Opinion

Cannan: The public helped craft federal budget

When my colleague Kerry-Lynne Findlay, Minister of National Revenue, paid us a visit in January, we had the opportunity to visit Kelowna International Airport to showcase how $1.25 million in federal gas tax funding has been invested locally.

Because of the funding, the airport and other city owned buildings are now more energy-efficient. The work at YLW and other city buildings was done by sourcing local suppliers and workers.

It’s a great example of taxpayers’ dollars reinvested into the community.

I know from my nine years of working as a Kelowna city councillor that it is difficult for local governments to plan for, and raise, the money for long-term capital projects. But, since 2011, the federal government has made the gas money permanent funding that provides predictable, long-term help for Kelowna, Lake Country and communities across Canada to meet their local infrastructure needs.

Important initiatives like this are the direct result of consultations with the public. It was municipalities, for instance, that encouraged the government to make the gas tax permanent. Consultations with Canadians are at the core of how the federal government determines what will be included in any federal budget.

Every year, constituents are given the opportunity to contribute to the discussion by attending hearings by the Standing Committee on Finance or participating locally in roundtable meetings hosted by elected officials and local business associations: Minister Findlay, for instance, joined constituents, community organizations, and those from the education and business sectors in a pre-budget roundtable hosted by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.

And while the finance minister met with private sector economists, academics and business representatives in Ottawa, Canadians were also contributing ideas through an online portal at Finance Canada or by sending them to their local MPs.

This allowed the government to get a full picture of what everyone was saying about the economy and provided direction for Budget 2014, which will be presented today.

Budget day always generates a great deal of interest and excitement in Ottawa. The Centre Block crawls with cameras, pundits and experts waiting to be the first to discuss the budget’s contents and rate the government’s performance. Local reporters contact my office so I can comment on how the budget will benefit our communities.

I don’t know everything that will be in the budget but you can be certain it will focus on the drivers of growth and job creation—innovation, trade and investment, education, skills and communities—and also on helping families with the cost of living and raising a family. It will also reiterate the government’s ongoing commitment to lower taxes and a return to balanced budgets by 2015.

Although one cannot predict what will happen globally, sound fiscal management has put us in a good position: We’re expecting a surplus of just under $4 billion in 2015–16.

We have managed to accomplish this while providing record levels of funding to the provinces and territories for health care and social programs and reducing the tax burden of the average Canadian family of four by nearly $3,400 since 2006.

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