Nanaimo MP concerned over lack of health-care spending in budget

NANAIMO – The federal government's budget, announced this week, has some positives and some problems, says Nanaimo's member of Parliament.

The federal government’s budget, announced this week, has some positives and some problems, says Nanaimo’s member of Parliament.

Sheila Malcolmson, NDP MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, didn’t criticize the deficit, but had some reservations about the budget announced Tuesday in the House of Commons. The Liberals will run a $29.4 billion deficit in 2016 and have no timeline to balance the federal ledger.

“We have identified some areas where we thought that they should spend more and some places that we thought they should spend less,” said Malcolmson. “Budgeting’s all about priorities.”

The budget includes restructured child and family benefits of up to $6,400 per child per year, based on household income. The Liberals also announced $120 billion over 10 years for infrastructure spending, $8.4 billion over five years for indigenous people, $675 million for the CBC, and expanded EI access.

One of Malcolmson’s chief concerns is a lack of new health-care spending, “which is a major problem, especially in our region where so many people are employed in the field and we have so many people aging and needing care at those vulnerable times of life,” she said.

Based on last fall’s election campaign, the MP said she was anticipating more funding for home care support. She said the recent debate surrounding assisted dying has highlighted the need for improved access to end-of-life care.

Malcolmson is hopeful, after hearing some of the details of the infrastructure spending program, that it will be directed in the right ways. She was glad to learn that public transit, green projects and First Nations reserves could be some of the early beneficiaries through the federal infrastructure program.

“The numbers announced give us the potential for good spending in our region in those areas,” she said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the long-term plan on infrastructure funding that we were really hoping for. Definitely from the local government end, we just heard this again and again: We need long-term, stable infrastructure funding so that local governments can plan big projects on that basis.”

Malcolmson liked some of the announcements surrounding First Nations education, clean water and social programs, though she isn’t convinced the money is enough.

“Again, the devil’s in the details, but the broad strokes in those areas are positives,” she said.

Malcolmson, who is the NDP’s status of women critic, said there were “good commitments” to addressing violence against women in indigenous communities, as well as increasing shelter funding.

Some other aspects of the budget that she liked included tourism promotion abroad, post-secondary education grants and investments in scientific research at universities. She criticized the Liberals’ failure to reduce small business taxes and to combat income inequality by closing stock option loopholes for CEOs.

She and her party will immediately begin to examine some of the budget figures more closely, she said.

For more on the federal budget, please click here.