Ferries funded, job grant a concern in federal budget
P.E.I. politicians see wins and losses for the province in the federal budget delivered by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Wednesday.
On the plus side, Ottawa committed to two years of funding for three ferry services around the Maritimes, two of which sail out of P.E.I. In a news release Liberal MP Lawrence MacAulay said Islanders helped convince the federal government to keep funding the service.
There will be $58 million over two years to support the continued operation of the Wood Islands, P.E.I. and Caribou, N.S. run; the Îles de la Madeleine and Souris, P.E.I. run; and the Digby, N.S. and Saint John, N.B ferry.
But there were more concerns than kudos for the budget.
Near the top of the list was a warning in the budget speech that if there was no federal-provincial agreement on the Canada Job Grant program by April 1 Ottawa would operate it on its own.
"It's disturbing, to say the least," said P.E.I. Finance Minister Wes Sheridan.
Sheridan said the statement calls into question how much more negotiating the federal government is prepared to do.
Sheridan was also concerned about the end of a federal immigrant investor program that streamlined citizenship for immigrants investing money on Island, as well as in other provinces. That program raised money that created revenue directly for P.E.I.
"When you impact something as large as an immigrant investor fund, that actually affects my bottom line without any kind of consultation," he said.
Public pension premiums up
Flaherty is boasting he will balance the federal budget next year, but the Liberal MP for Charlottetown, Sean Casey, said it is coming at too high a cost.
Casey said his main concern is a big change for retired public sector workers.
"The federal government has decided to reach into the pocket of retired civil servants and double their healthcare premiums," said Casey.
Both Sheridan and Casey said the budget doesn't do enough to create jobs, especially for young people.
The Conservative MP for Egmont, Gail Shea, argues investments in research and apprenticeship programs will create opportunities. Shea said P.E.I. will see more federal money overall in this new budget.
"The major transfers, with equalization and health are up $23 million over last year's budget," she said.
The province is also concerned about federal infrastructure funding. It says Ottawa is holding back details about how much can be spent on provincial projects.
Shea said those details will be released soon.
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