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Budget has 'bits and pieces' for the region: Melillo

The Conservative MP for Kenora says Freeland's budget “keeps taxes high, builds bureaucracy instead of homes, and increases spending.”
Eric Melillo
Eric Melillo, MP for Kenora

The 2024-25 federal budget is a plan to “unlock the door to the middle class for more Canadians – and renew the promise of our great country,” according to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Kenora’s Conservative MP offered a different viewpoint Wednesday, saying the budget “keeps taxes high, builds bureaucracy instead of homes, and increases spending.”

The budget that Freeland introduced in the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon is “a classic NDP-Liberal budget,” Melillo said in a Zoom interview with Dougall Media.

“There’s a lot of spending in it (and) no plan to get back to balance,” he said. “It’s going to add a lot more fuel to the inflationary fire.”

The Liberal government’s fiscal plan will “continue to exacerbate the cost-of-living crisis that we’re seeing in Northwestern Ontario and right across the country,” he said.

Melillo conceded that the budget contains “little bits and pieces” that are good for his region, including money for a bridge over the Berens River near Pikangikum First Nation.

“Obviously, the Berens River bridge is an important project and they’re happy to see that’s there,” he said. “But of course, overall, as I said, it’s a high-tax, high-spending budget.”

The budget proposes funding to support the Berens River bridge and road project and an “all-seasons road project” in northeast Saskatchewan, but it doesn’t say how much each project would get.

The Berens River bridge would connect Pikangikum and other First Nations to highways and communities to the south.

It would also provide a road link for Frontier Lithium to transport product from mines in the area.

A bridge has been designed but full funding for its construction has not been secured.

Melillo said Freeland’s budget includes no commitment to “axe the carbon tax, which of course is one of our key things we wanted to see.”

As well, he said, the government lacks a “plan to get more homes built” and an approach to getting spending under control.

“All of those things are missing in this budget, so our party won’t be able to support it,” he said.

Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Marcus Powlowski, a Liberal, told Dougall Media the budget offers many good things for Northwestern Ontario.

Besides support for the Berens River bridge project, he pointed to a larger tax credit for volunteer firefighters and “new loan guarantees for Indigenous participation in natural resource and energy projects.”

As well, he said, “I think we’ve gone a long way in the last couple of years in terms of trying to get more doctors and health-care people into small towns.”

Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After working at newspapers across the Prairies, Mike found where he belongs when he moved to Northwestern Ontario.
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