Local MPs are offering praise for this year’s federal budget and its support for Lake Simcoe and grocery bills, but some critics say more should have come for affordability.
The federal budget released this week includes a tax rebate aimed at low-income families, which could mean $234 for eligible single persons and $467 for eligible couples with children. Meanwhile, $650 million will go to help restore the health of major bodies of water, including Lake Simcoe.
With the projected deficit climbing to $40.1 billion, Newmarket-Aurora MP Tony Van Bynen said it is a “cautious budget.”
“It reflects the fact we’re still facing some degree of economic uncertainty,” Van Bynen said, adding that it makes sure “we continue our commitment to be socially responsible, but make sure we’re cautious.”
The budget highlights include $46.2 billion in new health transfers to the provinces and territories, $13 billion over five years to create a new dental plan for the uninsured and more incentives for investing in green energy.
With the expected debt-to-GDP ratio expected to climb, Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill MP Leah Taylor Roy said the budget has “the right balance,” highlighting the health care spending as a “historic investment.”
“We also want to ensure the government is not doing anything that would cause inflation to rise again,” she said.
But despite these investments, some social organizations say the budget does not go far enough in addressing affordability concerns. The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness said the budget needed to take more meaningful action. The organization has been calling for a mass rental subsidy program for those most in need, at an estimated cost of between $1.5 billion and $3 billion per year.
“It’s clear that the federal government does not see the scale and urgency of these crises, and have offered no solutions,” organization president and CEO Tim Richter said. “For thousands of Canadians who will not be able to pay their rent this week, they will find no relief or meaningful support in this budget. Too many others will be projected unnecessarily into the life-threatening experience of homelessness.”
Both Van Bynen and Taylor Roy said the government’s efforts on affordability need to be looked at on a wider level, factoring in benefits from previous years.
Van Bynen noted measures like $10-a-day childcare making things more affordable for families.
“We need to look at all of the programs that are already introduced,” he said, adding that the dental program also stands to help lower-income households. “They’ll make huge differences.”
One measure tucked away in the budget is $21.5 million to continue work on the future delivery of the Canada Disability Benefit, including engagement with the disability community and provinces. Newmarket locals and advocates have expressed that current disability supports are not enough to live on, and there is an issue where Ontario Disability Support Program benefits are reduced based on the Canada Disability Benefit you receive.
“We want to be sure additional money we are giving out to people does not mean the province is going to pay less,” Taylor Roy said. “There’s more work to be done.”
Lake Simcoe funding
The health of Lake Simcoe is also getting support, with it listed as part of a $650-million package over 10 years to support the monitoring and restoration of several freshwater bodies. Newmarket had joined a chorus of other nearby municipalities asking for federal support toward the lake.
Although the specifics have not yet been released, Newmarket Councillor Christina Bisanz said it was good work by all of the lake’s neighbouring councils.
“We are sustained by the lake and therefore should be good stewards to protect it,” Bisanz said on social media. “Glad to be part of the advocacy efforts.”
The lake's health has garnered concern in recent years due to contamination from human activities.
“It’s a great concern,” Taylor Roy said, adding that more highways and urban sprawl “poses greater risk to our freshwater. We need to protect it.”
Taylor Roy said she is bullish on Canada’s future and what the federal government is investing in.
“We have to get through this rough patch,” she said. “We’ll get there.”
Correction, April 5, 2023: An earlier version of this story stated the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness proposed subsidy would cost $6 billion per year. In fact, the organization said it would cost $1.5 to $3 billion per year depending on implementation.