MP Calkins considers 2014 accomplishments

Among the items that Wetaskiwin MNP Blaine Calkins is pleased with is the fact that people are paying less

Among the items that Wetaskiwin MNP Blaine Calkins is pleased with is the fact that people are paying less percentage in taxes but tax revenues for the federal government is up.

Despite taking less as a percentage from families and corporate taxes, he says there is a bigger pool of revenue.  “We’re taking less revenue but because of the economic growth we’ve seen in Canada, we’ve got a much bigger pie,” Calkins said.

The federal government is also working towards a balanced 2015 budget and Calkins suggests the government wants to live within its means. He says there is a larger pool of tax revenue for Canada.

Temporary foreign workers program revamped

Changes to the temporary foreign worker program in June caused some controversy among advocates of those workers, but Calkins says the intent was to ensure Canadians got first chance at a job.

The program is meant as a stopgap measure for employers who cannot find anyone else to hire and not as a permanent solution.

“It appeared to become a source of dependent labour, and some, I’m not going to say all, but some businesses may have started using that program as their first option,” said Calkins.

He says there was a massive influx of temporary foreign workers in the country since 2006.

“It became almost too dependent on that labour source,” he added.

The issue he sees is there were distorted wage statistics with Calkins stating information may differ depending on whom a person talks to.

Despite that, there is a labour shortage in Alberta, especially in the service positions such as servers and labourers.

Calkins hopes the Express Entry changes in the immigration program will be a more stable fix to what he calls a long-term issue. “Rather than take them as they come, we’ll prioritize access for those who can fill the most in-demand positions to keep Canada’s economy going.”

Express Entry helps candidates determine if they can be invited to apply for permanent residence.

Calkins did have some discussions with businesses and community leaders after changes were announced, but he suggests there is a large underutilized First Nations and youth work force.

For some employers, the issue was even if they did raise wages, they still couldn’t find anyone to hire, said Calkins. “It’s actually quite conceivable that everyone who wants to work is working.”

Canada and Korea ratify free trade agreement

The ratification of the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement is another area Calkins is pleased with.

Starting in the new year, the initiative will remove tariffs on beef, pork and virtually every agricultural commodity that Canada exports, he explained.

“Removing these tariff barriers with countries that have similar economies and have similar dollar values to Canada is going to make us all stronger,” said Calkins.

Policy making after Ottawa shooting

The horrific shooting of Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa Oct. 22, raised serious questions about protecting Canada’s citizens while at the same time protecting their freedoms.

On Oct. 7 the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act was introduced to provide Canadian Security Intelligence Service with more tools to investigate threats related to national security and made safeguards more robust, said Calkins.

“We always want to have freedom of thought and freedom of expression, but if somebody is plotting to do something, having that preventative approach, in these particular cases,  is probably the better solution than waiting until something terrible happens,” explained Calkins.

Tax-free dollars for parents

Another accomplishment Calkins is pleased with is the announcement of the Canada child tax benefit, which is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families with children under 18-years-old.

“Every single family in Canada with children will see a benefit,” said Calkins.

He says the average Canadian family will receive several thousand dollars over the course of raising their children as a result of this initiative. “We’ve seen more children raised out of the poverty level in Canada than we’ve ever had before because of policies like this.”

Discussing the price of oil

With oil prices falling to $55 to $60 a barrel, many consumers find themselves with more money in their wallets than they are used to.

“A little extra disposable income is always nice,” said Calkins.

The pressure being put on by OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) to drive down the price of oil is something Calkins feels is a market distortion. “It’s not going to be something that can last for the long term.”

He suggests Alberta may be affected over a short-term period however, but feels the federal government will not, as the royalties stay in the province. If the job market stays balanced the federal government won’t be directly affected by it, said.

“The Canadian economy is broad and robust. It’s not wholly and solely dependent on oil and gas,” Calkins said.

He suggests the province will have to make some tough decisions with its 2015 budget.


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