Health Care, Education, Tax Cuts Are Priorities, Provinces Tell Feds

Article excerpt

When provincial finance ministers met with federal Finance Minister Paul Martin before Christmas, one of their demands was more money for social programs which had been cut from transfer payments two years ago.

Some of the results were that Ontario slashed its welfare payments by 22 per cent and, in Alberta, left what critics say is an undermined health care system. The provinces say that the money could come from an expected fiscal surplus in the February budget.

Mr. Martin has been on the record recently saying that these debates are "about values" and in the publication, World Economic Affairs, he said that "the level of child poverty in this country is a disgrace."

In a dissenting opinion to a report of the House of Commons finance committee, NDP finance critic Nelson Riis wrote "we may be the first (country) to balance the budget, but ... Canada alone (in the industrialized world) saw its standard of living decline: as a result of federal policies and cuts to social programs were unnecessary, given that Mr. Martin beat his own timetable of balancing the books."

Liberal MP Tony Valeri, parliamentary secretary to Mr. Martin, told the Anglican Journal that there is no proof there will be a surplus, but "if there is one, it would be targeted to tax reduction and programs that deal with the issues of child poverty and low income. …

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