Local MPs pleased at Flaherty’s proposals for spending in 2008

The Con­ser­vative federal budget will be supported by the federal Lib­eral party – and that likely means there will be no federal election called over the next few months.
That announcement was made by Stephane Dion shortly after Finance Minister Jim Flah­erty tabled his budget in parliament on Tuesday after­noon.
Perth-Wellington MP Gary Schellenberger said in an inter­view soon after that insiders in Ottawa had figured Dion would support the budget. As well, the Liberals have reached accom­modation with the Conser­va­tives on a re-jigged Afghan­is­tan military plan, so that issue, too, will likely hold off the election.
Schellenberger said he is pleased, and was even sur­pris­ed at some of the steps Flaherty took in the budget.
“I didn’t see anything in it I didn’t like,” he said.
One of the items he particularly likes is a tax free savings account that he be­lieves Cana­dians will come to love. They will be able to place up to $5,000 a year into an account and not have to pay federal tax on the interest they earn.
Schellenberger said young people will find that parti­cu­larly enticing, but seniors have complained they have had cash clawed back, and they, too, will benefit from a tax free account.
Schellenberger also noted paying down the debt is im­portant, and Canadians will get the benefits of that as it is paid off. Governments from the 1970s ran deficits, and, at one point, the national debt was closing in on $600-billion. Schellenberger said it is now down to about $500-billion. And Tuesday’s budget will see it reduced a further $10.2-bil­lion.
He said Flaherty has pro­mised that as the debt is paid off, the interest that is being paid on it will be returned to tax­payers. He estimated that the $37-billion that has been paid down by the Conservative government amounts to about $1,500 less debt per taxpayer so far.
“That’s where tax savings go back to residents of Perth-Wellington,” he said, adding, “People will be surprised when they do their taxes this year” be­cause many of them will get more back than they expect.”
MP Mike Chong said with the economic uncertainty that is now world wide, the budget is a steady one for Canadians for the next year. He noted there are problems in the United States and that could affect Canada, but “The budget provides a steady hand at the tiller.”
He was pleased to learn that the national debt will be re­duced to 25 per cent of the gross domestic product within two years, and he said that is quite an accomplishment.
Plus, he said, “We’ve re­duc­ed the tax levels to their lowest since the John Diefen­bacher government” of the early 1960s. As well, he said, the unemployment level is at its lowest in 33 years.
Chong noted, though, that there are “stormclouds” and those include a downturn for Canadian manufacturers. He was pleased with the help being given to the automotive sector.
He said the help given to farmers will also be welcomed in Wellington-Halton Hills. The farm community will have easier access to a $3.3-billion government agriculture pro­gram, and there is also $50-million specifically for the hog sector.
Like Schellenberger, Chong said making the federal gas tax permanently available to muni­cipalities across Canada is good News for everyone.”
He noted, too, “A lot of peo­ple are concerned about the environment,” and said the $250-million carbon capture program will help there, as will $21-million to beef up environ­mental enforcement. Another $14-million will be used to accelerate access to cleaner, renewable fuels.
Finally, he said, a program with $282-million will expand veterans’ access to programs that will allow them to remain in their homes longer. He said the money can be used for help so veterans and their spouses can remain independent as long as possible.
There will also be more money for policing. There is money for 2,500 more police officers over the next five years, at $80-million per year.