City is disappointed in federal budget’s lack of direct reference to municipal priorities

Funding allocated to affordable housing does have the potential to wield direct impact

The City is disappointed in the lack of direct reference to municipal priorities in this week’s federal budget, which was handed down Tuesday.

“Overall, I would say that the City had some concerns with the fact that there was less specific reference to cities and municipalities, particularly pertaining to infrastructure investment,” said Mayor Tara Veer.

She noted that the previous budget had significant mention of the municipality infrastructure needs, however.

“We did find that this was a departure from that previous budget.”

There are some areas the City will be keeping an eye on – areas that could wield something of a local impact, she added.

“That is in specifically seeing the implementation of the National Housing Strategy, and the Homelessness Partnering Strategy dollars that may or may not flow to Red Deer directly out of that,” she said.

Funding allocated to affordable housing does have the potential to have direct impact as well.

Other areas the City will be exploring along with other municipalities includes funding directed to the province at large, and how much of that will funnel on down to municipalities.

“The position we have taken before the provincial government is that because we are the order of government that is responsible predominantly for a lot of the regulatory mechanisms that will be required for the retailing of cannabis and the enforcement of that, we need to see revenue flow so that it’s not a municipal ‘de facto’ download,” she said.

Veer added that the budget did also focus on the opioid crisis, and, “Again, we will be looking for how and if those dollars (would come) directly into Red Deer in terms of resolving the opioid crisis and taking steps towards that.”

As mentioned, Tuesday’s budget made no reference to municipal funding and partnerships, or to funding for infrastructure projects, both of which are essential to mid-size communities and were a major feature of last year’s budget.

“One of the best roles government can play is to provide stability to business, residents and communities,” said City Manager Craig Curtis. “Federal investment serves as a reliable accompaniment to our local capital plans, and provides a dependable source of economic growth for the community. Past budgets have put more emphasis on infrastructure funding.”

Also, as the City works to strengthen its relationship with the Indigenous community and move towards reconciliation, it acknowledges the importance of the federal government’s efforts in improving the quality of life for Indigenous Peoples – including housing, noted a release.

On a provincial level, the Alberta Chambers of Commerce noted that the sentiment of Alberta business about the new federal budget could be summed up with one word: worrisome.

By staying on the current fiscal plan, Canada will add about $18 billion dollars of debt in the coming year alone. If interest rates increase by even 1%, the federal government does not have enough contingency set aside to manage the increased interest payments, said Ken Kobly, president and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce.

Follow through on the clean water initiative for First Nations is a notable bright spot, he said.

New support for female entrepreneurs is also welcomed by Alberta’s business community, where 40% of small businesses are owned and operated by women.

The Chamber network in Alberta does not believe the federal government is prepared to manage the potential, and very significant, threats facing the Canadian economy. These threats include tax competitiveness, competitiveness of Canada’s oil and gas sector, and NAFTA negotiations.

“The intent of this budget may have been to increase gender equality. Alberta business sees limited opportunities for the intended outcomes to materialize to their full potential, when the core issues affecting economic opportunity for all Canadians remain unaddressed,” said Kobly.

“The math is simple, and opportunities for all Canadians increase by growing the economic pie. The easiest opportunities to grow our pie are in establishing fair, simple and transparent, tax and regulatory environments.”

Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins said, “Budget 2018 is increasing our deficit, adding red tape and more roadblocks to our industries by making us less competitive with the United States.

“Justin Trudeau has broken his promise to Canadians that he would run modest deficits, he is running an $18 billion deficit this year, which is about $500 more per person this year and each man, woman and child now owes about $1,600 dollars more in debt since the Liberals have come to office,” said Calkins.

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