Federal election looming after budget

Atamanenko not impressed with Conservatives’ concessions

NDP Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko said he wasn’t impressed with Tuesday’s federal budget but it wasn’t until NDP leader Jack Layton spoke that the result became clear.

Despite concessions, the Conservative government is poised to fall after all three opposition parties indicated plans to vote against it Thursday.

The Liberals and Bloc Quebecois had already said they would vote against the budget but the New Democrats held out hope that demands to eliminate the federal sales tax on home heating fuel, increase numbers of doctors, boost seniors’ pensions and restore home eco-energy retrofit program would be addressed.

“Nothing in the budget has persuaded me that Mr. Harper has changed his ways,” Layton told reporters after his speech, “and that’s why the NDP will not support this budget in its current form.”

Harper’s minority government may dissolve parliament before the vote but if the vote goes ahead, the Liberals plan a non-confidence vote Friday. In either case, it will mean a May election.

While the budget did make concessions to the opposition by topping up seniors supplement, extending the retrofit program, and offering incentives to doctors and nurses to work in remote communities, the measures didn’t go far enough, says Atamanenko.

“(The budget) used very vague language in regards to the CCP, half measures on GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors), nothing on the HST on home heating and nothing really concrete with regard to doctors – it’s just not a very people-friendly budget,” said Atamanenko.

The Conservative budget plans to find savings of $4 billion by 2015 but do not identify where the cuts will occur.

On page 198 of the document, it shows that a half-billion dollar cut is coming to Human Resources and Skills Development over the next three years, said Atamanenko.

“That’s where employment insurance comes from, that’s where the regional development agency is, so that’s not very encouraging news.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had an opportunity to address the needs of hard-working, middle-class Canadians and families and he missed that opportunity, said Layton.

However, he added that the government could survive by agreeing to amend the budget to respond to NDP concerns but said that scenario is “difficult to imagine.”