Nathan Cullen, NDP MP for Skeena Bulkley Valley gave his initial critique of the latest federal budget in a telephone scrum hours after its release.
He started the scrum by joking how Bay Street would be howling in anger if this was a NDP budget, but concluded red must be different if it’s a Liberal red.
Cullen says while funding for First Nations, pegged at $8.4-billion over five years, has vastly improved over the dismal funding provided by the Harper government, it’s still not enough, and not close to what Prime Minister Trudeau promised while campaigning.
He says there’s still a funding gap in education between First Nations and non-First Nations students, and funds to rectify boil water advisories on reserves is yet to be seen.
Part of the government’s commitment involves spending $2.6-billion on First Nations education and almost $2-billion in water and wastewater infrastructure over the next five years, the latter project part of an effort to end boil-water advisories on reserves.
The budget adds five weeks to the regular 45 weeks of EI benefits workers receive, while long-tenured workers in the 12 regions identified in the budget, which includes northern BC, as suffering the sharpest jumps in joblessness will be eligible for an extra 20 weeks of benefits, to a maximum of 70 weeks.
Cullen says while those measures are an improvement, the actual results are a mixed bag.
Cullen says the budget is missing hard numbers on future predictions, making it harder to hold the government to account on whether the budget was a success or not.
He also accuses the government of building in artificial wiggle room into the budget by lowballing certain values in hopes of when things do improve, the numbers will look better.
Adding, the budget unrealistically forecasts the economy to dramatically improve in two years.