Addressing the social deficit

Budget 2017 recognizes that it is the right time to make investments in the economy and people to drive growth and build resilient communities. 

For too long, the growing social deficit has been overlooked, leaving municipalities without the resources to adequately plan for and address critical shortages like affordable housing and public transit.

This places a greater burden on many low and modest income households, making it harder to accomplish other goals from raising families to pursuing education, jobs and opportunity.

The lack of affordable housing is particularly challenging for those living on fixed incomes, especially seniors.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities reacted positively to Budget 2017, calling it a game changer because it gives municipalities the tools it needs to drive growth and a higher quality of life by providing real housing dollars and putting cities in the driver’s seat where transit planning is concerned.

As part of a new National Housing Strategy, the government will invest more than $11.2 billion in a range of initiatives designed to build, renew and repair Canada’s stock of affordable housing and help to ensure that Canadians have adequate and affordable housing that meets their needs.

This will improve housing conditions and accessibility for many including seniors, persons with disabilities and Indigenous people not living on-reserve.

The government has also committed to investing $20.1 billion over 11 years through bilateral agreements with provinces and territories to support urban public transit networks and service extensions. 

This funding will help  support Kelowna Regional Transit and the Central Okanagan Transit Future Action Plan.

Twenty years ago, Liberal Finance Minister Paul Martin vowed to address the federal government’s chronic deficit problems and did. It was a necessity.

Now in 2017, Canada’s economic situation is quite different, making it the opportune time to invest in our communities:

  • Canada’s fiscal capacity is healthy; we remain at the top of the G7 in terms of our debt to GDP ratio
  • Interest rates are low, making our debt loads manageable
  • The employment rate has dropped from 7.1 per cent to 6.6 per cent
  • The country has created 250,000 jobs, mostly full time in the last year; and we have seen modest growth in the manufacturing sector.

C. Scott Clark, former deputy minister of Finance, and Peter C. DeVries, former director, Fiscal Policy Division at the Department of Finance, noted in a recent National Post article that budget deficits of one per cent of GDP do not constitute a fiscal crisis. 

“Every G20 minister of Finance would love to have this kind of fiscal situation. Eliminating the deficit would not only be bad fiscal policy, it would mean that the Liberal government would be unable to implement the programs and policies it was elected on," they said.

As a former business person, I know that there is a time to save and a time to invest.

Our government’s willingness to work with our provincial, territorial and municipal partners to tackle some of our most pressing local issues from affordable housing, childcare and home care, to employment and skills training, the cost of post-secondary education and clean water and transit infrastructure will have a positive impact on our community.

By making key strategic investments where they are needed, and with the fiscal capacity to do so, we will reduce the social deficit, help many low and modest income Canadians join the middle class, support long-term economic gains, and maintain the quality of life Canadians have come to expect.

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About the Author

Stephen Fuhr was born in Edmonton, AB and grew up in Kamloops, BC. He is a former CF-18 fighter pilot with the Canadian Air Force.

After serving with distinction for 20 years, Stephen retired from the Canadian Forces in 2009 with the rank of Major. He joined his family’s Kelowna-based company, SkyTrac Systems, which develops aviation communication and tracking equipment. As CEO and Director of Business Development, he led the company to financial success in a challenging economic climate.

In 2012, Stephen left the company to pursue his first love of flying.

With growing interest in politics and a desire to serve his country again, Stephen ran for office in the 2015 election.

Today, he proudly serves as the Member of Parliament for the Kelowna-Lake Country riding. 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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