Three Ways the Federal Budget Can Soften SK's Wall of Austerity
March 21st, 2017
In addition to the NDP’s push for a more progressive federal tax system, Regina–Lewvan MP Erin Weir is seeking the following three measures for Saskatchewan in tomorrow’s federal budget:
1. A Fair Share of Transit Funding
Budget 2016 allocated $3.4 billion for public transit based on current ridership. This formula favours metropolitan areas that already have extensive transit systems, rather than improving transit in cities like Regina and Saskatoon.
Our province received less than 1% of the funding despite comprising more than 3% of Canada’s population. The last Economic Update (page 19) promised “details on the allocations for the new $25.3 billion investment in public transit through Budget 2017.”
Tomorrow’s budget should ensure Saskatchewan a fair share of federal transit funding equal to our share of the national population.
2. Adequate Federal Health Transfers
With tomorrow’s provincial budget, the Sask. Party will impose cutbacks and austerity after a decade of mismanagement. The last federal budget aggravated this problem by providing an even lower level of healthcare transfers than the former Conservative government had budgeted (video).
The Liberal government must provide meaningful support for public healthcare beyond the one-off deal it signed with Saskatchewan earlier this year. Additional federal funding should be linked to stronger enforcement of the Canada Health Act, rather than allowing the Sask. Party to continue privatizing medicare.
3. Extended Employment Insurance (EI) in Regina
Budget 2016 responded to the drop in oil prices by extending the duration of EI benefits in 12 regions, but left out Edmonton, Regina and South Saskatchewan. Weir was the only MP to challenge these omissions in the Question Period following that budget (video).
The Liberal government subsequently included Edmonton and South Saskatchewan, but continues to exclude Regina. Of the 8 EI regions across Alberta and Saskatchewan, our city is now the only one without extended benefits.
Budget 2017 should finally extend EI benefits for laid-off workers in Regina. The government’s last Economic Update confirmed that there is no shortage of money in the EI Operating Account to help our city.