Vaudreuil-Soulanges MP Peter Schiefke explains federal budget


PHOTO BY MONIQUE BISSONNETTE

Though still in Ottawa when the 2018 Federal Budget was announced, Vaudreuil-Soulanges MP Peter Schiefke spoke to The Journal by phone this week on some of the benefits the budget provides for residents and businesses in the region.

The federal budget tabled February 27 is described by Vaudreuil-Soulanges Member of Parliament Peter Schiefke as the Liberal budget he’s been waiting for, particularly on environmental issues, gender parity, and benefits to the middle class.

Families

“It continues on the investments that have had an impact on people’s lives over the past two and a half years,” Schiefke told The Journal. “We’re keeping the middle class tax cut we enacted in our first budget putting an average of $560 in their pockets annually.”

Additionally, the Canada Child Benefit remains in place but is now pegged to the inflation rate that will see it adjust in relation to increases in the cost of living.

Schiefke said seniors will also benefit with an increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for pensioners.

Canada Pension Plan

“Starting in 2019, we’re raising the maximum Canada Pension Plan (CPP) retirement benefit by up to 50 per cent,” he said. “This translates into an increase of $7000 annually, going from $13,610 to nearly $21,000.” The move was deemed necessary in light of shrinking pensions in the private sector coupled with the aging population approaching retirement, trying to exist at an income well below the poverty line. “Canadians are going to have less from private pension plans and are going to be relying more on the federal government moving forward,” he said. “This ensures we’ll have something to help cover our expenses when we retire.”

Mental health

Mental health issues, particularly dementia and Alzheimer’s, will benefit from a $6 billion investment over the next decade. “The majority of the population who will be affected by mental health issues are seniors and 70 per cent of those with dementia are women.”

Gender pay equity

Presented with the subtitle ‘Equality and Growth for a Strong Middle Class’ the budget addresses gender parity in ensuring pay equity for federally regulated industries.

“We have to put our money where our mouth is at the federal level,” said Schiefke of the government’s measure in hopefully setting an example for private industry to follow suit.

Gender-based violence issues

An additional $86 million will be invested in strategies to address gender-based violence, specifically in preventing teen dating violence, supporting rape crisis and sexual assault centres, and addressing online child exploitation.

“We’ve also doubled the funding for women’s organizations who do the ground work in the community, those who know the needs better than anyone else,” he said. With the funding in place, the Minister for the Status of Women decides how the funds are allocated.

Small business

Starting this year, small businesses will benefit from the new budget with a lowered tax rate, from 11 to nine per cent. “This translates into the average small business located in Vaudreuil-Soulanges having access to almost an additional $1600 to reinvest in the growth of their companies,” Schiefke said.

Environment

For Schiefke, the jewel in the budget crown is the $1.3 billion slotted for conservation, one of the largest in Canada’s history, over the next five years allocated to environmental initiatives including meeting the target of protecting 17 per cent of Canada’s green space for future generations.

The free access to national parks offered over the last year proved so successful, it will now be offered in perpetuity to those up to age 17.

Of particular interest to our region is the revamping of the environmental assessment process that was particularly contentious given the high number of pipelines traversing the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region.

“If you speak to mayors in the different municipalities, they’ll tell you the experience they had with Energy East (proposed pipeline project) had left a sour taste in their mouths.” A new process is being implemented to provide for more time and more consultation with First Nations communities and stakeholders, including municipal mayors and citizens.

Along with the overhaul of the National Energy Board (NEB) that was announced earlier this month, Schiefke said much of the decision-making power is being put into the hands of Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

“(Decisions of this scope) have to be made in a way that whoever’s making the decisions is not answering only to special interest groups,” said Schiefke. The new process will allow for more input from environmentalists and Indigenous groups.

Veterans

Veterans will benefit from a $10 billion investment in the treatment of conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This follows the Pension for Life plan unveiled in 2017 designed to offer a broader range of benefits in an easier-to-access program.

Autism funding

Following the March 2017 announcement made by Soulanges Liberan MNA Lucie Charlebois, who is also the minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection, Public Health and Healthy Living that $29 million would be earmarked for kids on the waiting list for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) treatment, Schiefke said another $20 million will be allotted nationally with $4 million for direct intervention therapies.

Schiefke acknowledges that as familial situations evolve, future budgets will need to adapt to reflect the fact that adult children, on average, stay in school and live with their parents longer, and to meet the continued increased social and medical demands of the aging population.

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