The release of the federal budget on Tuesday has sparked some concern in Lethbridge about how the new spending plan could affect the local economy.
“There’s not a heck of a lot in there for Alberta, which is sad,” said Marle Roberts, president of CUPE Alberta Division.
The budget is proposing $4.2 billion in new spending, highlighting several changes for the country. One of the most notable changes is a first-time homebuyers’ incentive, which could see $1.25 billion invested over three years to lower mortgage costs for eligible Canadians.
Bridget Mearns, executive officer with BILD Lethbridge, says the proposed change looks good for the local housing market at first glance, however it lacks the proper substance to help the larger community.
“The first reaction is to say: ‘OK, good. This is going to allow first-time buyers to enter into a mortgage and pay it down by reducing their monthly payments,’” said Mearns.
“However, what are the long-term consequences of that? This is a loan. There could be some benefits for some first-time homebuyers, absolutely. Are there benefits for every first-time homebuyer? No.”
Mearns added that this new incentive doesn’t address the issue of the mortgage stress test, which she believes remains the most challenging barrier to house ownership in the community.
“It’s by far one of the biggest issues. A significant number of mortgages have been turned down because of that requirement alone, and when we’ve been advocating for the government to make changes, that’s where we’ve focused,” she said.
Rachael Harder, Conservative MP for Lethbridge, added that the budget also doesn’t address the needs of the agriculture sector, which remains pivotal to the local economy, saying that trade restrictions are getting in the way for local producers.
“In our local area, the farmers are telling me that the crisis with China and our canola trade has a huge detriment on their industry and their ability to make ends meet for them and their family,” Harder said.
The new budget isn’t expected to approach balance until 2024, which Harder also said will see Lethbridge residents paying more federal taxes in the coming years.