May 1, 2015

The 2015 Federal Budget was tabled in the House of Commons last week. This is a positive budget for Canadians with a number of specific initiatives that are important to Burlington residents.

I was pleased that the government has fulfilled its promise to balance the budget and is eliminating the $56 billion deficit that accumulated while managing the recent global and financial crisis.  Internal spending will be reduced and costs will be controlled while maintaining transfers to provinces.

The new RRIF withdrawal rules are designed to help today’s increasingly long lived seniors conserve their retirement savings to better support their retirement income needs. This was a welcome initiative and one that I have been suggesting to the Minister of Finance for a number of years. Many seniors in our community have approached me asking that the government make changes to RRIF annual withdrawal requirements and I was encouraged to see that the Minister made this important change.

The Minister of Finance also announced an extension to the Employment Insurance program for Canadians who take time off work to care for a gravely-ill family member. Currently, the program allows a leave of six weeks. With these changes, the Compassionate Care benefit will be extended to six months starting next January. I have discussed this change with both families and disease specific organizations who have been advocating for the extension of this benefit.

The creation of a dedicated Public Transit Fund has been a concept that Michael Chong, Member of Parliament for Wellington – Halton Hills has been promoting for a number of years. The Federal Government has spent billions on transit infrastructure since 2006 but it has never had its own dedicated funding source. The Public Transit Fund will provide infrastructure funding specifically for the capital needs of transit systems across Canada. Traffic and gridlock are issues for Burlington and an improved public transit system is an important part of the solution.

Finally, I have heard from post-secondary students over the years regarding the cap that exists on the amount students can earn from a part-time job while attending school before their Canada Student Loan is reduced. I was very happy to see that the $100 per week earnings cap has been completely removed. This means that students can work part-time while attending school to help pay for their education and those earnings will not reduce their Canada Student loan eligibility.

These initiatives are positive news for our community.

– Mike Wallace