2013 budget strong on jobs and skills

Okanagan-Coquihalla MP says skilled workers in Penticton and area is a problem federal government is going to wrestle.

The federal government is trying to make Canada’s favourite pastime a little more affordable and ease the financial burden for families by proposing $76 million in tariff relief for sports equipment and baby clothes.

That’s one of the few goodies in what is being billed as a stay-the-course budget brought down by the federal government Thursday, the eighth from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

The tariff reduction, which was leaked early, is going to affect baby clothes and a variety of sporting equipment, including hockey gear. By removing tariffs, the government hopes to make these more affordable.

“I believe in promoting an active lifestyle, a healthy one, along with incentives so that people are encouraged to participate,” said Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas, a former martial arts instructor. “Right now, we have a number of pressures on the family, we want to support them. These changes to tariffs may not make life easy, but they do make life easier for parents and their children.”

But if there is one thing the federal government wants you to take home from the 2013 budget, it is jobs, both creation and skills training to develop even more jobs.

“We want to make sure we continue to lead the world not only in having a solid banking system, but in job growth,” said Albas.

Central to these efforts is the new Canada Job Grant, which will see employers put up $5,000 for training an individual, to be matched by the province and the federal government.

“To meet this demonstrates a true commitment by the employer. Right now, we have so many employers providing 100 per cent of the training costs in-house,” said Albas. “Employers, particularly in small business, can’t afford that, so this measure to them will be very helpful.”

Albas said the lack of skilled workers is a problem he often hears about when visiting businesses in the riding, including at home in Penticton’s industrial area.

“I hear from too many employers that they can not get the skilled workers that we need,” said Albas. “This is not a problem that is going away, it’s a problem that we are going to wrestle.”

The Economic Action Plan, Albas said, also includes incentives to encourage training.

“I was speaking to some businesses that have had inquiries from the federal government in regard to the military, that is also something that we are requiring,” he said. “What the finance minister has said is that we should be, whether people are building bridges or are building affordable housing, is to require the use of Canadian apprenticeships.”

Overall, the budget promises no tax increases, no tax cuts, and $900 million in new spending, like linking the gas tax fund to a two per cent index to help fund infrastructure, which he said helps drive economies and create better communities.

“One of the challenges that they have is how to pay for it all, given that there are so many priorities and services that are necessary. I know from my time as a city councillor and having these meetings, that leaders are telling me they need steady and stable funding,” said Albas, pointing to Penticton’s waterfront renovation project as an example. Indexing the gas tax, he said, gives municipalities the ability to start planning and thinking about how they can continue to build their infrastructure.

“We have so much in the South Okanagan, but again, one of the things we do know, is you have to maintain what you have,” said Albas. “This gives municipalities in our area the confidence that the federal government is behind them.”

Budget highlights from the Government of Canada