No mention of Ring of Fire in budget: Critics – by Laura Stricker (Sudbury Star – February 13, 2014)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

A local economist is “disillusioned” by the federal government’s latest budget. “I thought the Conservatives were more fun than that,” David Robinson, a Laurentian University professor, laughed. On Tuesday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty introduced the $279-billion budget, which he told reporters would be “boring.”

“I’m surprised at how little there is going on in it. I thought the Conservatives still had some ideas and were pressing for stuff, and they either don’t have any ideas or they really are doing what a lot of people think, which is saving everything for one last attempt to keep themselves in government,” Robinson said. “How could you put so little into so many pages?”

Conservative Party critics were less kind about it. “My party has been calling it the do-nothing budget. Unfortunately, it’s exactly that,” Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault said Wednesday, a few minutes before Question Period in the House of Commons. “I think Canadian families, Canadians in general, will have to wait another year before we actually see anything that will help (them).

“There’s nothing to really create jobs in this, there’s nothing to help the youth unemployment rate that in Sudbury is starting to grow, right across the country is getting bigger and bigger. So there’s lot of things they could have done. It comes down to choices and priorities, and I don’t think their choices and priorities have been put in the right place.”

A few of those choices are putting $500 million aside over two years to help car companies expand production; $108 million over the next three years to grow the veterans funeral and burial program, and more than $1 billion to fix Montreal’s Champlain Bridge and build a new Windsor-Detroit bridge.

Smokers will take a hit, paying another $4 per cigarette carton. Retired civil servants will also be affected by the government cutting its benefit contributions from 75% to 50%. The $3 billion that was reserved to buy military vehicles has been pushed back to 2016.

In all, they’ll be $2.9 billion in the red this year and have a (projected) $6.4 billion surplus next year.

“The (Sudbury) chamber is generally speaking pleased with the budget in the context of no changes to tax rates personally or corporately and moving towards a balanced budget relatively soon, perhaps as soon as in the upcoming fiscal year,” said David Boyce, chair of the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

“The budget does provide some infrastructure funding, but we would like to have seen some infrastructure funds allocated for development of the Ring of Fire project, which is an important one for our community. We do think for that project to move ahead we’re going to need some contribution by the federal government to infrastructure in Northwestern Ontario.”

Thibeault agreed, criticizing the Stephen Harper government over Northern Ontario’s lack of representation.

“They didn’t even mention Northern Ontario. I’m still going through it, but in the 400 pages, all of the details I’ve looked at, Northern Ontario is not mentioned. There’s nothing in there for the Ring of Fire, which we know – not only for Northern Ontario and Ontario, but for the country, the importance of it – and they have nothing mentioned in there of it.

“There’s nothing about FedNor (Federal Economic Development Initiative in Northern Ontario). It’s just been status quo. We really need to ensure we find ways to continue to have economic growth in the north, to continue to grow our economy, create the jobs. There’s just nothing there.”

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