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Foothills Focus, 8ed.

Hello again everyone,

April 21 was an incredible day as Finance Minister Joe Oliver announced our 2015-16 Budget and I could not have been more pleased with our Economic Action Plan 2015.
The budget included a number of programs which are going to help Canadian families, businesses, farmers and ranchers. It included tax cuts for families and businesses; it boasted programs to create jobs, and showcased initiatives for seniors and veterans.

However, as I said in my speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday what was most important is it is a balanced budget.

“First Mr. Speaker, we made a promise to Canadians. I made a promise to the residents of my riding of Macleod. Our Government promised Canadians we would balance our budget in 2015. And, I am proud to stand in this House today and say, under the guidance of our Prime Minister, we have fulfilled that promise. Economic Action Plan 2015 is a balanced budget.”

I was honoured to be selected to participate in the debate on the Economic Action Plan and I proudly rose in the House to speak in support of the budget.

Although I was a journalist for more than two decades, and I wrote numerous stories on budgets of every level of government, I never had to write a 10 minute speech about one nor did I ever have to defend my position as I would this time to my colleagues in the House of Commons. (Although I am sure a councillor or two questioned my editorial viewpoint once or twice over the years).

After reading the 350 pages of Economic Action 2015 over the past week I made a short list of issues I wanted to include in my speech. It was difficult as there are numerous highlights within this budget, but as a father of three children and with so many young families, small business owners and seniors in Macleod I wanted to focus on the programs benefitting them.

As many of my friends and family know, when it comes to writing I do my best work late at night, which works well as a Member of Parliament because, with committee meetings, constituency work and duties in the House, there is not much time to work on speeches during the day.

Therefore, with the outline in place I sat down on Tuesday night at the desk in my apartment with my laptop, a bottle of Gatorade, a copy of Economic Action Plan 2015, put my headphones on and sat down to put the meat on the bones so to speak.
Although it took a couple of hours it was not a hard process because this budget was something I believe in and I knew, speaking as a father, a husband and a resident of Macleod, it was something that would truly benefit my friends, neighbours and fellow Albertans.

I was excited about having the opportunity to tell you about it. I was eager to have the chance to showcase what we were able to achieve through prudent fiscal planning, discipline, and sound decision making. We were also able to achieve this due to input from Canadians across the country – people like yourselves – who spoke to your Members of Parliament and we took that feedback on initiatives such as the Registered Retirement Income Fund, enhanced Universal Child Care Benefit and Compassionate Care Benefits and included them in this budget.

Finally, after several revisions and even more read throughs, my speech was done.
Satisfied I had the facts correct and I had tinkered enough I looked up at my clock and saw it was blinking 2 a.m. Doh! Some things do not change, I felt like I was back finishing my last story for the paper before going to press in the morning. However, I was not the least bit tired, I was energized. I was as proud of this speech, I was proud of this budget and I was proud to stand up and represent the residents of Macleod.

Preparing the speeches for the House is a team effort.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Brooke de Waal, my Parliamentary Assistant in Ottawa, for taking my ideas and putting a framework together for the speech and for helping with the research. Brooke is from Okotoks, and just finished her fourth year of Criminology and Political Science studies at the University of Ottawa – congratulations Brooke.

Economic Action Plan 2015 is the foundation of long-term prosperity and growth for Canada. We were able to balance the budget, but at the same time provide funding for infrastructure, municipalities and essential services such as health care. Most importantly, this budget leaves more money in the pockets of Canadians.

Interestingly, the Opposition has tried hard to misrepresent these tax credits as “gifts for the wealthy” and “tax handouts.” The benefits of Budget 2015 are not rhetoric and, as much as they may deny it, they are a reality.

Since 2006, Our Government has implemented changes that will provide tax relief and increased benefits of up to $6,600 in 2015 for a typical two-earner family of four. Through initiatives such as the Family Tax Cut, the Universal Child Care Benefit, and reducing the GST, the federal tax burden on Canadians is at its lowest level in 50 years.

Canadians at all income levels are benefitting from the tax relief introduced by the Government, with low- and middle-income Canadians receiving proportionately greater relief. For example, in this budget we have increased the limit for the Tax Free Savings Account from $5,500 to $10,000. About 11 million Canadians have a tax free savings account and 60% of those were earning $60,000 or less per year including almost 25% earning between $20,000 and $40,000 annually.

