NEWS

Local politicians react to federal budget

03/21/2013 10:18 EDT | Updated 05/21/2013 05:12 EDT
With $4.7 billion a year earmarked for infrastructure over the next 10 years, today’s unveiling of the 2013 federal budget is, according to local politicians, a step in the right direction — if a little underwhelming.

“The figure I’ve heard is impressive, but it’s well less than what we thought it was going to be or what we asked for,” said Montreal city councillor and STM vice-chair Marvin Rotrand.

He said he supported New Democratic Party MP Olivia Chow’s bid to implement a national public transit strategy, and was disappointed to find out public transit had been lumped in with infrastructure.

He called for a public transit plan that would be “recurrent, provisable and indexed,” and said that Montreal supports the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ demand for $6.5 billion a year.

Still, he said the annual $4.7 billion is “a place we can start from.”

Projet Montreal leader Richard Bergeron said the budget is workable, but the onus is on the province to invest the money it receives from the federal government wisely.

“It’s not a bad budget if we consider the federal government did its job today, but Quebec has to do its own job now,” he said.

“I hope that this time, Quebec will decide to invest in Montreal and in public transit in Montreal. We will pressure Quebec to make sure this happens.”

Bergeron pointed to the money earmarked for social housing and homelessness as good news, and said he hopes Montreal will see a healthy portion of those funds.

"An attack on Quebec's way of doing things"

But several items in the 2013 budget have left some of Montreal’s and Quebec’s plans in the lurch.

The $125 million set aside for the temporary causeway between Nuns’ Island and the South Shore was good news, but the federal input towards the cost of the new Champlain Bridge was left unclear.

Quebec finance minister Nicolas Marceau was also disappointed with the strings attached to the federal government’s overhauled job training program, which will require provinces to meet certain criteria in order to continue receiving funding.

“We have our own ways of doing things,” he said.

“For example, in labour training we have our own programs, which are working well.”

Marceau also pointed to the phasing out of a federal tax credit for investments in union solidarity funds, which he said pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into Quebec companies, and creates jobs.

He said Quebec was being singled out by the federal government.

“This is clearly an attack on our way of doing things here in Quebec,” he said.

“These funds have been extremely useful in the past. they are providing $600 million per year to our firms, to our businesses.”

Marceau said what Quebec is asking the federal government for is block transfers instead of having money transferred project by project.

“We think we are in a better position than the federal government to establish priorities.”

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