April 22, 2016 - 9:13 AM
It has been an exhilarating four months since I took my seat in the House of Commons representing the North Okanagan-Shuswap. The work of Parliament is of major significance to all of our lives and I appreciate the honour of representing our constituency in Ottawa. Transitioning into the role of Member of Parliament is an unforgettable experience and I would like to thank all the individuals and groups from across the riding that have provided me input and feedback as I continue in this process.
The first federal budget of the 42nd Parliament was tabled on March 22 and my work in preparation for this budget began in February when I began the process of pre-budget consultations. Through rounds of meetings, I was able to connect with elected representatives from 30 communities and five First Nations from across the riding to discuss the needs and priorities of our riding. I was also able to consult with Provincial MLAs on their perspectives and efforts to deliver positive results for our communities.
Connecting with all these representatives provided me a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities that we face in the North Okanagan-Shuswap. Priorities include treatment and handling systems for water and sewage that require investment. The momentum of recent safety improvements to the Trans-Canada Highway needs to be carried forward as do safety improvements on other highways in our region including Highway 97 and Highway 6.
Representatives I met also raised the need for increased skills training and supports for those suffering from mental illness. I learned that there are spaces in the riding that can accommodate these sorts of programs and supports if funding can come from Ottawa for retro-fitting existing buildings and funding services. Affordable housing is also a challenge that too many people are facing in our region and it is apparent that access to affordable housing is effective in helping those who are motivated to improve their situation and work towards greater self-sufficiency.
I compiled the information gathered in these consultations, provided it to the government and continue to work hard to fulfill my role as your MP and produce results. This means that my office and I will continue to engage with the government, all the way up to the Prime Minister, to ensure that they know what is needed in the North Okanagan-Shuswap. This is an essential part of my job as your MP and I will continue to press the government for results.
Another essential part of my job is holding the government to account on its policies, including fiscal policy in the budget. I remain concerned about the level of debt delivered in the budget. PM Trudeau promised to limit the deficit this year to $10 billion but has delivered a deficit much larger than that.
“How can our MP be seeking funding from the budget but be opposed to the deficit it brings?” you may be asking yourself and this is a valid question. The answer is this: I believe that federal funding and balanced budgets are both possible and not exclusive of each other. Government needs to invest in communities but with balanced budgets that do not burden taxpayers, both present and future.
Federal governments have run deficits in past years when, frankly, they had to. When Canada’s economy was in recession shrinking at a rate of four per cent per year, it was clear that a deficit was appropriate to stimulate the economy.
However, Canada’s economy today is not shrinking; according to Statistics Canada, it is growing. Our economy has grown for the past four consecutive months reported which begs the questions of why the federal government is running a deficit at all and breaking its promise to limit deficit spending to $10 billion when our economy has actually been growing.
My rejection of the 2016 deficit will not stop me from pressing forward in advocating on behalf of the North Okanagan- Shuswap because if we are all on the hook to repay the debt then we should all be receiving a fair portion of the spending. I was elected to advocate on your behalf and that is what I will continue to do.
Mel Arnold, Member of Parliament
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