Over the past few weeks, I have engaged in tele-town hall conversations and zoom meetings with residents, advisory groups, chambers of commerce, and our local riding association. A consensus has emerged that now is the time to move forward and accelerate growth, so that all Canadians can flourish within a national framework of compassion and understanding.
We can achieve this through determination, investments, collaboration, and creativity – and through a new era of partnership between government, industry, not-for-profits and education. Working together, we can accelerate growth and excel in the global community. But we must also get better at listening to the concerns of Canadians while helping them understand how the budget impacts their lives, their businesses, and their hopes for a brighter future.
As part of my input to the Minister of Finance on Budget 2022 I focused on six areas:
- Investing in domestic manufacturing, research, and skills development.
- Extending current programs or implementing new funding for small businesses, while supporting entrepreneurs from all backgrounds.
- Investing in infrastructure, including direct federal transfers to municipalities.
- Working with provinces and territories to provide support for mental health.
- Creating new funding initiatives to address affordable housing.
- Ensuring an inclusive future for all Canadians.
Drawing on the insights from residents, chambers of commerce, developers, and non-profits, recommendations were also made to address the cost of post-secondary education, and to invest in social infrastructure, recognizing the need for additional outdoor spaces, youth centres, seniors’ meeting places, immigrant-support centres, healing centres, and meeting places for marginalized Canadians.
There were suggestions for further investments in transit, along with support for higher housing densities in areas well served by transit. One idea to help with affordable housing was to provide funding opportunities for non-profits to acquire housing stock, with a focus on affordability and rent-geared-to-income. Support for small businesses was prevalent, with recommendations to extend loan and interest repayment. In addition, increases in support for seniors, retirees, and people with disabilities was a recurring theme of our consultations.
As we look forward to renewal, we must do so with a fulfillment of the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action. Our nation cannot be whole, while Indigenous communities have substandard housing, poor access to quality health care, and gaps in the provision of safe drinking water. Broadband and educational resources should be a priority, and always in partnership and with the guidance of Indigenous leaders.
Our Canada is a caring nation, and I have heard that message repeatedly from residents in my community. But I have also heard deep concerns regarding the path ahead and the risk of leaving some Canadians behind.
That being said, we cannot burden future generations. Balancing the budget and reducing debt must also be a priority. My hope is that budget 2022 will recognize the need to tackle social and fiscal deficits, while taking bold action on the environment and creating new career opportunities for Canadians.
I am excited by all of these prospects, renewed with an enthusiasm for the future, and confident in our ability to build an inclusive, equitable, and compassionate Canada.