By Darren Lum
Spending what we don’t have is no way to resolve the challenges facing our country said Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock MP Jamie Schmale, as a response to the federal budget.
He contends the pledges being made in this budget are being done with the “credit card” and that the deficit is being paid down by “unexpected windfall” from oil and gas revenues.
“The price of oil and gas are up. Inflation is helping the government take in more money, but yet instead of paying off debt or getting spending under control, the government has pledged a whole slew of new programs that have been paid for on the credit card,” he said.
Schmale said when you look at the interest rate the government will spend almost $2 billion a month on interest and he said with rising interest rates that could go up.
This he said will make it so that any government will have less flexibility to deliver programs and services that people need.
More than $31 billion is being pledged over the next five years, which included about a third to housing, in the budget delivered by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland earlier this month. This includes a tax-free First Home Savings Account, which will allow Canadians under 40 to save up to $40,000 towards the purchase of a first home. Contributions will be tax-deductible and withdrawals made towards a purchase of a first home would not be taxed. Over five years, the support amounts to $725 million. Another initiative to help with housing is the launch of a Housing Accelerator Fund, which hopes to help municipalities speed up housing development. It’s expected to create 100,000 new housing units. It will cost $4 billion over five years. The rapid housing initiative continues and offers $1.5 million, delivered over two years which is expected to help create 6,000 new housing units to assist in addressing homelessness.
Schmale said how much of these pledges that makes its way here to the Highlands has yet to be determined.
“The rapid housing initiative has not been working lately. We’ve actually doubled the price of housing,” he said.
He added the average price of a home is close to $800,000. Schmale said the problem is the supply.
He cited issues with misdirected funds and how inflation is hitting a 30-year high.
“So, we need to actually tackle the supply issue … we’re seeing interest rates start to rise. Put a damper on housing prices. I think most realtors are already saying that the market is starting to slow. We have an issue with the cost of building. The ability to build being a real problem. We also have a shortage of skilled trades people that we need to address as well,” he said. “So, I support any measures in the budget or otherwise that show people a path to the skilled trades to make it easier for them to be part of that.”
Besides encouraging people about the benefits of the trades, which includes strong income opportunities, it’s also important to enable young people to consider the trades for careers while in school. Schmale said improving the housing supply could be helped by getting more people to enter the trades, but it also depends on reducing the red tape around the issuing of building permits.
“The other way is to work with the provinces and municipalities to work to speed up the timetable in which building permits are issued,” he said.
He used the example of building on water when it requires different levels of government, which adds to the cost of a home.
“It can be a deterrent in many cases if you’re trying to keep the price low. Yes, the shortage of labour does play into that as well. The price of material right now plays into that as well. But at the end of the day, we’re still overspending by about $50 billion this year in the budget, which we added up over last year, and last year is up over the year before and all of it a great majority of it is done with printing money,” he said.
When Schmale was asked for a solution to helping our most vulnerable, the documented and undocumented houseless in Haliburton County, he said everything stems from not spending money we don’t have.
“We are printing money. We are devaluing our currency. We are basically taking people’s savings accounts and making it worth less. It’s great to say we can come up with a program, but at the same time if you don’t address the actual problem [about] what is creating this situation it’s only going to get worse, so you don’t keep printing money and keep running the country on the credit card. As the economy improves and then expect prices to come down immediately and the problems that were created because of government to automatically fix themselves,” he said.
Schmale, who is the vice-chair of the standing committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, acknowledged there were things he liked in the budget.
In particular, the pledges for Indigenous people amounting to $11 billion over six years to help with housing, reconciliation and residential school support.
“They have made a number of commitments if they follow through with, I think we’ll be moving in the right track for a lot of Indigenous communities that need clean drinking water and other assistance such as measures to move away from the Indian Act. So, those are all good things which I look forward to working with the government on,” he said.