost their jobs to the U.S.”