Is that a gift for the wealthy?

On the contrary, I see someone making a choice to save for their first house, their child’s education or for a more comfortable retirement. It is your money, not the Government’s. It was taxed when you earned it, and unlike the Opposition, I don’t believe we should be taxing them again when they save it.

Whether it’s through tax credits, cuts to small business taxes or increases in capital gains exemptions, Economic Action Plan 2015 allows Canadians to keep more money in their pockets – right where it belongs. Right where it will help drive our economy, create jobs and ensure continued growth and prosperity for all Canadians.

Through the National Trails Program, I was recently able to announce $10,000 for the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area. These funds will be used to erect signage on the new trail currently under construction. CEO Greg Shyba gave a tour of the new trail and it is a fantastic addition to the absolutely beautiful area.

• Over the past several weeks we have been busy with booths at Trade Fairs in Crowsnest Pass, Fort Macleod, Okotoks and High River. These events are an outstanding opportunity to meet with Macleod residents and discuss government initiatives, talk about local priorities or simply get to know one another.

Feedback was outstanding and thanks to all who came out to say hello to myself and my staff, Executive Assistant Wanda Sommerfeldt and Administrative Assistant Barb Castell. Also, thanks to all those who organized these great events, which highlight the great local businesses who do so much for our communities.
• Aura Baker of Claresholm was gracious enough to invite me to her 100th birthday! I presented her with a certificate and enjoyed a piece of cake. Mrs. Baker is still driving!
• Thanks to the Okotoks Minor Hockey Association for having me MC your annual fundraiser Jersey and Jeans. It was a sell-out crowd and an outstanding event.
• Volunteered with Inn from the Cold at the Okotoks United Church. This is a great program and I am proud volunteers in our community are stepping up to help those in need.
• I became an honourary member of the Longview Seniors Club after attending their grand opening. They have an energetic group and congratulations to Ivor McQuorkindale and his team for organizing the group. Good luck and I know it will be successful.
• Met with representatives from the Canadian Teachers Federation, including the president of the Alberta Teacher’s Association, to discuss needs for education in Alberta.
• Participated in an event hosted by Canadian Heraldry who highlighted some of the amazing sculptures on Parliament Hill and the meaning behind them. The artwork on the Hill is truly incredible and it was interesting to learn more of the history.
• As a member of the Outdoor Caucus I attended a breakfast with keynote speaker, and renowned Canadian fisherman, Bob Izumi. This caucus is great group of Parliamentarians from all parties who meet to discuss the issues and promote Canada’s outdoor sports such as fishing, hunting and trapping. Did you know there are more Canadians who fish than play golf and hockey combined? Fishing is a multi-billion dollar industry in Canada and I am blessed to live in one of the best fly-fishing regions in the world. I cannot wait to get in the water this summer.
• I met with representatives of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, including John Masswohl of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Brian Innes of the Canola Council of Canada, Bryan Rogers of Grain Growers of Canada and Martin Rice of the Canadian Pork Council to discuss the TransPacific Partnership negotiations.
• I attended the AGM of the Southern Alberta Energy from Waste Association in Champion
• The annual Rowan House Emergency Shelter hosted its annual fundraising gala at the Lynnwood Ranch. Former Okotokian and Calgary Stampeder Grey Cup champion, Anthony Parker, was the keynote speaker. He gave a great presentation on the important role men play in preventing violence against women.
• I played in the annual MP versus Canadian Police Association Charity Hockey Game in Ottawa. The following day I met with three Alberta police officers to discuss issues they face on the job. It was a great meeting and I was honoured as these men and women put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities.
• Representatives from Discovery Air were in Ottawa and I met with the executive to discuss a Canadian success story. Discovery Air has a fleet of 80 helicopters at Springbank airport mainly for the oil and gas sector. They also have a defence division which helps training for the Canadian military.

Once again, it is wonderful to see everyone in the fields seeding and people in their yards. Spring is in the air.

I hope to see you soon,

John Barlow
Member of Parliament for Macleod