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NDP MPs quick to blast federal budget—an election call could be imminent

Although Tuesday's federal budget contained some concessions to New Democrat demands, the three local NDP MPs blasted the document tabled by Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

The budget included renewal of an energy retrofit program and financial support for seniors, but it wasn't enough for Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster), Bill Siksay (Burnaby-Douglas) and Fin Donnelly (New Westminster-Coquitlam).

"This budget foresees $60 million in corporate tax cuts, $1.15 a day for poor Canadian seniors. The HST alone, that the Conservatives brought to B.C., costs seniors at least $2 a day," said Julian.

The budget fails Burnaby families, said Siksay.

"Once again the Conservatives have done nothing to address the crisis in affordable housing and homelessness. And there is nothing to help families with child care."

Donnelly said town hall meetings in his riding revealed his constituents wanted increased funding for the Evergreen Line, affordable housing, support for seniors and action on the environment, which the budget doesn't do.

The ecoENERGY Retrofit program to help homeowners make their homes more energy efficient would remain in effect for one more year. Top up benefits for low-income seniors would go to one-third of seniors receiving Guaranteed Income Supplements.

"There's nothing to strengthen the [Canada Pension Plan], and there's nothing for those seniors living in poverty. There's only half measures," said Donnelly from Ottawa on Tuesday

"A full measure would be strengthening the CPP so that it is a serious commitment to the pension plan."

Instead, he said, the Conservatives are encouraging seniors to park their money into the same financial markets that failed the country in the last three years.

"Put the money into something solid that is guaranteed."

With the New Democrats, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois all declaring they will not support the budget as presented Tuesday, there is a chance the Conservatives will dissolve Parliament and call an election. The minority government could also be defeated when the Bloc introduces amendments to the budget on Thursday evening. There is also a possibility it could happen on Friday if the Liberals call a vote of non-confidence during opposition day.

If an election is called, Siksay has already announced he will not be running. The NDP has nominated Simon Fraser University political science professor Kennedy Stewart. The Conservative candidate will be Ronald Leung, who finished second to Siksay in 2008. The Liberals have nominated Ken Lowe to replace three-time candidate Bill Cunningham.

Julian's Tory opponent will be New Westminster resident Paul Forseth, who formerly held New Westminster-Coquitlam, or a variation of, between 1993 and 2006 before being defeated by the NDP's Dawn Black. The Liberals have yet to announce a candidate in Burnaby-New Westminster, while the Green Party will once again be represented by Carrie-Ann McLaren, who finished fourth in 2008.

It looks like the New Westminster-Coquitlam battle will be a rematch of the 2009 byelection when Black resigned to run provincially. In that race, Donnelly beat Port Moody Coun. Diana Dilworth of the Conservatives and Liberal Ken Beck Lee. The Green Party, which ran Rebecca Helps in 2009, has not decided on its candidate.

ggranger@newwestnewsleader.com

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