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Federal minister talks Budget 2015

BY PAULINE ZULUETA/HIGH RIVER TIMES POSTMEDIA NETWORK. Minister of State for Western Economic Development Michelle Rempel visited High River on May 22 to speak to council and members of the small business community about this year's federal budget and priorities.

BY PAULINE ZULUETA/HIGH RIVER TIMES POSTMEDIA NETWORK. Minister of State for Western Economic Development Michelle Rempel visited High River on May 22 to speak to council and members of the small business community about this year’s federal budget and priorities.

High River Times
May 26, 2015
By Pauline Zulueta

Late last month, the federal government announced its 2015 budget to Canadians. This past week, Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, visited High River to talk about the budget’s impact on businesses, families and the local economy.

“The policies and the initiatives that we put in place in this federal budget are capstone of many years of sound economic planning,” Rempel said at the Highwood Memorial Centre on May 22 in front of members of council and the business community.

With the Canadian government placing an emphasis on establishing trade agreements with various nations, including the European Union and South Korea, Canada has been able to attract foreign directed investment, Rempel said.

“If you talk to any of our big trade association – certainly here in Western Canada our Cattlemen’s Association, our ag producers – they’re telling you how important these agreements are to the overall industrial strength and competitiveness of Canada,” she said.

Another major priority is maintaining a low tax agenda for both companies and families, Rempel said.

Although corporate tax rates remained untouched in the recent budget, the small business tax rate will be reduced from 11 to nine per cent over the next four years. The government has also raised the small business income limit to $500,000 meaning businesses who make half a million dollars or less can qualify as a small business.

“Small businesses in Canada now pay 44 per cent less taxes than when we came into office in 2006,” Rempel said.

She added a family of four will now have an extra $6,600 in tax relief and increased benefits through programs such as the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB), the Child Care Expense Deduction and the Family Tax Cut.

Providing these tax cuts allows for small businesses and families to take more risks with their extra money, Rempel said. Businesses may be able to hire more employees, launch another product or explore different markets, she added.

“That liquidity allows you to absorb some of that risk and also take risk in growing your company,” she said. “It’s the same thing on the family side as well. When you have more tax dollars in your pocket, you have more confidence to spend, the economy grows and you have more choice in what you can do with that money.”

To ensure further prosperity, Rempel added it is important to maintain good economic infrastructure such as roads, schools and hospitals.

The 2015 budget will continue with the New Building Canada Plan announced in 2014 which commits $53 billion for infrastructure projects.

New this year is the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program which invests $150 million over the next two years for existing community facilities across Canada.

“This is a program to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary,” she said. “We’re looking for projects that really celebrate a community sense of place – things like cenotaphs, parks and trails.”

Rempel also spoke about the need to continue with skilled labour training programs. She added her department, Western Economic Diversification (WD), is actively working on policies and looking for “innovative ways to provide skills training.”

As many of High River’s businesses rely on temporary foreign workers, MP for Macleod John Barlow said long-term solutions must be reached to address the permanent problem of skilled labour shortage.

He said the new Express Entry program will help business owners gain confidence in bringing foreign workers on board who will now be able to have permanent resident status within a year.

In terms of the Disaster Recovery Program, Barlow said he will be in contact with the new minister of municipal affairs to ensure the program moves forward.

“All the work that we’ve done over the last 18 months, we want to make sure that we don’t have to start over,” he said. “That they understand some of the progress we’ve made and some of the obstacles that are there that we’re trying to eliminate.”

Minister Rempel encouraged the Town of High River to apply for the National Disaster Mitigation Program (NDMP) which allocates money for mitigation investments such as risk assessments, flood mapping and mitigation planning.

Grant programs such as NDMP are important for High River, said Mayor Craig Snodgrass, adding he also spoke with Rempel about how WD can support High River’s economic development.

“It’s about making the connections,” Snodgrass said. “High River will rebuilding this thing on our own but we do need connections to other provinces as to what they’re doing and making sure everybody knows the door is open for business in High River.”