Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison is offering an initial thumbs up to the federal budget and welcoming more dollars from Ottawa for affordable housing, first responders and public transit upgrades.
“I think the federal government has been listening to the big city mayors across Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities,” Atchison said, admitting he has only had time for a brief viewing of the budget and will look at the details in the days ahead.
The mayor highlighted his favourite part of the budget which was the federal government’s pledge of $2.3-billion for social infrastructure over two years. Provinces and territories will receive $2.2-billion, including $700-million for affordable housing initiatives, and $739-million for First Nations housing.
“I really believe that you have to have good, clean, affordable, obtainable housing in your community, because when you have that, the family, the nucleus is so much more solid,” he said.
It is unclear how much of that money Saskatchewan and Saskatoon will see.
As part of the Canadian Urban Transit Association, Atchison has pushed for greater railway safety and improved emergency responses. The federal government put in $143 million over three years to train first responders.
In an effort to spur economic growth, Ottawa will invest $11.9 billion infrastructure spending over four years. Phase one focuses on public transit, water and waste water systems and affordable housing.
Of the $29 million expected to flow in Saskatchewan, Atchison hopes the city will receive around $15 million to perhaps invest in new transit equipment and updating the bus fleet and water systems.
Despite a federal a pull back from spending on big infrastructure projects, Atchison said the city will use programs from the previous government to apply for money for roads and bridges.
Due to the drop in oil prices, the federal government pledged to extend employment benefits of commodity workers by five weeks – and up to 20 in some cases – in select areas including parts of Saskatchewan. However, Atchison does not think the extension is a bad reflection on Saskatoon’s economy.
“Saskatoon still has one of the two most balanced economies in Canada,” he said, adding city will continue to work on diversifying the local economy.
Atchsion deferred comment on the lack of change to small business corporate taxes to the Federation of Canadian Businesses and other business associations.