Federal budget should help make life more affordable

The Conservatives will be delivering this year’s budget mid-February and judging by past performances we can expect a massive document that won’t do much to ease the growing financial burden that Canadians are shouldering, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are numerous ways the government could ease mounting day to day costs, but we have yet to see any real movement on that front from the Conservatives.  Just this week they voted down a motion to limit ATM withdrawal fees to 50 cents per transaction.  They believe the blind hand of the market will correct any gouging of your hard earned dollars, but they might as well believe in the tooth fairy because time and again we see the market is not working that way.

It could be ATM fees or sky-high gas prices, but the outcome is always the same when it comes to your wallet with this government.  They want to believe that competition will favour consumers, while we believe there is room to ensure that back room collusion isn’t rigging the deck instead.  That’s why we fight for reasonable ATM fees and an ombudsman to ensure fair gas prices.

For budget purposes we are telling the government to concentrate on creating jobs, making life more affordable, and honouring veterans as immediate priorities.  We are also calling for the EcoEnergy retrofit program to be reinstated.  It was a popular way to help people save money on energy costs with significant spin-offs for the economy. 

Clearly more needs to be done to help Canadians struggling to make ends meet.  There are still over 300,000 more people unemployed than there were before the recession but you wouldn’t know it if you only listened to the ‘sunshine economy’ reports from government members.   New Democrats know that Canadian families need a fair break and they need action now, not next year.

The biggest factor to effect change would be better employment numbers, but there’s no denying that everyday costs are rising at rates that far outstrip increases in the amount of cash most people are bringing in. The steep hike in home heating fuel and the diesel will be felt for months until capacity can catch up after a refinery fire in December only adding to the problem.   Consumers need to get a break somewhere which is the idea behind initiatives such as the motion to cap ATM fees.

For better off people it might seem like small change, but for too many Canadians paying  two or three dollars to withdraw their own money from an ATM when it costs banks as little as 36 cents to process the transaction is unfair. We had hoped that the Conservatives would honour their promise to tackle bank fees and support our motion, but were not so surprised when they didn’t.

Finally, it is clear that many of our veterans have been deeply hurt by recent government cuts to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  These same people who put their lives on the line for us have become the subject of cold-hearted penny pinching.  This budget is a great opportunity for the government to recognize their errors and reverse the cuts.