The Chamber of Commerce sees the new federal budget as standing Canada on solid fiscal ground in shaky times.
Prince George's Chamber CEO Jennifer Brandle-McCall was in close consultation with the national Chamber body and gleaning budget information as fast as she could, in the short time after it was announced in Ottawa. She felt disappointed in some aspects but impressed by others, and gave the balance an overall passing grade.
"We are happy to see a commitment to a balanced budget in 2015-16. We, as a national body, have been consistently asking for that to happen before the federal government takes on any new expenditures," said Brandle-McCall.
She was pleased by the budget's language around restraining federal spending and no short-term growth in buying programs. Also encouraging was the focus on closing tax loopholes that were allowing individuals and corporations to duck out of paying their fair share to the national interest.
"They have based this budget on very prudent assumptions about what is going to happen in the overall economy and we feel, because of this, that Canada really does deserve the title it has earned as the strongest national economy in the G7 group of nations," she said. "We are not out of the woods, we are not through the hard times yet, and just because it feels better than it was we should not behave like the work is finished. We have to stay focused on restraint and prudency."
She was disheartened to see what she feels is a lost opportunity within the budget, one that would stimulate business and wake up the dazed aspects of our economy. In last year's budget the federal government closed the incentive program for industrial research and development. It stayed closed in this budget. She agreed that extra program spending was the wrong way to go, but holding the line on that program would have triggered short-term private-sector spending - estimated at more than $700 million a year - all aimed at finding ways to boost productivity and sustainability in the long-term.
She was pleased to see repeated language pertaining to better apprenticeship programs, skills training, transitioning unemployed people into jobs, and up-skilling employed people into better positions.
"The one big plus for Prince George and the north within this budget was that absolute focus on making training and skills development a major priority," she said.