Co-op housing residents in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, and families facing a constant cost squeeze, probably feel better following the federal budget announced Tuesday.
One part of the $30-billion deficit budget is putting $30 million over two years for federal social housing programs.
“That addresses, at least for the next two years, some of those federal subsidies that people were worried about,” said Liberal MP Dan Ruimy.
During the October election campaign, Ruimy met with residents worried they could end up out on the street as mortgages expired and along with those the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. subsidies on some units in co-op housing complexes.
While mortgages are paid off, many co-ops still have second or third mortgages taken on to pay for building repairs or upgrades.
The language isn’t specific, but Ruimy is confident the subsidies will remain for at least two years.
Ruimy said there are seven coop housing projects with 638 families in both cities.
“I’m proud that we made a decision to stand up and do something.”
The federal budget deficit for 2016 has tripled in size from an election promise of $10 billion to just under $30 billion.
Former Conservative candidate Mike Murray questioned the need for such spending, saying the economy is growing, excluding the energy sector, at a rate of 2.2 per cent, and until now there was a budget surplus.
“Why would you go into deficit?”
With a $30-billion deficit, “That’s really not keeping your promise, is it?”
He pointed out the Liberal government’s spending on infrastructure isn’t far off from the Conservatives.
“This is good stuff. This is going to help people. I’m proud of it,” Ruimy said.
The new budget also gives families a boost with the new Canada Child Benefit, which scraps several tax credits and benefits and combines everything in one monthly cheque. For families making under $30,000 a year, it means they’ll get a cheque for $533 a month for each child under six.
Families with one child under six and an income of $80,000 will get a monthly cheque for $289.
Plus, the money isn’t considered part of taxable income, he pointed out.
The budget also includes $460 million for transit for B.C., plus money for less-exciting projects, such as the $212 million for Metro Vancouver’s Lion’s Gate waste water treatment plant.
That latter was the top request from Metro Vancouver, Ruimy added.
Reaction from the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows chamber of commerce was largely positive, though it carried a warning of “risky fiscal management,” given the size of the deficit and urged a return to a balanced budget.
However, “It’s positive to see a focus on infrastructure investment,” said president Michael Morden.
However, it’s only a quarter of what was originally promised, he added.
The chamber was also concerned about the government not reducing the corporate tax rate for small businesses, saying that sends the wrong message.
Ruimy said providing better drinking water systems to First Nations bands across Canada was another priority, but one that had to be done. The budget allocates $8.4 billion on aboriginal spending.
“Nobody wanted to tackle that project because there’s no return on it, but we did … because we needed to do it.”
How can Canada move forward, “When we have so many people living in those kinds of conditions? We need to fix that.”
Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker liked the new funding for transit.
“Clearly, the federal government recognized the importance of these projects.”
The budget now commits Ottawa to provide up to 50 per cent of the costs of public transit projects.
Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge are considering joining in a study to look at a Rapid Bus route from downtown Maple Ridge to the Evergreen SkyTrain line.