Ambrose takes aim at Liberals over budget

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Rona Ambrose says Canadians deserve a plan as they brace for another year of slumping energy prices and economic uncertainty.

The Conservative Party interim leader and Sturgeon River-Parkland MP is embarking on a nationwide pre-budget consultation tour in hopes of pushing the government to release the budget sooner than the anticipated March deadline.

Given the last budget was passed last spring under the former Conservative government, Canada has been navigating what Ambrose is calling a “rapidly deteriorating economic situation” without a roadmap since November.

“There’s a lot of anxiety in the business community; families are feeling the strain of low price of oil and the drop in the loonie. We think there has been ample time to put a budget together,” said Ambrose, pointing out that during the 2008 financial crisis the Conservative government released a budget in February.

Ambrose is urging the government to cap the amount of debt it will take on and set aside some of its policies, such as higher corporate and income taxes, which she deems bad for the economy. “Now is not the time to be taxing Canadians,” she said.

The interim leader also wants to see action on the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal negotiated by the Conservative government during last year’s fall election.

The secretive trade negotiations induced panic among dairy and chicken and eggs famers, but a compensation agreement and the preservation of the supply management system has since appeased the industry’s worries.

“The only ones that aren’t on board now are the Liberals. We need to get this trade agreement done. It’s good for the diversification of our economy; it’s good to create jobs outside of the oilpatch,” said Ambrose.

It is unclear where the government stands on what would become the largest free-trade agreement in the world, between Canada and 11 other Pacific Rim nations.

International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland was in Edmonton early last week to discuss the deal with various industry stakeholders. Speaking with the media afterwards she indicated that the agricultural sector voiced “strong expressions of support for the TPP,” but that her government was still “very much in listening mode.”

The agreement is expected to benefit western Canadian beef and pork industries by opening up exports to the Japanese market.

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Michelle Ferguson