It was a fact-finding mission, of sorts, for Joyce Murray.
The Liberal MP for Vancouver-Quadra was in Prince George Tuesday making local contacts and meeting with various civic leaders. She met with Mayor Shari Green, hot off her B.C. Mayors Caucus meeting where they unloaded on the federal and provincial governments for unloading on municipalities. She also met with regional district and chamber of commerce representatives.
“I’m hearing that municipalities want more certainty and predictability for infrastructure funding,” Murray said.
She pointed out that it was the Liberal government that instituted the plan for gas tax revenue to return to municipalities and credited the Conservative government for not eliminating it.
Murray is the Liberal critic for small business and part of her northern tour here and in Terrace was to gather feedback on the federal budget. Her concerns with the budget are two-fold: Firstly that the Conservatives are focusing their attention on the wrong sector when it comes to job creation.
“The Conservatives are paying too much attention to large corporate interests and too little to small business interests,” she said, pointing out that small businesses account for more jobs in the Canadian economy than large corporations.
She also criticized the Conservatives for changes to the Employment Insurance program.
“We’ve called on government to hold on in EI premium increases, but they’ve increased them for two years in a row,” she said.
EI premium increases hit businesses as hard as workers as both contribute to the fund. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has created a bit of controversy over his comment that any job is a good job, raising the spectre that those collecting EI will be forced to move to take a job they are perhaps not suited to. Murray said the details of exactly what the Conservatives are planning haven’t been released yet, so it’s hard to comment on their plans.
As for the budget in general and the Conservatives’ omnibus bill, Murray says pushing it all through in one bill is not good for democracy. She said the changes being put forward by the Conservatives should be debated by about 10 different parliamentary committees. Instead, only the finance committee will debate it.
She also hammered the Conservatives for changes to the Old Age Security, essentially moving retirement age from 65 years old to 67 years old.
“It will hurt low income and disabled people the hardest,” she said. “Often they look forward to 65 so they can get OAS (and sometimes move above the poverty line). Those are the people who will be paying the most.”
She also pointed out that the plan will save the federal government an estimated $10 billion, which, ironically, is about the same amount as the over-budget F-35 jet purchase.
And, with a link to economist and former ICBC head Robyn Allan’s damning economic indictment of the Northern Gateway pipeline project on her website, it’s no secret where her sentiments lie on the controversial project.
Pointing out that it was the Liberals under Pierre Trudeau who, in 1972, unofficially instituted a moratorium on oil tanker traffic along B.C.’s north coast, Murray has called on support for Bill C-606, which would formalize the ban.
“It’s just the wrong route,” she said, but didn’t elaborate on what the right route would be.