Ottawa seeking input on federal budget
Central Albertans still have a chance to tell Ottawa what they want in this year’s federal budget.
Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen met with business, municipal and other community representatives earlier this month at a roundtable to find out what they’d like to see in the upcoming budget. The budget is expected before the end of March.
Residents have until Friday to write to Dreeshen’s constituency office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to 100 A, 4315 55th Ave., Red Deer, T4N 4N7.
Dreeshen was out of the country on business on Tuesday. However, constituency assistant Colin Connon said the office has received only about a dozen letters, so response has been low so far.
The roundtable discussions showed a wide range of requests — ranging from reducing bureaucratic red tape for businesses to making infrastructure funding more stable for municipalities.
Tax credits were also a hot topic, according to Connon.
Some tax credit programs are indexed to inflation and some aren’t. Some people would like to see more consistency in this area, he added.
Red Deer College representatives were at the roundtable, urging greater funding be put into applied research. Now, only about one per cent of research dollars go to colleges and institutes. The rest goes to universities, said RDC president Joel Ward.
The college’s Centre for Innovation and Manufacturing developed more than 220 projects in the last six months for small and medium enterprises. The work is done on a shoestring budget, Ward said.
“But we enable these companies to grow and achieve a level of success that they couldn’t afford on their own,” said Ward.
Post-secondary funding is a provincial matter and the federal government is reluctant to get into this.
“We spend time with them to encourage the provinces to invest more in our institutions, particularly to address shortages in advanced skills training, foreign trades and technology and apprenticeship,” said Ward.
The college is also looking for simpler transfer of credentials from province to province and wants to speed the process of getting highly-skilled newcomers up to Canadian standards.
“We’ve asked them to look at temporary foreign worker programs and also how we can recognize foreign credentials more quickly for new Canadians,” said Ward. “We also believe in equipping Aboriginal Peoples and people with disabilities — and how we might have a national strategy to work in those two areas.”
While Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling didn’t attend the roundtable because of city budget talks, he was able to meet with Dreeshen this month.
The municipality wants the sequel to the Building Canada Fund, set to end in 2014, to include monies not just for pipes, bridges, roads and the like.
“The Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the federal government know that there’s an infrastructure deficit,” said Flewwelling. “We want money for our recreational and cultural facilities as well.”
Red Deer County Deputy Mayor Philip Massier said they would like to see more financial assistance for building seniors housing because they see that as an increasing issue in the coming years.
“We’d like to see more assistance in the transportation of getting our products into the export market, whether that be the pipeline to get our oil to the coast,” said Massier.
Red Deer Chamber of Commerce is championing for more dollars into applied research because that will help stimulate manufacturing and technology in Central Alberta, said president Gayle Langford.
“Applied research is something that businesses can use,” said Langford.
The Chamber is also eager for a federal transportation strategy.
“If we had one, we might be refining product and by doing that, you get to see the benefit for all Canadians in oil and gas development,” she said. “It’s not just about Western Canada or Alberta.”
A national energy strategy is also being sought, said Langford.
The Chamber also pushed a couple of policy changes at the national Chamber level and the government is already taking action, she added. One was to see the immigration policy help employers, she added.
Ottawa is also looking at making the Canada Revenue Agency easier for small businesses to deal with, Langford said.