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Budget leaves mixed bag for rural folks

Farming organizations like the Grain Growers of Canada were left feeling "disappointed" on Tuesday after the federal budget was released.
Carnell Farms4.JPG

NORTHWESTERN ONTARIO — Rural residents who heat their homes with oil or propane will receive a bigger carbon tax rebate this year if the federal budget is approved, but some farm groups say the document let them down.

The proposed budget delivered on Tuesday by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland doubles the rural "top-up" carbon rebate amount to 20 per cent, bringing the amount to $1,344 per year.

Conservative opposition MPs like Eric Melillo said a better solution would be to remove carbon taxes altogether, particularly as they apply to food and farmers.

"Struggling families cannot afford higher taxes and more inflationary spending that drives up the cost of everything and keeps interest rates high," Melillo (Kenora) said in a news release.

Liberal MP Marcus Powlowski, who is a doctor, praised the proposed budget for pledging ways to move more doctors into rural areas.

"Not only by giving more loan forgiveness to incentivize doctors to work in small towns but also by expanding this . . . program to include dentists, (personal support workers), physiotherapists, as well as teachers and social workers," Powlowski (Thunder Bay-Rainy River) said in a statement on Wednesday.

The budget also includes $1.3 billion for high-speed internet service in rural Ontario, and more than $4 billion over seven years for a housing strategy that's to include rural and Indigenous communities.

Melillo said in his view, affordable housing has not been a priority for the Liberal government.

Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association president and Shuniah mayor, Wendy Landry, said she was still mulling the budget document on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, farming organizations like the Grain Growers of Canada were left feeling "disappointed" on Tuesday.

The organization said that although Canada's agriculture sector supports one in nine jobs and contributes nearly $144 billion to the country's GDP (gross domestic product), it's "only mentioned six times" in the 2024 budget document, which comes to more than 400 pages.

Specifically, the grain growers claim the budget does nothing to address "transportation and supply-chain disruptions (that) over the past years have impacted the confidence of some of the country's largest trading partners."

"The Canada Grains Act has also not been updated for decades and does not fully serve the 21st-century grain farmer," the group said.

It added: "One of the best ways to support the (grain) sector is through plant breeding innovation, something the budget fails to address."

In the proposed budget document, Freeland says the government "is supporting efforts to amend the Copyright Act" to deal with the issue of "interoperability" so that farmers can freely link up and utilize equipment built by different manufacturers.

Freeland, who said farmers should be able to "use their equipment in the way that is best for their farm," said consultations about interoperability are to start in June.

The Grain Growers of Canada said it has been waiting for those consultations since last year.

On the plus side, the government said the interest-free limit on a federal loan program for farmers is to be set at $250,000.

The government said it is also offering "predictable support (that) helps farmers build resilience as they face the increasingly severe effects of climate change," such as drought and floods.

The Chronicle Journal / Local Journalism Initiative


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