By Richard Bell
In an interview following the release of the federal budget, Liberal Central Nova MP Sean Fraser was enthusiastic about new spending on programs he said would benefit families across Nova Scotia. (The budget is entitled, “Investing in the Middle Class.”)
“This budget is building on the work we’ve been doing over the past three years,” Fraser said. “We’ve made serious investments through Central Nova, to generate economic growth in rural Nova Scotia. It’s one thing to talk about increasing GDP, but it’s another to make sure that people benefit from that growth.” There were 940,000 new jobs across Canada in 2018. In Nova Scotia, there were 7,500 new jobs in the first two months of 20198.
Health care is officially a provincial responsibility, but there’s still plenty the federal government can do. “Telling people the province is responsible just frustrates people who’s struggling without a family doctor,” Fraser said. “They don’t care about what level of government is ‘responsible,’ they just want good health care. It’s true the province is the lead, but that doesn’t mean the federal government can wash its hands.”
The budget includes an increase of $40 million in the Canadian Health Transfer for Nova Scotia, bringing the total amount of the transfer to Nova Scotia to $1 billion. (The provincial health care budget for 2018/2019 was $4.2 billion.) Fraser mentioned the introduction of a new Canadian pharmaceutical drug agency that he said was “a major step towards a national pharmacare system.” There is also funding for the creation of a national dementia strategy, and a suicide prevention line accessible 24/7 across the whole country.
Fraser is especially interested in environmental issues in his role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “I’ve cared about the environment my whole life,” Fraser said, “and I’m paying close attention in my current role as Parliamentary Secretary. There’s nearly $1 billion for energy efficiency and retrofits for homes and businesses. And there’s a $5,000 subsidy for personal zero emission vehicles. By 2040, we’re aiming to have all vehicles sold in Canada be zero emissions.”
The budget also has a tax incentive to persuade business to transition their fleets to zero emissions. “Businesses will be able to write off the capital cost of new zero emission vehicles in the first year,” Fraser said. “And they’ll also be saving on fuel costs and maintenance.”
One of the more serious infrastructure problems on the Eastern Shore has been poor Internet access, especially in the eastern parts of HRM. The lack of high speed Internet access has severely limited the ability of people to start new businesses.
“This budget commits the country, for the first time in the history of Canada, for high speed Internet connectivity for every Canadian,” Fraser said. “Our goal is to reach 95% by 2026, and 100% by 2030.”
The budget also has new support for seniors and young people. “Up to now, pensioners whose companies went bankrupt were just hung out to dry, like Sears,” Fraser said. “We’re making a change to ensure that those people don’t lose their pensions and their security.”
For young people, the budget provides for lower interest on student loans, and more funds for youth employment programs. There’s $40 million for training in skill trades, and up to $2400 for four weeks for people who want to take some time off to upgrade their skills.
[The federal budget is online at: https://www.budget.gc.ca/2019/home-accueil-en.html.]