Okanagan Tory MPs: Liberals lack focus on pandemic economic recovery

Liberals chastised for absence of national economy recovery plan

Dan Albas

Dan Albas

Conservative MPs in the Okanagan are concerned the federal Liberal minority government has no plan to rebound the national economy from the COVID-19 pandemic setbacks.

Tracy Gray, Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, says the deficit climbing from a projected $34.4 billion in 2019-20 to $343.2 billion in 2020-21, Canada posting the highest unemployment rate in the G7 countries and losing our country’s AAA credit rating all demand a response from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

But beyond a big chunk of that deficit attributed to $212 billion in direct support measures for individuals and businesses, Gray said there is little other policy direction coming forward while the auditor-general lacks the budget resources to provide adequate oversight on escalated government spending.

“The spending snapshot the Liberals released this week was not a complete fiscal update,” Gray said.

“With Parliament not in full session, there is an absence of debate on the government’s spending measures.”

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Liberals struck a deal with the NDP in May to suspend regular parliamentary sittings until September, in return for a pledge by the Liberals to work with the provinces toward a new national system of 10 days of paid sick leave.

Dan Albas, Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, echoed Gray’s sentiments about the lack of an overall plan to help Canada’s economy recover.

“I was hoping to see more on pandemic proofing our economy at this point with this snapshot, how to build our economy and build consumer confidence…but what I heard is that if a second pandemic wave comes this fall it will be even harder on consumer confidence and harder on businesses.”

Albas said he’s also concerned the controversy surrounding Trudeau’s involvement with the WE charity scandal will serve as a further distraction.

Gray said the auditor general needs the resources – an $11 million budget increase has already been requested for this year – to provide the checks and balances on Liberal spending during this pandemic.

She also calls for tweaking the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), $2,000 a month which has been extended to September, to not discourage laid-off workers from financially not seeing the benefit of returning to work.

Under a Conservative plan revealed last month, Albas said Canadians who lost their jobs through no fault of their own during the pandemic would continue to receive their full $2,000 CERB. Also, as businesses reopen, workers who make between $1,000 and $5,000 per month would qualify for the ‘Back to Work Bonus,’, a gradually phased out CERB top-up.

“I would prefer to see people not have to go through the mental gymnastics stress of determining whether or not they earn more than $1,000 in a four-week period and become ineligible for the CERB money,” he said.

Albas cites another example of the Liberal plan to reward students for volunteer work this summer, something one of his constituents told him makes no sense.

“A business owner told me it makes no sense to give $900 million for a program that would pay students less than minimum wage for various causes, and he applied for funding to create paying summer jobs and help pay their bills… and his application was rejected,” Albas said.