MP Report — Budget brings diverse reaction

Budget 2012 proposes savings measures of $5.2 billion over the next three years

Budget 2012 represents the first time as a newly elected MP that I will have been part of our nation’s budget process and that includes listening to the reaction of the budget from Okanagan-Coquihalla taxpayers. The comments I have heard thus far have been very diverse and range from anger that more drastic spending cuts were not implemented to the other end of the spectrum where some feel that spending reductions that are called for will destroy the social fabric of our nation. I have also heard from those citizens who are supportive of the budget overall and from those who have raised very specific objections and at times offered constructive suggestions. This input is very helpful to me and is part of what I share in discussions with our government caucus in Ottawa. However what is unusual is that there was a small segment of the population who rejected the budget before even knowing what the contents would be, some even going as far as to organizing a protest in advance of budget day.

Although the Economic Action Plan 2012 reference guide is close to 500 pages in size there are some issues that have been on the minds of many taxpayers. For those that would like to view the document it can be accessed online at www.budget.gc.ca.

Proposed changes to the Old Age Security (OAS) are a topic of frequent discussion.   Budget 2012 proposes to increase the age of eligibility for OAS from age 65 to age 67, these changes would not begin to take effect until the year 2023 and be gradually phased over 6 years leading up to 2029. There are also two new measures being proposed for OAS that were not widely reported on, the first change is that starting in January of 2013, eligible seniors will be automatically enrolled for both GIS and OAS befits without having to go through the form application process. The second change is that for those who wish to continue working, as of July 2013 there will be an option to delay receiving the OAS benefit for up to five years. For every month an individual delays receiving OAS, their monthly payment will be increased for the remainder of their retirement.

Aside from the penny being phased out, the other area I have heard significant feedback is that Budget 2012 does not go far enough in reducing spending. For the record, Budget 2012 proposes savings measures of $5.2 billion over the next three years. While this three-year budgetary plan does provide a return to balanced budgets some would like to see this process accelerated further. While we have seen marginal improvement in the US economy and signs that some European Union countries are taking steps in handling their debt crisis issues, we certainly must acknowledge that we must continue to follow a solid fiscal track to balanced budgets. We are leading the G-7 in terms of growth and job creation. The challenge is that accelerated reductions in government spending can also have a detrimental impact on economic activity if not done at a measured pace no different than inaction on spending reductions can also create an adverse economic impact as well. One very important aspect of Budget 2012 is an increased investment in innovation working with private sector partnerships. I have already witnessed firsthand the importance of government investments in innovation in communities like Okanagan Falls and Summerland as examples and how that creates well paying full time jobs.  Here in Okanagan- Coquihalla we are very fortunate to have two federal research facilities as well as strategic investments into facilities such as Okanagan College and the new Center for Excellence Campus.

Budget 2012 is an important direction for our country that will continue to create jobs and address challenging demographic changes in our future. Canada as a nation was not built on handouts and reckless spending but on principles of hard work and living within our means. Budget 2012 continues to support the principles that built this great nation.

Dan Albas is the member of Parliament for Okanagan Coquihalla and can be reached at dan.albas@parl.gc.ca.