The federal budget is set to be released by Liberal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on Thursday, and Simcoe North MP Adam Chambers has provided her with some ideas he would like to see considered.
In a detailed March 25 letter to Freeland, Chambers touched upon growing issues around affordability, economic growth, fiscal responsibility, and a number of local concerns he would like to see addressed.
“I'm a new MP, but I'm not new to politics or the budget process,” Chambers told OrilliaMatters. “I had the great fortune of working for Minister (Jim) Flaherty (Stephen Harper’s Minister of Finance) when he wrote four federal budgets.”
Chambers, who was elected in 2021, views a lot of the issues currently facing Canadians as interconnected, pointing out relationships between vacant positions in hospitality and low affordable housing stocks, and economic growth alongside access to key infrastructure, such as high speed internet.
“These are interconnected. We have opened but have nowhere to house people,” Chambers said. “I think post-COVID represents an incredible opportunity for our region to attract families because I believe it's one of the best places to live, work, raise your family and even retire. We have a lot of people who choose our area to retire because it's beautiful.
“However, if we don't have housing for these people to live, and closely related to that, if we don't have access to high speed internet, if we want to make our communities welcoming to people to maybe start a business here or to take that job opportunity that's open, we need to have the base level of infrastructure to support that growth,” Chambers said.
Chambers’ letter calls on the federal government to address increasing economic and affordability issues, some of which include:
- Reforming competition policy in major sectors to drive competition between businesses and reduce prices for consumers
- Rapidly expanding high-speed internet, which has become an essential tool through the pandemic, and make smaller and rural communities more accessible
- Reducing industry-specific taxes, as well as luxury taxes on items like boats, which Chambers views as measures that decrease investments in Canada
- Broadly reducing government spending, as the debt taken on prior to and during the pandemic, Chambers argues, reduces the country’s ability to tackle increasing inflation
- Implementing a two-year temporary ban on real estate investment non-residents, and encouraging policies that will create more affordable and market-rate housing
Locally, some of the items Chambers is calling on the federal government to implement include re-establishing the Lake Simcoe Clean-up fund, and creating additional supports for the opioid crisis.
Chambers highlighted the fact that numerous jobs are currently going unfilled in Simcoe County, and across the country.
“Things right now that I hear most from businesses across the country but, in particular, in Simcoe North, is access to labour,” he said. “There are a lot of jobs everywhere, there are over a million unfilled jobs in the country. There are 400,000 unfilled jobs in the hospitality and tourism sector, (which) represents a significant portion of our local economy. People cannot find labour.”
Although housing policies are generally handled at the municipal and provincial level, Chambers said the federal government has tools at its disposal that it can use to help.
As an example, he pointed to the government’s inventory of buildings across the country.
“The federal government owns about 30,000 buildings across the country. Some of these buildings are underutilized, especially in COVID,” he said. “We should be asking ourselves whether some of these buildings could be turned into housing developments.
"The Canada Post building in Orillia has been named as a future affordable housing development … We need to be doing more of that more quickly, everywhere across the country.”
Aside from internet expansion, Chambers also said the government should invest in other key infrastructure projects that will allow for further growth.
“We have communities in our own riding that cannot build more houses, even though they have the land available, because the wastewater treatment facilities are at capacity,” he said. “The government can invest in just base level infrastructure so that communities can grow, and grow in a way that's environmentally friendly and sustainable.”