Two B.C. tragedies help inspire Harper budget initiatives

posted on February 14, 2014

By Peter O’Neil, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

By Peter O’Neil, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

OTTAWA — The Harper government found inspiration from two B.C. tragedies as it unveiled Tuesday an admittedly “boring” budget aimed at buying political time in advance of next year’s anticipated goody-laden pre-election budget.

In addition to killing an immigrant investor program that has been popular with rich foreigners eyeing Vancouver as a future home, the budget offered some small initiatives for groups targeted as current or potential Conservative supporters in B.C. — volunteers, crime victims, and sports fishing enthusiasts.

Among those initiatives, derided as feel-good “trinkets” by opposition MPs who say B.C.’s real needs are being ignored, was a tax credit for search-and-rescue volunteers that could result in an extra $450 annually in the pockets of those who volunteer more than 200 hours a year to save people in distress.

The budget cited Canada’s “quiet heroes” like B.C.’s Tim Jones, “who died on January 19, 2014 after a 26-year career with the North Shore Rescue Team.”

The budget also announced a measure long demanded by organizations representing victims of crime — like volunteers, a group long courted by Conservative politicians.

It committed $8.1 million over five years, starting in 2016, to help create a national DNA databank for victims. The funding would help coroners and police send unidentified remains to the RCMP’s National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains.

The budget again cited a tragedy on the West Coast as a justification for this initiative, pointing to the heartbreaking case of Lindsey Jill Nicholls, who at age 14 in 1993 vanished forever while en route to meet friends near her Courtenay home.

In his speech, Flaherty acknowledged the role played by Lindsey’s mother, Judy Peterson, in the government’s decision.

“We will create a DNA-based Missing Persons Index to help bring some peace to the families of missing persons,” he said. “For that, I want to thank Judy Peterson.”

New Democratic Party MP Murray Rankin and Liberal MP Joyce Murray said the budget didn’t address major issues weighing on ordinary people.

“This is nothing more than politics, it’s feel-good stuff,” said Rankin (Victoria).

He said the government’s enthusiasm for tax breaks for Conservative-friendly voters distorts the tax system and ultimately favours higher-income earners.

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